And Then There Were Twelve

Five new appointments fill Woodruff chairs


Where the Woodruffs Are

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Part of the approximately $103 million Woodruff gift that has fueled Emory's growth in the last two decades was set aside for thirteen endowed Woodruff chairs to be sprinkled across the schools. In 2002, almost half of those chairs were unfilled. But the hiring last spring of five new Woodruff professors in the humanities, law, and medicine brings to twelve the number of those chairs filled. It also helps to make good the original intent of bringing more top scholars to this campus. The College lured Shoshana Felman from Yale and Yusef Komunyakaa from Princeton, the School of Medicine won David Ledbetter from Chicago, and the law school scored a double--bringing home Michael Perry from Wake Forest and Martha Fineman from Columbia.

Two of the reasons these scholars say they were attracted to Emory are the strength of faculty already here and opportunities for significant interdisciplinary collaboration. "This is clearly a place supportive of academic entrepreneurs and intellectual innovation," says Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law. "The Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion in the Law School, for example, is exemplary in this regard and inspires me to think of how I might broaden the Feminism and Legal Theory Project when I bring it with me to Emory."

Ledbetter, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Human Genetics and Chief of the Division of Medical Genetics, similarly looks forward to interdisciplinary work. "My interests in rapidly translating new discoveries and technologies from basic genomic sciences to improved health should help build bridges to all of the outstanding clinical programs of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and clinical departments of the medical school," he says.

While all senior hires enrich the research potential of their departments, key appointments in two particular fields--genetics and African-American literary studies--promise to speed a momentum that has been building for years. Genetics chair Steven Warren has recruited nine tenure-track faculty in recent years and more than tripled the size of the department. When eminent geneticist Douglass Wallace left Emory in 2002, Warren and others began searching for another senior researcher to complement this growing cadre.

"All medical schools and universities recognize the importance of the completion of the human genome sequence and its potential impact on biology and medicine," says Ledbetter, "but few have strong strategic plans to exploit the massive amounts of new data and powerful new technologies. Emory has a clear vision of enhancing a highly integrated human and medical genetics program."

On the other side of campus, English, African-American studies, creative writing, and women's studies have developed a group of scholars and poets poised to make significant contributions to African-American letters. Mark Sanders, director of African-American studies, traces this effort back to the appointment of Francis Smith Foster in 1994 as Candler Professor of English and Women's Studies. "That raised the visibility of the study of African-American literature here and helped us to recruit two rising stars, poet Natasha Trethewey and critic Lawrence Jackson," he says.

In addition to the appointment of Pulitzer Prize winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa as Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Creative Writing, the English department was able to recruit senior scholar Michael Awkward last year from the University of Pennsylvania to fill its Longstreet chair. "The center of gravity in African-American studies may be shifting from the Northeast and Midwest to the Southeast," says Sanders. "Historically, Harvard, Yale, Maryland, and Michigan have been the major players. Now Emory is on par with them." Several faculty and administrators also credit gains in library collections and the work of special collections librarians in attracting top recruits in literature.

Strategy, synergy, and serendipity sometimes all come together in recruiting efforts, says Interim Provost Howard Hunter. "These things all fit together. And sometimes the best recruiting is done by not letting someone leave. You try to make it a better place for people you want to keep, before they have even thought about something else."--A.B.B.