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In This Issue

       

Endowed professorships and chairs play important role in recruiting top-tier faculty

WSU’s comprehensive campaign seeks to double the number of those prestigious positions

Professorships and Chairs at WSU
A breakdown of the 36 endowed professorships and chairs, by academic or research area

10 – W. Frank Barton School of Business
10 – 
Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
6 – College of Engineering
3 – College of Fine Arts
3 – College of Health Professions
2 – General
1 – National Institute for Aviation Research
1 – Research Administration
0 – College of Education
36 – Total

One of the most important priorities in Wichita State’s comprehensive campaign is to attract funding to endow more chairs and professorships — in fact, to double the number that exist now.

Universities strive to create these positions for essentially three reasons:

  • To build their academic reputation;
  • To recruit faculty of the highest caliber; and
  • To attract students who want to study with exemplary faculty.

“Wichita State sees immense benefits when it can offer a professorship or chair to a highly qualified individual who will help raise the stature of our academic programs,” says Tony Vizzini, WSU provost and senior vice president. “These positions galvanize both the department where the position exists and the university as a whole.”

As one of the highest academic honors a university can bestow on a faculty member, professorships and chairs generate earnings from endowments that may be used to support the professor’s compensation, scholarship and responsibilities in teaching, research and service.

Endowed professorships and chairs have another attractive feature: They qualify for the state’s Faculty of Distinction program, which supplements private gifts for faculty positions.

Here is a look at three faculty members who were recruited to Wichita State in part with the offer of a professorship or chair:

Muhammad Rahman
Sam Bloomfield Chair in Engineering

Photo of Muhammad Rahman
Muhammad Rahman

Muhammad Rahman doesn't hesitate when asked how important the chair position was in recruiting him away from the University of South Florida.

“If I had been offered this job without the chair, I would not be here,” he says. “That distinction adds a lot of value to the position. With this endowment, the university was able to provide a package that was very close to market value. Otherwise, they would have fallen short.”

Rahman, who arrived last fall and was appointed chair of the mechanical engineering department, noted that holding a chair or professorship comes with a great deal of responsibility.

“One must perform at a higher level than normal expectations,” he says.

He has created a detailed, five-year plan to raise the stature of his department, including a goal to significantly enhance the Ph.D. program.

“Five years from now, we should have a department that will be known nationally and internationally for its quality, for being a place students want to come. Those kinds of things are coming about just because of this position.”

Rahman was a professor and director of graduate programs at the University of South Florida before coming to WSU. His 21-year tenure there was marked by many awards and highlights, including the institution’s President’s Award for Excellence, Outstanding Teaching Award and being named a fellow by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. He has been a keynote speaker at five international conferences.

“I was very happy there and not really looking for another position,” Rahman says. “But I saw an opportunity here to help carry out the vision of President Bardo and take this department to an even higher level.”

Lynne Davis
Robert L. Town Distinguished Professor of Organ

Photo of Lynne Davis on Organ
Lynne Davis

Visit Lynne Davis’ modestly sized office in Wiedemann Hall and one of the first things you’ll notice is a working pipe organ standing against one wall. It seems symbolic of her commitment to her instrument, her art and Wichita State.

Since coming to Wichita State in 2006, Davis has brought considerable acclaim to the university. She received the WSU Excellence in Creativity Award in 2011. The following year, on the heels of the immense success of the American Alain Festival she organized here to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jehan Alain, she was awarded the prestigious distinction of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

A dual citizen of France and the United States, Davis believes the professorship she holds helps attract organ students to Wichita State despite a very competitive environment for them.

“The position of distinguished professor has been an added calling card for me in my national and international dealings,” she says. “To be recognized as having a faculty position at this level is very helpful and meaningful.”

Davis left the United States in 1971 to study in France and ended up staying 35 years. She married there, had a daughter and was a professor for nine years at the French National Regional Conservatory in Caen before accepting the position at Wichita State. She came here to take on new challenges, Davis says.

“I felt that I had gone to the top of the organ world in France. I wanted a position where I could share my talent and use it more, especially in preparing young, talented organists.”

In addition to heading the organ program, Davis also produces the Rie Bloomfield Organ Series and performs monthly organ recitals in a series she created in 2007 called “Wednesdays in Wiedemann.”

Robert Weems Jr.
Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History

Photo of Robert Weems Jr.
Robert Weems Jr.

Robert Weems knew that accepting the Garvey Distinguished Professorship at Wichita State would add a level of prestige and distinction to his reputation, and that was part of the attraction of the job. But he also relished the idea of pursuing an idea he had for a research project: Documenting the history of African-American businesses in a community.

Since arriving in 2011, Weems has undertaken that challenge in Wichita, collecting artifacts and conducting extensive oral histories that eventually will be submitted to WSU Special Collections.

“My interest in undertaking this project is linked with my research in African-American business history,” Weems says. “This aspect of the African-American historical experience remains one of the most understudied. In the end, my methodology of conducting individual interviews, along with gathering pertinent business artifacts, should result in a database of materials that will be both useful to students and scholars, as well as help document an important aspect of Wichita history.”

Weems recognizes that, as a distinguished professor, everything he does reflects on Wichita State as well as his own professional life.

“What I do a as a professor is definitely linked to the Garvey position as well as to WSU. If I am perceived as doing good things, then that has a very positive impact on the institution I’m linked to.”

He says he’s proud to hold the professorship.

“It puts you in a distinct professional category,” he says.

Weems came to Wichita State from the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he taught for 21 years. He has published three books in the realm of business history.

Weems is a graduate of Western Illinois University in Macomb. He holds master’s degrees from Boston University and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. He earned a Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.