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Donor Challenge Creates New Professorships

Embracing opportunity, benefactors have helped to establish new faculty chairs across Northwestern.

Adam Karr and Tonia Gladney Karr created the Karr Family Professorship through the Ryan Family Chair Challenge.

Spring 2019

Northwestern strives to attract and nurture faculty who are leaders in fields ranging from global health to the humanities. Enter the Ryan Family Chair Challenge, which is spurring the creation of new endowed professorships, or chairs, in strategic areas across the University.

Launched in 2015 by Trustee Patrick G. Ryan ’59, ’09 H and Shirley Welsh Ryan ’61, the challenge matches gifts made by other University supporters and has helped to establish new professorships at Northwestern.

When a faculty member is named to an endowed professorship, the honor is more than symbolic. The position provides a permanent source of funding for the chairholder’s scholarly activities, salary and research team, which may include students and postdoctoral fellows. Endowed chairs are critical tools for recruiting and retaining the best faculty, with the potential to advance research and teaching in diverse academic disciplines.

The Ryan Family Chair Challenge aims to inspire a wide circle of benefactors to endow a total of 25 endowed professorships in the coming year. Of the 71 new endowed professorships created since the start of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, 16 have resulted from the challenge. The newest professorships created by the initiative — examples are highlighted below — will support faculty in computer science, chemistry and global health studies.

Members of the Northwestern Board of Trustees established the Bill and Cathy Osborn Professorship to honor former chair William A. Osborn ’69, ’73 MBA, ’18 H and Cathleen Osborn ’72. The inaugural Osborn Professor is artificial intelligence expert Kristian J. Hammond, who teaches computer science in the McCormick School of Engineering. Plans are underway to create a second Osborn chair in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences for a scholar who looks at domestic or global issues relating to diversity and inclusion.

The Mark and Nancy Ratner Endowed Professorship was made possible through the generosity of Northwestern chemist Mark A. Ratner ’69 PhD; his wife, Nancy; and his brothers and sisters-in-law: Charles and Ilana Horowitz Ratner, James and Susan Ratner, and Ronald and Deborah Ratner. Emily Weiss ’05 PhD, a former student of Mark Ratner and a faculty member in chemistry, is the inaugural chairholder.

“I can think of no greater honor than the distinction of being the Mark and Nancy Ratner Professor,” Weiss says. “And it’s even more special given that Mark is one of my primary influences as a scientist and as a person.”

The Karr Family Professorship was established in the McCormick School of Engineering by Trustee Adam Karr ’93 and Tonia Gladney Karr. They created the professorship in response to the Ryan Family Chair Challenge and the school’s CS+X initiative, which seeks to hire faculty who combine computer science with work in other disciplines. In the case of the Karr Professorship, the “X” represents the humanities.

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