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Dartmouth receives $14 million for emerging fields

Sherman Fairchild Foundation, Ronald G. Harris '71 and anonymous donor commit funds for innovation in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Dartmouth's commitment to innovation - to opening  new areas of discovery and fostering faculty and students at that critical moment of creation and  genesis of new fields and ideas - has been supported by three significant gifts. A $10 million gift from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation, which has been a significant benefactor of the College for many years, will endow two Distinguished Professorships in Emerging Fields in the Faculty of Arts and  Sciences. Two Award Funds for Scholarly  Innovation and Advancement, also in the Arts and Sciences, will be created through a $2 million gift from Ronald G. Harris '71 and a $2 million gift from an anonymous donor.

The Distinguished Professorships will be awarded to faculty showing exceptional promise and scholarly achievement poised to make serious advances in new and emerging fields. They will make special contributions to the College's academic mission by bridging across disciplines, expanding intellectual borders and engaging colleagues and students in their efforts. These professorships and their support of pioneering program development will spark the curiosity and imagination of Dartmouth students and contribute to the creation of a learning environment that is second to none.

Health care economics, visual culture and digital humanities, applied genomics, global environmental change, and brain science and imaging are examples of disciplines at Dartmouth where such work is already underway. In both theory and application, each is breaking important ground with long-term implications that can serve society.

"We're grateful to the Sherman Fairchild Foundation for an investment that promotes academic initiative," said President James Wright. "Dartmouth seeks to develop lifelong learners and critical thinkers by actively engaging students with faculty in the creation of  knowledge. These very special professorships will assure that Dartmouth will continue to define and to extend the intellectual curiosity that is our lifeblood."

These prestigious positions will enable the College to move quickly into new areas of study by bringing to Dartmouth the best scholars at the peak of their performance - rising associates or recently promoted full professors who show great  promise. Their selection will be highly strategic, targeting specific areas where Dartmouth has an opportunity to achieve national  and international prominence. Their reputations will help attract other outstanding faculty and students.

Distinguished Professors will generally hold five-year terms, after which the endowments will be awarded to the next appointees. Upon completion of their terms, the professors will hold the honorary title of Sherman Fairchild Fellow. "Our goal is to build a community of  these distinguished scholars whose expertise, energy and experience will provide counsel and vision, invigorate the classroom and spur curricular depth and research innovation across the institution," said Dean of the Faculty Carol  Folt.

The Award Funds for Scholarly Innovation and Advancement will further the aim of encouraging  intellectual innovation and complement an existing program, the Walter and Constance Burke Research Initiation Awards, which provide support  for faculty in the early years of their academic careers. The new Innovation Funds will target  promising initiatives by senior faculty that would not be routinely supported through traditional funding sources. The Awards will be made through a highly competitive process for senior faculty desiring to move in innovative directions and into emerging fields. These Awards will be designed to support activities for up to two years, with the expectation that the support be used to crystallize new ideas, generate new partnerships and capitalize quickly on promising ideas. Applications will be evaluated through a  peer-review system.

"These Innovation Funds will fill a critical gap in Dartmouth's current portfolio of programs and  enhance our ability to recruit and retain faculty who uphold the highest standards of teaching and scholarship," said Dean Folt. "The two donors who stepped forward to launch the Award Funds for  Scholarly Innovation and Advancement are long-time supporters of Dartmouth's faculty. I and my colleagues are indebted to them for this important new investment."

As a member of the Dean's Council in the 1990s and a current member of the President's Leadership Council, Ron Harris '71 has been a generous and enthusiastic patron of the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences. He has funded the Ronald and Deborah Harris Professorship in the Sciences, the Harris Fellowship Challenge and the naming of the Thomas Kurtz Conference Room in the new Kemeny Mathematics Building. As an undergraduate, Mr. Harris worked under President John Kemeny and Professor Kurtz on the development of the Dartmouth Time Sharing System.  Mr. Harris was the original engineer for Bloomberg Financial's electronic information network.

These commitments come in the context of the College's Campaign for the Dartmouth Experience.  With an ambitious $1.3 billion goal, Dartmouth is  seeking investment in many initiatives across the institution-to advance leading-edge teaching and scholarship, enhance residential and campus life, and honor its commitment to making education accessible in the undergraduate college, its graduate programs in the arts and sciences, and three professional schools of business, engineering, and medicine.

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Last Updated: 12/17/08