The Newest Regents Professors Celebrate
Calling them "extraordinary citizens and teachers", President Robert Bruininks congratulated the newest Regents Professors at a reception at Eastcliff in September. On a bright, breezy day on the banks of the autumn-hued Mississippi River, University of Minnesota Professors Megan Gunnar, Kathryn Sikkink and Donald Truhlar celebrated their award with friends, family, colleagues, and other Regents Professors, both current and emeritus. President Bruininks said, "Regents Professors represent the best of the university, and, this year in particular, they represent the breadth of fields in which our scholars are making their marks."
The Board of Regents and President Bruininks presented the awards at the Regents meeting on September 12. Established in 1965 by the Board of Regents, the award serves as the highest recognition for faculty who have made unique contributions to the quality of the University of Minnesota through exceptional accomplishments in teaching, research and scholarship or creative work, and contributions to the public good.
Participating by phone from Argentina, where she was conducting research into human rights trials, Professor Sikkink expressed her appreciation. "I come from a family in which nearly every member has a degree from the University of Minnesota, so nothing could please me more than to receive this honor," she said. President Bruininks cited Professor Sikkink's work in reshaping and transforming the discussion of global politics as a scholar of comparative politics and international relations. She is currently traveling through Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil interviewing human rights activists and victims of the accused, and said that the award made it possible for her to continue her field research.
Professor Gunnar said that when she first came to the University of Minnesota from the West Coast, she didn't even know what "that river was that ran nearby." "But I saw that the University knew how to nurture and support talent." Gunnar described her work at the Institute of Child Development, and her research on how social experiences in early life shape brain development and behavior. This includes collecting saliva samples of children to measure agents that indicate stress, for which she has become known as the "Spit Lady." "The University, in its wisdom has chosen a 'spit collector' as a Regents Professor," she said. Gunnar expressed her appreciation for her staff and graduate students and said, "I will make good on the responsibility that this confers and give back to the University."
Professor Truhlar expressed his amazement at the recognition: "One doesn't expect one will be recognized for one's work so it's always a surprise." President Bruininks noted that Professor Truhlar was considered among the top physical chemists in the world, and has made seminal contributions that have advanced chemistry and chemical physics in transformational ways. Professor Truhlar described his work in groundbreaking developments in his variational transition state theory as a practical computational tool applicable to a broad range of problems, such as disease and pollution. Professor Truhlar said that he considered the honor bestowed upon his department as well. "Without them, I wouldn't be here."
Regents Stephen Hunter and Cynthia Lesher were on hand for the celebration. "It's a privilege and honor to see first-hand the kind of work these phenomenal people are doing", Ms. Lesher said. "And they're ours!"
The award comes with a stipend of $50,000 annually for research and salary augmentation. President Bruininks cited the recent decision to increase support of the Professorships, and the intention to grow the number of awards to 1% of the faculty, increasing the number to about 30 by 2009. With the addition of these three, Regents Professors currently number 23, and together with emeritus, there have been 78 Regents Professors named since 1965. Regents Professors, past and present, exemplify how the University of Minnesota creates a thriving community for those who are driven to teach and to learn, and whose discoveries have changed the world. "Their work has affected the way people think about critical issues of the day, and has enhanced the reputation of the University of Minnesota," said Provost E. Thomas Sullivan.