A gift from H. Laurance “Larry” Fuller ’60 and Nancy Lawrence Fuller ’62 has given wings to a Cornell Lab of Ornithology research program exploring bird evolution and conservation.
The establishment of the Fuller Professor of Ornithology aims to attract premier scientists to the top-flight research done at the lab. Irby Lovette, director of the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program and a faculty member in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has been named the inaugural professor in the endowed chair.
“The program’s very elegant work on the DNA of birds and other species has attracted scientists from all over campus and around the country,” Larry Fuller said. “We view the Lab of Ornithology as the number one scientific enterprise in the world that works with birds, and it’s very important in the training of students, which we value tremendously.”
The Fullers have supported scholarship and fellowship programs across the university, including in the colleges of Engineering and Human Ecology, in addition to gifts for building funds and an endowed chair in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Gifts to the Lab of Ornithology dovetail with their personal involvement in conservation, through service to the Nature Conservancy and the LowCountry Institute in Okatie, South Carolina.
“The lab has come to be the big-time leader in conservation genetics – the place to go for scientists,” Larry Fuller said. “We thought this would be a great way to be sure the absolutely top scientists are attracted to the Lab of Ornithology.
“The professors are all part of [the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences], and this is of great importance, to be both a little remote but also an integral part of Cornell’s campus life,” he added.
John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Lab of Ornithology, said Lovette is exemplary of the talent the lab seeks to attract with endowed professorships.
“In his 13 years at Cornell, Irby has demonstrated extraordinary productivity in a diverse array of research directions within integrative evolutionary biology, regularly publishing milestone papers in top-tier journals,” Fitzpatrick said. “He also is an inspiring teacher and undergraduate adviser, and consistently attracts outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Cornell and the lab are truly fortunate to have Irby filling this newly endowed chair.”
Fitzpatrick praised Lovette’s service to the profession and the university, including scientific societies, governing councils and editorial boards, as well as Cornell’s faculty senate and Life Sciences Advisory Council. He also noted that Lovette has revamped the university’s principal course on evolution.
For Lovette, the gift is meaningful on personal and professional levels.
“I am deeply moved that Nancy and Larry are honoring our program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology through this new professorship, on top of their long-term engagement in endeavors like the Fuller Postdoctoral Fellowships, the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program at the lab and the Fuller Learning Center in Weill Hall,” Lovette said. “Their support of our students, scientific research and the conservation of the natural world has particularly special resonance, since they know us so well.”
Amanda Garris is executive editor of PeriodiCALS magazine.