What is an endowed chair or professorship?
It is the highest academic award that the University can bestow on a faculty member, and it lasts as long as the University exists. Thus, it is both an honor to the named holder of the appointment and also an enduring tribute to the donor who establishes it.
TO THE UNIVERSITY
Endowed faculty professorships and chairs are crucial for recruiting and retaining the highest-quality faculty. The greatest institutions have the best minds, the most-creative researchers and the most-engaged teachers. Building a mighty base of faculty talent enriches the academic environment, which attracts the brightest students.
TO THE PROFESSORS
Recognizing the continued contributions of senior-level faculty as well as providing funds to push the frontiers of their scholarship are key functions of the endowed positions. The funds can propel research, help pay student workers or create opportunities for collaboration with scholars around the world.
TO THE STUDENTS
One professor or chair can touch hundreds of lives through the courses they teach, the students they mentor, or through their own academic work. Having endowed faculty means students get to rub elbows with the most talented scholars in the world. Students have the opportunity to work in research labs, for example. They do not learn only from textbooks, but from the real world of innovation and discovery.
TO BUSINESSES AND CORPORATIONS
In a rapidly changing world, corporations realize the pace is often driven by the private sector, but much of the long-term thinking, basic research and most fundamental discoveries occur inside universities. Corporations support endowed chairs to give back to institutions that provide them with creative talent. The relationship also connects corporations with professors, researchers and students who can inspire innovation and creative ideas in a competitive environment.
TO PRIVATE DONORS
Donors provide funds for the overall improvement of the university, but some have personal interests in specific areas of study. By funding endowed chairs, donors can convene the brightest minds to focus on particular problems or issues and spur advances in those areas.
Q & A with President David E. Daniel
Q: What does an endowed chair do for the University?
Dr. Daniel: In American higher education, endowed faculty professorships and chairs have become the gold standard for recruiting and retaining faculty. The reality is that if we wish to keep the very best faculty, it’s crucial that we have endowed professorships and chairs. That has become an expectation of truly exceptional teachers and scholars. No question, UT Dallas is in the hunt, competing for, recruiting and retaining the very best scholars in the nation. This tool in our toolbox — endowed faculty professorships and chairs — is essential if we are going to continue to excel as an institution.
Q: What does holding a named chair mean to a faculty member?
Dr. Daniel: One of the key ingredients of endowed professorships and chairs is faculty recognition. The other really important and crucial aspect of a faculty chair is that the money that the chair generates is available to faculty members to advance their instructional programs, to develop new research ideas, to fund students’ work and generally to make innovative advances in their own portfolios of scholarly work.
Q: Why do donors make gifts to create and endow professorships and chairs?
Dr. Daniel: The reasons for giving are varied, but I think the common denominator is people care about the world around them. One reason is that the donors understand the great strategic importance of such gifts to the University. But another important reason is that donors care about advancing the field in which they’re making the gift. The donor might be a corporation or company that knows the world is changing rapidly, and nearby they need the most talented professors, researchers and students available to them. Individuals may have more personal reasons. It may be, for example, that a parent had Alzheimer’s and the donor wishes to make the world a better place for people who are suffering from that disease. They may want to make a gift to advance research in that field, to educate and train more students who can help solve the mysteries that Alzheimer’s or another medical condition creates.
Q: How many more endowed chairs do you think UT Dallas needs?
Dr. Daniel: That is an open-ended question. The very best universities in America often will have something like a third of their faculty members in endowed positions. So as UT Dallas continues to grow and change, our need for endowed faculty professorships and chairs will continue to grow. Ultimately our goal is to have something on the order of one-third of our faculty holding endowed professorship and chairs. Why? It’s our goal to be among the very best universities in our nation and our world, and that means we have to have the best talent. Endowed faculty professorships and chairs make it possible to recruit and retain that talent.
MEDALLION AND CHAIN: The symbolic mark of an endowed chair or professorship is the medallion. On the front of the medallion is the name of the chair, the name of the school in which the chair resides and the University name and seal. The medallion is hung on a chain symbolizing responsibility and authority.
THE SEAL: The seal of The University of Texas at Dallas features a shield that is divided into two fields, the upper and the lower. In the lower field is the historic wreath – the right half of which is an olive branch, the left half a live oak branch—and the star of the Great Seal of the State of Texas. In the upper field is an open book indicating an institution of learning. The shield rests in a circle and contains the motto, "Disciplina Praesidium Civitatis." The late Dr. Edwin W. Fay, a former head of UT Austin's Latin department, provided the motto which is a terse Latin rendering of the famous quotation from Mirabeau B. Lamar: "A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy."
THE CEREMONIAL MACE: The mace is a ceremonial staff of authority that administrators and faculty at universities worldwide carry at the head of academic processions. The UT Dallas mace was handcrafted by local woodworkers from part of the more than 500-year-old Treaty Oak Tree in Austin, which is said to have shaded Stephen F. Austin as he signed the first boundary agreement between the American Indians and settlers in 1824. The mace includes silver University seals surrounding a wafer embedded with Texas Instruments’ microchips, representing the role of the company in the founding of UT Dallas. A steel band in the headpiece and the metal foot of the staff were fashioned from scientific instruments designed by UT Dallas’ William B. Hanson Center for Space Sciences. The band was flown aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor in September 1995.
ACADEMIC REGALIA: Students in the medieval universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford and Cambridge organized into guilds, and gradually their costumes of flowing robes became distinctive for Bachelors (apprentices of arts), Masters (teachers) and Doctors (teachers who had completed postgraduate studies). The academic hood worn by modern day master’s and doctoral students derives from the medieval cloak worn over the gown. The color on the outside trim of the hood indicates the degree earned. The colors on the hood lining are those of the university granting the degree.