Gifts create new Arts and Sciences professorships

Four new alumni gifts to the Future Faculty Initiative have helped the College of Arts and Sciences create three new professorships and fund a new graduate student position.

The $40 million initiative, launched in May with a $10 million challenge gift from Barton and Susan Sternblitz Winokur, both Class of ’61, will support creation of 15 to 25 new endowed positions in the college. It will also enable the college to replace retiring faculty, retain stellar junior faculty, recruit midcareer and senior faculty to provide leadership in areas of strategic importance and provide funding to recruit top postdoctoral and graduate students.

Mary Meduski created the Mary Armstrong Meduski ’80 Assistant Professor position for a female faculty member, held by Samantha Sheppard in the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

“Cornell was a positive momentum-builder for me – for my career and for me as a person,” said Meduski, who majored in biological sciences and is president and chief financial officer of TierPoint, a cloud computing provider. “The beauty of a liberal arts education is that you are learning for the sake of learning.”

The Winokurs’ challenge gift provides matching funds for donors. A goal of the initiative is to move more of the college’s departments into top-ranked positions in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and mathematics, according to Gretchen Ritter ’83, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences.

Multidisciplinary areas for faculty growth include nanoscale science, behavioral economics, sustainability and media studies, and emerging research areas in the social sciences, sciences, arts and humanities, Ritter said.

John Josephson ’83 supported a new graduate or postdoctoral position in the field of computational social sciences.

“Great teachers have the ability to alter student experiences for the good more than any other single factor, and great researchers are essential to the reputation and academic standing of a world-class university,” said Josephson, chairman and CEO of SESAC, a performing rights organization. “The opportunity to leverage my financial commitment to faculty enhancement with a matching grant was too good to pass up. It’s one of the most exciting opportunities to make a difference for Cornell that I’ve been involved with.”

Richard A. Johnson ’57 and Dale Reis Johnson ’58 created an assistant professor position. “We think Gretchen Ritter has done a terrific job, and we knew there was this need because so many professors have retired from the College of Arts and Sciences,” they said.

Lawyer Eric Roth ’74 and Laurie Roth ’75 provided funding for a new professorship focused on modern Jewish history. The Roths took “memorable” classes in Jewish history taught by Benzion Netanyahu, who taught Judaic studies at Cornell from 1971 to 1975 and was the father of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I hope the gift and our participation in the Future Faculty Initiative will inspire others to do the same,” Eric Roth said.

Kathy Hovis is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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