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Stanford Report, January 19, 2000

Humanities & Sciences scholars honored with endowed professorships

The School of Humanities and Sciences recently awarded endowed chairs to 11 of its distinguished professors.

At a recent reception, Humanities and Sciences Dean Malcolm Beasley said the occasion "is special in that it celebrates the values of scholarship, shared by the institution and its benefactors. A chair is first of all an expression of the trust and confidence of the [chair's] donor in those who will hold it. Professorships also underpin and secure our ability to support our faculty and maintain the breadth of the curriculum."

Beasley noted that seven of the professorships being awarded had been established within the last year. These include the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professorship in Marine Sciences; the John B. and Jean De Nault Professorship at Hopkins Marine Station; the Jane and Marshall Steel, Jr. Professorship in Marine Sciences; the Teresa Hihn Moore Professorship in Religious Studies; the William H. Bonsall Professorship in the Humanities; the Pauline K. Levin-Robert L. Levin and Pauline C. Levin-Abraham Levin Professorship; and the Felix Bloch Professorship in Physics.

Barbara Block, associate professor of biological sciences at Hopkins Marine Station, is the inaugural holder of the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professorship in Marine Sciences. She has won international acclaim for her pioneering research in understanding muscle physiology and the evolution of endothermy, or warm-bloodedness, in fish, especially far-ranging oceanic species like tuna and billfish. Her years of original research of large pelagic fishes, including the discovery of a specially adapted eye muscle that regulates brain temperature in billfish, led to her selection as a MacArthur Fellow in 1996.

Block is co-director of the Tuna Research and Conservation Center at Hopkins Marine Station, a joint venture between Hopkins and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Her research has won support from the National Institutes of Health, the National Geographic Society and the Packard Foundation. Among other honors, she has won a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award and one of the first of Stanford's Terman Fellowships. She has been a member of the Stanford faculty since 1994.

Mark Denny, a prominent scholar in biomechanics and the functional adaptations of marine organisms in challenging ecological habitats, has been appointed the John B. and Jean De Nault Professor at Hopkins Marine Station. He joined the Department of Biological Sciences in 1982 and is currently a professor of biological sciences, serving as a faculty member in the Biomechanical Engineering Program. He is a specialist in biomechanics and the functional adaptations of marine organisms in challenging ecological habitats. His current research uses the principles of physics and engineering to predict the survival of animals and plants on wave-swept shores.

Denny's influential research has appeared in scientific journals. He is author of two books, Biology and the Mechanics of Wave-Swept Environment and Air and Water: The Biology and Physics of Life's Media, which was honored in 1993 as the Best New Book in Astronomy and Physics by the Association of American Publishers. In 1998, he was presented with a Gores Award for ­ according to students who nominated him ­ "leading even the mathematically timid into the fascinating world of biophysics" and for "a profound involvement with students' intellectual journey inside and outside the classroom."

David Epel is the newly appointed Jane and Marshall Steel, Jr. Professor in Marine Sciences. Epel is one of the world's foremost authorities on the biochemistry and biophysics of fertilization in marine animals. His current studies of embryos under stress may shed light on a wide range of biological questions, including which marine species are most likely to be vulnerable to global climate changes, how drug resistance evolves and how ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the apparent worldwide decline in amphibian populations.

Epel began his career at Stanford in 1965, moved to Scripps Institution of Oceanography five years later and returned in 1977 to join the Stanford faculty as a professor of biological sciences. As a member of the faculty and as interim director of Hopkins Marine Station from 1985 to 1988, he has played a pivotal role in elevating Hopkins to its current level of excellence. Epel also holds appointments at several eminent marine institutes worldwide, including the International Marine Research Centre in Sardinia, Italy, and the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Biology Course at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

Bernard Faure, third holder of the George Edwin Burnell Professorship in Religious Studies, is in his 12th year as a Stanford faculty member. Regarded as one of the world's foremost scholars of Buddhism, his work is characterized both by philology of the highest quality and the capacity to draw on new interpretive paradigms in the humanities. He has used this combination of traditional and modern approaches to critique the prejudices in the traditional historiography of Chan and Zen Buddhism, as well as to reinterpret certain fundamental religious ideas.

As an extension of his research, Faure serves as co-director of the new Center for Buddhist Studies. With his colleague Carl Bielefeldt, he is editing a multi-volume series, Across Fields: Buddhism and Asian Religions in Cultural Perspective, which takes an interdisciplinary look across Western and Asian cultures and the fields of anthropology, literary criticism, art history, philosophy and cultural studies.

