Geology professor Jeff Mount was surprised, embarrassed and even "a bit chagrined" when he learned colleagues had nominated him for a new endowed faculty chair.
After all, Mount said, when the endowment was created by former UC Davis geology professor Roy Shlemon in 1998, he was department chair and expected to recruit others for the position.
Then Mount realized what he could offer by accepting the post, designed to support Shlemon's goals of practical, interdisciplinary research in geoscience.
Mount decided that income generated by the endowment would pay for a two-week June field study in Alaska's Copper River watershed for a new class he's now team-teaching with professor Peter Moyle of wildlife and fisheries biology. Mount envisions the engineering, hydrology, biology and geology majors in the class learning from each other as they study the management of fish resources on the glacially fed Copper and its tributaries.
"What an opportunity," said Mount, head of the UC Davis Watershed Center. "It came to me immediately."
Mount's field study class is one example of teaching and research made possible with the fruits of 10 newly endowed UC Davis faculty chairs. Funds from former faculty members, alumni and community members will also support work as diverse as studies in the relationship between diabetes and heart disease, choral conducting and Western American history.
On Wednesday faculty members newly seated in chairs and the donors supporting them were honored at a banquet in Freeborn Hall. With the latest commitments, UC Davis now boasts 67 endowed chair or professorships possessing a market value of close to $60 million. In the past two years the campus has received 17 faculty endowments, after receiving its first chair only 24 years ago.
The posts are considered the most prestigious honor a donor and university can offer a faculty member.
"Donors know that an endowed chair can be very important in retaining or recruiting top notch professors, and that is their incentive," said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. "They want the university to be as good as it can be."
Five of the new chair appointments have gone to professors working at the UC Davis Medical Center.
That's significant, said Timothy Albert-son, director of the UC Davis Transplant Center, chief of the medical center's pulmonary and critical care medicine division, and the newly named Gordon A. Wong Professor in Pulmonary and Critical Care.
Increasingly, academic medical centers are relying on donations like endowments to fund their research, he said.
"Endowed chairs are going to make the difference for us," Albertson said.
He'll use the annual income from the Wong professorship to help pay for junior faculty research in pulmonary medicine.
Wong, a former fellow at the medical center, said he was glad to be able to contribute. He's watched the patient care and research in Albertson's division closely over the years.
"I feel very proud of the department and the training I received," said Wong, now a pulmonary and infectious disease specialist in Sacramento. "Tenured professors who are interested in training and developing good programs deserved to be supported."
Along with Albertson and Mount the faculty members appointed to endowed chairs this year are:
- Michael Chapman, Michael W. Chapman Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery
This chair, supporting research and teaching in orthopaedics, is the gift of two of Chapman's patients, Lawrence Ellison and Michael Boskin.
Chapman, a professor emeritus, is an expert on ski injuries and ski boot design. He spent several years as team physician to the U.S. National Ski Team and is a former president of the American Orthopaedic Association.
- Randi Hagerman, Tsakopoulos-Vis-mara Professor in Pediatrics
Hagerman is the medical director of the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute dedicated to research, treatment and education in neurodevelopmental disorders. She is a specialist in Fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of mental retardation.
This chair was established in 1998 through a gift of the Tsakopoulos family and an anonymous donor. In name, the professorship also honors Sacramento cardiologist Louis Vismara, the father of an autistic son, for his work for the M.I.N.D. Institute.
- Robert Hales, Joe Tupin Professor in Psychiatry
The psychiatry department established this chair in honor of Tupin, a former faculty member, chair and medical director. The Tupin post is designated to be held by psychiatry's department chair - now Hales - and is designed for research into neurobiological causes of psychiatric disorders.
Hales also serves as the director of Mental Health Services for Sacramento County and directs the UC Davis--Sierra Health Foundation M.D./M.B.A. Fellowship Program.
- Larry Johnson, Homer G. and Ann Berryhill Angelo Professor of Law
Johnson, an international law expert, is the first Angelo Visiting Professor at the UC Davis School of Law. Prior to his 2001-2002 appointment, he served as legal adviser to the International Atomic Energy Agency of the United Nations.
- gift from law Professor Emeritus Homer Angelo and his wife, Ann Berryhill Angelo, the Angelo Professorship was established to strengthen global cooperation through legal institutions and processes.
- Cruz Reynoso, Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality
Reynoso, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, is a former associate justice of the California Supreme Court. Prior to coming to the UC Davis Law School last fall, he taught at UCLA.
Law school alumni Charles and Charlotte Bird bestowed this chair. It honors Charles Bird's parents and Robert Boochever, a former justice of the Alaska Supreme Court for whom Bird clerked.
- John Rutledge, Richard A. and Nora Eccles Harrison Chair in Diabetes Research
Rutledge is chief of the Division of Endocrinology, Clinical Nutrition and Vascular Medicine. He also directs the Cardiac Risk Reduction Clinic and helps lead the UC Davis Diabetes--Vascular Biology Initiative.
The Richard A. and Nora Eccles Harrison Chair in Diabetes Research was endowed through the Nora Eccles Treadwell Foundation.
The fund supporting the chair also provides grants to encourage young scientists to perform diabetes research.
- Jeffrey Thomas, Barbara K. Jackson Chair in Choral Conducting
Thomas teaches voice and conducts the UC Davis University Chorus and Chamber Singers. He is also director of the American Bach Soloists, a Baroque ensemble.
Davis resident Barbara Jackson, who also endowed history and orchestral conducting chairs, bestowed this chair in tribute to Thomas and in honor of the singers who have performed in the chorus over the years.
- Louis Warren, W. Turrentine Jackson Chair in Western U.S. History
Warren investigates the changing image of the American West in popular mythology, the experiences of settlers and Indians and the changing relationship between people and nature in North America. Warren is the author of The Hunter's Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America, which won the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center's 1997 non-fiction award.
Barbara Jackson and her late husband, emeritus history professor W. Turrentine "Turpie" Jackson, endowed the chair in 1997 for a scholar of Western U.S. history.
Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, firstname.lastname@example.org