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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Nine new endowed professorships to several departments

Over the past year, Middlebury has received more than $11 million to establish endowed professorships, which support a faculty member’s teaching and scholarship within a specific academic department. Since the launch of the “For Every Future” campaign in the summer of 2021, the college has raised a total of $25.8 million for endowed professorships.

Most recent additions are in departments such as Geography and Physics, in addition to two professorships of the practice, a program which brings in instructors who teach courses based on their professional experience.

“Faculty are the heart of a Middlebury education, and gifts for professorships are among the most important ways donors can support the College and ensure that excellence in teaching and scholarship remain the foundation of all we do,” said President Laurie Patton in the announcement of the positions in late March. “Endowed professorships enable us to honor, reward, and retain outstanding faculty members and to encourage young faculty members to make Middlebury their professional home.”

The Tamar Mayer Professorship in Geography was funded by an anonymous donor. The endowment will support the salary and benefits of a faculty member in the geography department and help fund that faculty member’s research, professional development and student-mentored research.

It was named for Tamar “Timi” Mayer, the Robert R. Churchill professor emerita of Geosciences and former director of the Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs and the Program in International and Global Studies.

In an interview with The Campus, Mayer expressed excitement about the future of the Geography Department. 

“I think that, first of all, it’s a testimony to the teaching of the Geography Department, to the rigor in the Geography Department. But I think it also is a testimony that somebody thinks that it is worthy to study geography for all host of reasons. And by endowing a chair like this, somebody would be carrying my legacy forward,” she said. 

The Mittelman family honored the late Middlebury alumnus David Mittelman ’76 through the David R. Mittelman ’76 Professorship in Astronomy and Astrophysics. In 2017, the Mittelman Observatory in McCardell Bicentennial Hall was named for him and his contributions to Middlebury as a former member of the Board of Trustees.

Mittleman also previously funded the creation of the Frank Winkler professorship in 2014, having been inspired by an astronomy class he took during his time at the college taught by Gamaliel Painter Bicentennial Professor Emeritus of Physics Frank Winkler. Professor Michael Dunham, the newly appointed David R. Mittelman Professor of Physics, will join Middlebury this summer and begin teaching in fall 2024, according to Eilat Glikman, Frank Winkler professor of astrophysics.

With the added professorship, the Physics Department aims to provide a broader range of courses and research opportunities, particularly in astronomy and astrophysics.

“We made a very conscious effort when we hired to make sure that we all work in very different areas,” Glikman told The Campus.“We thought to create this very broad tapestry of options, so that students have different options for research, and that we can develop a broader range of elective courses and just bring different sorts of things into the classroom.”

The department is still deliberating on how to best utilize the endowment to benefit students in the department and those generally interested in physics. One proposed idea is to invite guest lecturers from various institutions to Middlebury, allowing them to deliver lectures and share their experiences.

“We're in the northeast, we're not that far from Boston, which has some of the greatest astronomy research going on in the world… you just draw a reasonable radius, and you can invite people to come and speak to our students and share with them even more about what's going on in the universe and new things. That's something that we really want to be able to do,” Glikman said.

The college additionally received two funded professorships from Graham ’89 and Shelley Goldsmith: the Goldsmith Family Endowed Professor of the Practice in the Liberal Arts and the Goldsmith Family Endowed Professor of the Practice in Global Health. These endowments aim to expand Middlebury’s curriculum by bringing people with extensive professional experience to undergraduate classrooms.

“The Goldsmiths’ goal is to help Middlebury expand the curriculum to meet changing student needs and to bring real-world expertise to the undergraduate classroom,” said Vice President for Advancement Dan Courcey in the college’s announcement for the new positions.

Professors of the practice leverage their extensive professional networks to bring guest speakers to campus, help students find internships and other experiential learning opportunities, and create ways for faculty members to develop critical research partnerships, the March 25 announcement described.

 “These gifts for professorships are a testament to the strength of our faculty, the excellence of their research, and their dedication to students,” Courcey said.

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