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Faculty Eminence Initiative inspires donors to establish new professorships during 2O36 campaign
Malinda Maynor Lowery

Malinda Maynor Lowery, Cahoon Family Professor of American History, tours the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Susan Cahoon 68C, 2O36 Campaign Cabinet co-chair, recently established a third professorship through the Faculty Eminence Initiative.

Rosa Tarbutton Sumter 89C had been thinking about how she could give back to Emory’s Art History Department. President Gregory L. Fenves’s Faculty Eminence Initiative, with its 2:1 match, “was a catalyst that inspired me to follow through on something I’d wanted to do for a long time.” 

Sumter and her husband, Neal, established the Rosa Tarbutton Sumter Professorship in Art History. “I stumbled upon art history as a student, and I fell in love with it,” she recalls. “It became my major and a big part of my life.”

Art remains a passion for Sumter, who enjoyed a long career at Norfolk Southern and currently serves on Emory’s Board of Trustees. “I’m grateful to Emory and the Art History Department for the wonderful education and for the incredible professors who taught me,” she says. “The skills you learn in a liberal arts education equip you for life and for any career you choose to pursue.”

From the arts to cancer research, professorships enable Emory to recruit and retain faculty poised to improve the world through their fields of expertise.

Sylvia Looney Dick chairs The Martha and Wilton Looney Foundation, which has created the Looney Family Professorship in Cancer Research. “Our family believes in Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, and we want the doctors and researchers who work there to have as much support as possible,” she says.

While the family’s immediate concern is breast cancer research, “we have multiple friends with several different forms of cancer,” she says. “Our hope is that whatever insight is gained through this professorship will be effective across the board.” 

Along with her husband, Bruce Dick, she has also made several gifts to the Carlyle Fraser Heart Center. The Wilton D. Looney Carlyle Fraser Heart Center Medical Directorship at Emory University Hospital Midtown was instituted in 2018 to honor her father, Wilton D. Looney —also a longstanding Emory benefactor. 

She hopes that others might be led to support similar professorships. “This matching gift opportunity provides a chance for more people to use their financial resources to bolster research — and perhaps also to motivate doctors and researchers by illustrating our belief in their work,” she says. “For our family, it’s an honor to play a part in the fight against cancer.”

Fenves established the $25 million Faculty Eminence Initiative as a matching grant to encourage the creation of more endowed professorships at Emory. The 2:1 match applies when a donor commits at least $1 million (with $500,000 in matching funds) to endow a professorship or $2 million (with $1 million from the match) for a distinguished professorship. Since it was launched in late March, the initiative has resulted in 10 new professorships, with seven more in the pipeline. Through 2O36, Emory’s campaign to transform the future, generous donors have funded 66 professorships — already far surpassing the 41 that resulted from Emory’s previous campaign.

“One of our greatest areas of need is more endowed faculty positions,” Fenves says. “These endowed professorships help Emory recruit world-class faculty while empowering us to support the outstanding faculty members who are already thriving at Emory. Our faculty will shape the future of Emory as researchers, scholars, and teachers — and by extension, this initiative will help ensure that Emory continues to rise as one of the finest universities in the nation.”

Cindy Sanborn 87C and Beth Ann Andrews 87C, both retired from CSX Corporation, have long supported the university through service and philanthropy, taking advantage of their employer’s matching gift program to extend their giving even further.

Sanborn, who currently serves on the Emory Board of Trustees, views the Faculty Eminence Initiative as another opportunity to invest in Emory. “The 2:1 match allowed us to create a distinguished professorship,” she says. “We’d already funded two scholarships, and we understand how important faculty are to a university, so this just made sense.” The Marie B. and Richard D. Sanborn Distinguished Professorship in Computer Science is in honor of Sanborn’s parents.

They chose computer science because both have degrees in mathematics and computer science, Sanborn explains. “We also support the university’s efforts to incorporate artificial intelligence into the humanities, which allows students to learn about computers and AI regardless of their major.”

Ravi V. Bellamkonda, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, spearheads Emory’s AI.Humanity, Arts and Humanistic Inquiry and Student Flourishing initiatives. Endowed professorships provide funding that can elevate departments and schools while enriching education, he says.

“Our faculty is the heart of our university, and with endowed positions we recognize their eminence and support their scholarship,” Bellamkonda says. “Our students also benefit — both from having incredible scholars in the classroom and by having access to research opportunities in diverse fields of interest.”

Learn more about the Faculty Eminence Initiative, or contact Joshua R. Newton, senior vice president for Advancement and Alumni Engagement, for more information about creating an endowed professorship.

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