The Board of Trustees of The City University of New York unanimously named five outstanding scholars as Distinguished Professors, the highest faculty rank, at its June 30 meeting.
Chancellor James B. Milliken said, “These appointments are emblematic of CUNY’s success in attracting and retaining world-class faculty members who are devoted to their students, to public higher education and to the transmittal and creation of knowledge.”
The new Distinguished Professors are:
Cathy N. Davidson (CUNY Graduate Center), first known for work on the American novel, is a leading theorist of using social media and digital technologies in education. CUNY recruited her from Duke University, where she held named chairs in English and interdisciplinary studies. She has written or coauthored 18 books (including “The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in the Digital Age”) and hundreds of articles and papers. She received grants from the National Science Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She cofounded and codirects HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory), an international network of 12,000 researchers who seek new ways to teach and learn from kindergarten to college and beyond.
Graduate Center President Chase F. Robinson said she would direct the Futures Initiative, “a CUNY-wide program that will advance collaborative innovation in higher education, involving both faculty and graduate students.”
Speaking to the Board, Davidson joked about the Chronicle of Higher Education article about her leaving Duke, in which she called CUNY her “crush school.” Turning serious, she added, “We’ve had a 40-year process nationwide of defunding public education. City University of New York has very proudly been an exemplar of the best kind of public urban education.”
Jeanne Theoharris, since 2006 a political science professor at Brooklyn College who specializes in American race relations, wrote the prizewinning and best-selling biography, “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.” Brooklyn College President Karen L. Gould quoted a letter from the eminent scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard, in which he called Theoharris “unmatched in the field” and “in the middle of what will continue to be a career marked both by impressive productivity and singular brilliance.” Gould added that her students see her as “an exceptionally talented and thoughtful teacher, as well as a dedicated mentor at all levels of study.”
Theoharris said that she has given more than 100 talks at U.S. campuses, “but I always want to come back to my students at Brooklyn College, because the conversations we have, the kinds of questions they ask, the grace with which they move through the city, their drive and motivation – I am humbled by.”
In her night class this spring, for example, the students – immigrant Russian Jews, Pakistani Muslims, Haitians, Puerto Ricans, African-Americans, gay and straight people – “listened to each other and we disagreed with each other and, mostly, we learned from each other. It models what we can be in this nation.”
Eric Weitz, a human rights historian, was recruited to be dean of City College of New York’s Division of Humanities and Arts in 2012 from the University of Minnesota, where he held a distinguished professorship and a named chair. His most prominent book, translated into five languages, is “Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy,” (2007, expanded edition 2013). He is series editor for “Human Rights and Crimes Against Humanity” from Princeton University Press.
City College President Lisa S. Coico told the Board that he “has been part of developing collaborations between our divisions and schools, to put the focus on human rights and to bring international scholars of all kinds … to sit among our colleagues and our students … to discuss, to debate collegially, and to come away much enriched and much greater for the experience.”
Weitz, a New Yorker whose father graduated from City College and whose brother earned a master’s there, noted that CUNY draws “students of every background conceivable. We try to make them engaged citizens of New York City, the state, the nation and the world. I’m thrilled to be part of the CUNY enterprise, to work as best as I can as dean and as a historian to promote those goals that CUNY represents so vibrantly.”
David Waldstreicher was recruited to the CUNY Graduate Center from Temple University, where he specialized in U.S. political history though 1900, particularly on the struggle over slavery. His books include “Slavery’s Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification,” which President Robinson said “tackles a subject of enduring significance: the Constitution’s compromises with slavery.” His awards and honors include a fellowship from the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library and a Gilder Lehrman Fellowship.
Waldstreicher could not attend the Board meeting. President Robinson said his peers “view him as a leader in their discipline, a path-breaking, brilliant and innovative scholar whose work is rightly infused with concerns with contemporary culture and national politics. We are truly fortunate to be joined by such an accomplished historian and intellectual.”
Anthony Tamburri is dean of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College and professor at-large of Italian and comparative literature. His researches literature, cinema, semiotics, interpretation theory and cultural studies. He divides his intellectual work evenly between Italian and Italian/American studies, authoring more than a dozen books, more than 200 conference papers and about 100 essays in English and Italian. He edited more than 30 volumes and special issues of journals.
Tamburri was out of the country, teaching. Queens College Interim President Evangelos J. Gizis called him a “pioneer in the field of Italian-American studies and a leading scholar of modern Italian literature and culture. The Calandra Institute under his leadership supports a variety of well-organized publication venues, conferences, grant activities, services and programs. Dr. Tamburri is an extraordinary researcher, author and advocate for the cause of Italian and Italian-American studies.”
About The City University of New York: The City University of New York is the nation’s leading urban public university. Founded in New York City in 1847, the University comprises 24 institutions: 11 senior colleges, seven community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the CUNY Graduate School and University Center, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Law, the CUNY School of Professional Studies and the CUNY School of Public Health. The University serves more than 270,000 degree-credit students and 218,083 adult, continuing and professional education students. College Now, the University’s academic enrichment program, is offered at CUNY campuses and more than 300 high schools throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The University offers online baccalaureate degrees through the School of Professional Studies and an individualized baccalaureate through the CUNY Baccalaureate Degree. Nearly 3 million unique visitors and 10 million page views are served each month via www.cuny.edu, the University’s website.