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Installation ceremony honor four professors

Sarah Ruiz President Kington honored the faculty recipients of endowed faculty chairs. Sarah Ruiz.

This past Tuesday, Nov. 14, Grinnell College held an installation ceremony to recognize faculty and staff who have been honored with an “endowed faculty chair.” In addition to being publicly honored, each recipient gave a short speech reflecting on their work and time at the College.

Donations create endowed faculty chair positions, which often carry the name of the donor, who can stipulate the requirements such as the field of study or academic interests of the recipient. The endowed chair allows professors and faculty to advance their research with sizable funding.

“There are no additional requirements expected of the professors who take on new titles as the holders of endowed chairs. They are expected to continue their work and they receive additional funding to promote their scholarship,” wrote Mike Latham, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, in an email to The S&B.

Endowed professorships have a long history at the College, dating back to the 1850s. After receiving the chair, professors carry the title until retirement. After a former chair retires in the spring, the search for a successor is conducted. When the next individual is selected, an installation ceremony is held in the fall of that same year.

By awarding an endowed chair, the College provides public recognition of the recipient’s achievements and potential. To even be considered for holding an endowed faculty chair, an individual must show excellence in their academic pursuits and in the service to the College.

“[Named chairs and professorships] are extremely important to the academic enterprise. They honor outstanding scholars and teachers, they support their best work, they confer prestige on the institution and on the recipient. And they also signal donor’s esteem for faculty and the important work they do,” said Raynard Kington, president of the College, at the installation ceremony.

This year, Elaine Marzluff, Daniel Reynolds, Erik Simpson and Shuchi Kapila were honored with endowed chairs.

Marzluff, a professor of Chemistry, received the Breid-McFarland Professor of Science endowed chair. Marzluff has done extensive research on the structure of peptides and proteins. She plans to continue and expand this work with her newly endowed faculty chair.

“It’s an incredible honor to be recognized. We have so many faculty here who do so many amazing things who could list the same sort of things we do. It’s kind of humbling to be pulled out of that group and be pointed out as [doing] something special,” Marzluff said. “It’s a recognition I’m not sure I ever expected to have, and it’s nice to have that recognition.”

Reynolds, a professor of German, has been honored with the Seth Richards Professor in Modern Languages endowed chair.

Reynolds recently completed a book about tourism to sites of the Holocaust and remembrance. He plans to continue his research on tourism and the Holocaust and learn Polish to study the Holocaust memory in Poland and German-Poland relations.

“It’s humbling. It’s an honor. It’s wonderful to be recognized. I’m very cognizant of many of my colleagues, whom I admire greatly who also would deserve endowed chairs. … It’s humbling in that regard when I think about some of the work my other colleagues do,”  Reynolds said. “What I also liked about it is that it says ‘Grinnell values the liberal arts.’ And I think these chairs have existed for a long time. They are a legacy of Grinnell’s commitment to the liberal arts.”

Simpson, a professor of English, has been awarded with the Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Professor of Humanities endowed chair. Simpson has published two books: “Literary Minstrelsy, 1770-1830: Minstrels” and “Improvisers in British, Irish and American Literature and Mercenaries in British and American Literature, 1790-1830: Writing, Fighting, and Marrying for Money.”

Additionally, Simpson serves as co-leader for the academic side of planning the new Humanities and Social Sciences Complex and as Grinnell College’s Principal Investigator for a $1.6 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“It’s humbling to be grouped with the other chair-holders, both those installed this year and the ones who already hold endowed chairs, because I admire those colleagues enormously. More broadly, the installation has given me an opportunity to reflect on and talk about how happy I am to be part of the larger Grinnell — of faculty, staff, alumni, and community members — who work together to make this such a special place,” Simpson wrote in an email to The S&B.

Kapila now holds the title of assistant vice president for global education, and senior international officer.

Having endowed faculty chairs sets Grinnell College apart from its peer institutions. The presence of such accomplished individuals on campus serving as faculty gives Grinnell students a valuable resource that is hard to come by at other colleges.

“Our faculty is full of scholars who love to teach,” Latham said at the installation ceremony. “And I think that’s a phrase that captures today’s honorees especially well. All of them are innovative, dynamic scholars who have worked the leading edge of their fields. … They are also gifted and dedicated teachers, the kind of instructors that one can only hope our students have the chance to meet and learn from.”

Sarah Ruiz
President Kington honored the faculty recipients of endowed faculty chairs. Sarah Ruiz.
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