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Two Knox Professors Named to Endowed Chairs, Professorships

Two Knox College faculty members have been named to endowed chair and endowed professorship appointments—Andrew Leahy, professor of mathematics, has been named the Rothwell D. Stephens Distinguished Service Chair in Mathematics, while Diana Cermak, professor of chemistry, has been named the recipient of the Richard P. and Sophie D. Henke Distinguished Professorship. These appointments were made by President McGadney upon the recommendation of Knox's Faculty Personnel Committee and the Dean of the College.

Endowed chairs and professorships serve as a way to honor and reward current faculty for their accomplishments and help bring exceptional new teachers and scholars to campus. These appointments represent the highest honor that Knox College can bestow upon a faculty member, and it continues to nurture the College's historic commitment to excellence in both teaching and research.

Knox now boasts 21 endowed professorships and nine endowed chairs, spanning disciplines from mathematics to psychology to music, with some chairs specifically acknowledging academic service. These appointments help Knox to uphold a comprehensive and challenging curriculum for future students.

Andrew Leahy, Rothwell D. Stephens Distinguished Service Chair in Mathematics

Professor of Mathematics Andrew Leahy joined the Knox faculty in 1995, after receiving his Ph.D. in mathematics from Rutgers University in 1995 and his Bachelor of Arts degree with majors in mathematics, philosophy, and Latin from St. Olaf College in 1989. Since coming to Knox, he has taught courses in mathematics, statistics, data science, and the preceptorial program. 

At Knox, Leahy has offered a broad range of courses, from entry-level mathematics and statistics to upper-level courses reflecting his personal interests in Lie groups and Lie algebras, machine learning, and the history of mathematics. He has been a co-principal investigator on two National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education awards and was awarded the Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching in 2003. In 2001, he was the resident director of the Oak Ridge Science Semester at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where he worked with the plasma physics group coding models for fusion energy. He is currently administering a Scripps Foundation Grant to use GPU servers in upper-level data and computer science courses. 

Among his career achievements, Leahy has published in the American Mathematical Monthly magazine and the College Mathematics Journal. He has served as the chair of the Illinois Section of the Mathematical Association of America and received the ISMAA's Distinguished Service Award in 2009. At Knox, he chaired the mathematics department, the curriculum committee, and the faculty. Leahy has provided many years of service on the faculty budget committee and has represented the faculty as an observer to the Board of Trustees and as a member of its finance committee.

Diana Cermak, Richard P. and Sophie D. Henke Distinguished Professorship 

Professor of Chemistry Diana Cermak joined the Knox faculty in 1997, specializing in organic chemistry, modern methods of organic synthesis, and advanced organic synthesis techniques. She received her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from The University of Iowa in 1997, following her Bachelor of Arts degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota-Morris in 1992. 

With a unique gift for explaining complex chemical concepts, Cermak ensures that her students grasp the intricacies of the subject. She received the Phillip Green Wright/Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching by an untenured faculty member in 2001 and as a tenured faculty member in 2011. While at Knox, Cermak has mentored more than 60 research students, many of whom have gone on to graduate programs across the nation. These relationships with Knox students and the United States Department of Agriculture chemists have resulted in publications in a variety of journals, including The Journal of Chemical Education, Industrial Crops and Products, and The Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society.

Beyond the classroom, Cermak serves as a key contributor to faculty committees, including serving as the first faculty chair of the curriculum committee, several elected faculty committees, and chair of the chemistry department. She also served as the grand marshal of the College from 2014-2019. Cermak has been active in the local community for many years in chemistry outreach doing hands-on activities and demonstrations at local preschools, elementary schools, and Discovery Depot. Most recently, Cermak completed a collaborative project on an interactive Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer display on the ground floor of the renovated Umbeck Science-Math Center A Core. Among her career achievements and publications, Cermak was the principal investigator for Knox’s award of a $300,000 National Science Foundation-Major Research Instrumentation Grant to fund the acquisition of a 400 MHz Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer.

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Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2024