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Seven professors are named to endowed chairs

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY -- Seven Vassar College faculty members have been newly selected for endowed chair positions, representing departments and disciplines across the arts, sciences, and humanities:

Christopher Grabowski is the first faculty member named to the Frances Fergusson Chair of Arts and Humanities, created to honor Vassar’s ninth president upon her retirement in 2006. Grabowski heads the Experimental Theater of Vassar College, and has directed over 25 of its productions. He is also a guest artist at The Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University/Shakespeare Theater of Washington. Before joining Vassar in 1994, Grabowski was the Associate Artistic Director and Literary Manager of the New York Theater Workshop, with which he continues to work.

Katherine Hite is the new Frederick Ferris Thompson Chair in Political Science, a position established in 1913. Hite also directs the college’s Latin American and Latino/a Studies program, and chairs the Ford Scholars program. Her teaching and scholarship focus on Latin American politics and social movements, with particular emphasis on the legacies of authoritarian rule. Additionally, Hite is deeply involved in Vassar’s efforts to address admissions accessibility, having served as the first co-chair of the college’s Committee on Inclusion and Excellence.

Maria Höhn was appointed to the Marion Musser Lloyd ’32 Chair in History and International Studies. A leading scholar of the American military presence in Germany, and the first to publish a book specifically on the experience of black GIs in Germany, Höhn is the co-director of "The Civil Rights Struggle, African America GIs, and Germany" project, which in 2009 was the first academic project to be honored with the NAACP’s Julius E. Williams Distinguished Community Service Award. With colleagues at Vassar and Germany’s University of Potsdam, Höhn has co-led an innovative course on the Holocaust attended by students from both institutions, gaining international press coverage. From 2008-2011 she was also Vassar’s Director of Research Development.

Amitava Kumar is the new Helen D. Lockwood Chair in English. Kumar’s most recent book, A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm, a Tiny Bomb, was called “perceptive and soulful” by the New York Times and chosen the top 2010 non-fiction book by the Asian-American Writers’ Workshop. His earlier books include Husband of a Fanatic (a New York Times “Editors’ Choice”) and Bombay-London-New York (a New Statesman “Book of the Year”). Kumar is an editor of the online journal Politics and Culture, and was the screenwriter-narrator of the honored documentary film Pure Chutney. He has also written for The Nation, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, and The Hindu.

Brian McAdoo was appointed to the Althea Ward Clark Chair in Environmental Sciences. Among McAdoo’s special interests is the relationship between earth science and marginalized people. Just after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 he went to the affected region to learn how a geophysical hazard creates a disaster. McAdoo has since joined and led post-disaster surveys in such locations as the Gulf of Mexico (2005), Java (2006), and Haiti (2010), revealing how earth scientists, engineers, ecologists, and social scientists need to collaborate on Disaster Risk Reduction. The National Science Foundation, UNESCO, and the Widgeon Foundation have supported his research.

Jodi Schwarz was named to the Mary Clark Rockefeller Chair in Environmental Studies. Schwarz conducts research on coral reefs and genomics, in particular the interaction between corals and photosynthetic algal symbionts, which Schwarz describes as “arguably one of the most powerful collaborations in the biological world.” She has actively engaged students in coral reef field research in Bermuda and Taiwan, and her work has received support from the National Science Foundation, the Research Corporation, and the Teagle Foundation. Schwarz has also established an innovative bioinformatics curriculum at Vassar with a colleague from the computer science department.

Patricia Wallace was appointed to the Mary Augusta Scott Chair in English, named for a member of the Vassar class of 1876 who was an Elizabethan scholar. A poet, poetry teacher, and scholar who has received fellowships from the NEH and American Council of Learned Societies, Wallace is an editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature and a contributor to the Columbia History of American Poetry. She has served Vassar in numerous and key positions, including as the college’s Affirmative Action Officer, and she frequently teaches for the multidisciplinary programs in American Culture and Women’s Studies.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, October 12, 2011