Professor of English Jay Fliegelman, a scholar of American literary and cultural history of the 18th and 19th century, has been appointed as third holder of the Coe Professorship of American Literature. His second book, Declaring Independence: Jefferson, Natural Language, and the Culture of Performance, was the first full-length study of this founding American document in its cultural context. His current project, Belongings: Dramas of American Book Ownership 1660-1860, concerns objects of desire, the psychology of possession and the emotional relationship to books.

An award-winning teacher, he has served as chair of the English Department and director of the American Studies Program. Fliegelman is the recipient of both the Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching and the ASSU award for outstanding teaching. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1976.

Robert Gregg is first holder of the Teresa Hihn Moore Professorship in Religious Studies. A specialist in early Christian history and literature of the second through seventh centuries, Gregg has written on philosophical and religious "therapies" that pagan and Christian writers devised for coming to terms with death and assuaging grief. His book on Arianism is regarded as having transformed scholarly understanding of this central current of early Christian thought.

Stepping down last December as Dean of the Chapel ­ a position he had held since 1987 ­ Gregg returned to full-time teaching and research in the Department of Religious Studies. He is currently working on a study of Rabbinic, early Christian and Islamic interpretations of Hebrew Bible narratives. Colleagues describe him as "a man of broad intellect and original mind and a scholar of real achievement." Students call his teaching style "demanding and compassionate" as well as "irreverent and witty."

Shirley Brice Heath has been appointed to the Margery Bailey Professorship in English. She holds a joint appointment in English and Linguistics and is a linguistic anthropologist who works at the intersections of language and culture, particularly as these affect performance, text production, and aesthetic and literary values in economically disadvantaged communities of multilingual nations. Her major publications include her classic work of ethnography, Ways with Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms (1983).

She is currently directing a documentary video portraying young people partnering with adults in building arts and enterprise in rural and urban areas of the United States. She has received numerous honors, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. She has been at Stanford since 1980.

Beth Levin joined the Department of Linguistics in September 1999 and is spending this year at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. She came to Stanford from Northwestern University, where she had served on the faculty for more than a decade. Named the inaugural holder of the William H. Bonsall Professorship in the Humanities, Levin is a prolific scholar who is internationally famed for her groundbreaking work on the lexicon, a component of language that ties all other aspects of linguistics together. On the basis of a vast collection of new data that she gathered, she has blazed new trails in formulating general principles connecting the meaning of verbs to sentence structure.

John Pencavel has been a member of the Economics Department faculty since 1969 and has served as its chair since 1997. His research interests include the analysis of work behavior, worker-owned and worker-managed enterprises and models of trade union behavior. Highly regarded as one of the nation's top labor economists, Pencavel has made substantial contributions to the study of determinants of labor supply and the economic policy toward unions and collective bargaining. He has been certified as an expert witness in many cases involving discrimination against employees and served as editor of the Journal of Economic Literature for a dozen years.

Pencavel has been recognized with a Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching, and now as the first holder of the Pauline K. Levin-Robert L. Levin and Pauline C. Levin-Abraham Levin Professorship.

Ramón Saldívar has been appointed to the Hoagland Family Professorship. A member of the departments of English and Comparative Literature since 1991, Saldívar is a specialist in the fields of 19th- and 20th-century American and British fiction and Chicano cultural studies. His special interests include American, British and postcolonial cultural history and theory, modernity and postmodernity, and literary theory. He is currently working on a new study, tentatively titled The Borderlands of Culture: Modernity, the Nation and Chicano Subject Formation ­ an exploration of the function of culture and its role in creating and delimiting agents of history.

Saldívar is the recipient of both the Rhodes Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Dinkelspiel Award for distinctive contributions to undergraduate education. He recently completed a five-year term of service as associate dean for undergraduate studies and vice provost for undergraduate education at Stanford.

Leonard Susskind is the inaugural holder of the Felix Bloch Professorship in Physics. Susskind has been a member of Stanford's Physics Department for 20 years. String theory owes its origins to him (and Y. Nambu from the University of Chicago), and he has made many contributions to elementary particle physics, quantum field theory and cosmology. In the 1990s he was a pioneer in extending string theory to the problem represented by black holes, supermassive collapsed objects surrounded by a gravitational field so strong that not even light can escape if it ventures too close.

Among numerous honors, Susskind has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the winner of the 1998 J. J. Sakurai Prize for theoretical particle physics. With support from the President's Fund, he has launched and is directing the Institute for Theoretical Physics, which through its visitors program provides campus theorists an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research. SR