7 faculty members named to endowed professorships

Professor Madina Agénor poses for a portrait. (Courtesy Madina Agénor)

Seven faculty members have been named to endowed professorships, University President Anthony Monaco announced on Feb. 5 in an email to the Tufts community. 

Four professors from the School of Arts and Sciences — Madina Agénor, Elizabeth Setren, Brian Schaffner and Sasha Fleary — received the distinction, along with Jamie Maguire of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Joyce Sackey of the health sciences schools on the Boston and Grafton campuses and Sean Cash at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

This announcement is the culmination of the Tufts Professorship Partnership Challenge, one part of the $1.5 billion Brighter World fundraising campaign Monaco launched in 2017. Brighter World’s website says that 60 percent of the funding for the professorships came from donors, while the university provided the remaining 40 percent. 

Eric Johnson, the senior vice president for university advancement, said that donors can determine how their gifts will be used, and that they are able to stipulate that the professorship belong to a certain field of study, assuming the school’s dean agrees to the conditions.

“The subject area of the professorship must be consistent with the mission of the university and the academic priorities of the school,” Johnson told the Daily in an email.

Johnson explained that donors endow the professorship but do not choose the professor who receives it.

“Since contributions to name endowed professorships are philanthropic, donors legally cannot have a say in which professors are nominated,” Johnson said. “The school dean must approve all proposals for professorships prior to submission to the donor to ensure this policy is upheld.”

Sackey, the associate provost and chief diversity officer for the health sciences schools, who has been named as the Dr. Jane Murphy Gaughan Professor, said that the nomination was a surprise.

“The whole process of nomination occurred without anybody saying anything to me,” Sackey said.

Sackey recalled the moment she learned she had received the professorship, which was established by Gerard Gaughan (M ’71) in memory of his late wife. Sackey said she was called into a meeting room and surprised with the news by the medical school deans and Gaughan.

As part of the professorship, Sackey will give a lecture entitled “Beyond Diversity: Achieving Equity and Inclusive Excellence,” on March 27.

Sackey said that the professorship serves as a recognition of her work.

“Donors would like to endow an individual who is exemplar in a particular area,” Sackey said.

In addition to being a way to reward exemplary professors, endowed professorships are also a means of recruiting faculty to Tufts. Schaffner, who had been a professor in the political science department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, explained that he came to Tufts in 2018 after applying to be the Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies.

“The Newhouse Professorship was advertised by Tufts, and there was a national search for candidates for the position,” Schaffner said in an email. “There were many very strong candidates who applied.”

His lecture on the “Trump Effect” will be on April 11.

The named professorship comes with an endowment that the donor and the university funded together.

According to Johnson, the funds raised will flow mainly to the salary of the faculty member holding the endowed professorship but may also be used to support teaching, research, service, or the recipient’s other activities. 

In Sackey’s case, the endowment will help her create enrichment programs and support students from diverse backgrounds at the health science schools.

“A donor committed to seeing students’ success, and making it possible, allows the medical school to direct funds elsewhere,” Sackey said. “The [endowment] could fund scholarships, and access to tutoring if [students] need it.”

The first of the lectures by recipients of the inaugural professorships will be that of Madina Agénor, the Gerald R. Gill Professor of Race, Culture, and Society, on March 8.