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LAS conducts search for new Faculty of Distinction professorship

11:35:26 AM CDT - Thursday, January 20, 2005

A national search is under way for a new professorship in the history and philosophy of science within the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The new position is the result of the college's first Faculty of Distinction professorship, made possible by a gift from alumnus Curt Gridley. A search committee plans to have the position filled by the fall.

Gridley's gift established WSU's fourth Faculty of Distinction professorship. In 2000, the Kansas Legislature established the Kansas Partnership for Faculty Distinction program to encourage gifts by private donors to establish professorships to attract and keep top-notch faculty. Through the program, the state annually matches income from gifts of more than $350,000 given to WSU for the endowed professorships.

The history and philosophy of science is interdisciplinary, requiring good knowledge of philosophy, history of science, and at least one special science, said Bill Bischoff, dean of the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"Curt's gift makes it possible for us to hire a nationally known scholar, which will not only elevate the academic experience of Fairmount College students, but also the academic profile of the college and Wichita State University," said Bischoff.

The professor might teach a course on a specific period or a specific topic, such as "Science and the Modern World" or "Revolutions in Science," according to Bischoff. He or she will likely guest lecture in other colleges such as health professions or engineering.

A native of Beloit, Kan., Gridley received a dual degree in philosophy and mathematics from Wichita State in 1980. After earning a master's from Dartmouth, he joined a high-tech start-up firm in Boston.

He began his own business, Amber Wave Systems, in 1994. It was purchased by U.S. Robotics two years later. Gridley now serves as a consultant.

Gridley's interest in the history and philosophy of science was piqued during his time at WSU. "The history of computers fascinated me," he said. "A lot of theories behind what we call high-tech were actually developed in the 1890s. It gives you a different perspective when you look at the bigger picture."

Gridley lives in Sudbury, Mass., with his wife, Tracy Hoover, and their two children. The Faculty of Distinction professorship is the first major gift from their Gridley Family Foundation.

WSU's other Faculty of Distinction professorships are held by current faculty. Sue Abdinnour-Helm holds the Verne & Helen Omer Professorship in Business; Klaus Hoffman was awarded the Marvin J. "Jerry" Gordon Endowed Professorship in Engineering; and Glyn Rimmington holds the Boeing Professorship Faculty of Distinction.

Kansas' faculty distinction program is similar to programs in Missouri and Oklahoma, which have existed since the 1990s.

Compiled by Amy Geiszler-Jones



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