I just received word from the Dean’s office in CALS that I have been appointed the James A. Perkins Professor of Environmental Studies at Cornell! This is a huge honor, and I am thrilled and excited.
Embarrassingly enough, I didn’t know who he was. J.A. Perkins, who passed away 20 years ago, was the 7th President of Cornell. Here is an excerpt from his page on Wikipedia: “Perkins served as president of Cornell from October 4, 1963, until his resignation on May 31, 1969 in the wake of the occupation of Willard Straight Hall by armed African American students. In 1995 Thomas W. Jones, a trustee of the university who had been a leader of the building occupation, established the James A. Perkins Prize for Interracial Understanding and Harmony in his name.” A great article on the Willard Straight occupation and fallout is from the Cornell Chronicle here. Perkins was a champion of increasing diversity in higher education in general, and at Cornell in particular. See also his obituary in the NY Times.
This endowed chair was established in 1992 and the past professor to hold it was Eloy Rodriguez, a retired Cornell chemical ecologist. Eloy conducted research in many realms, but was most well-known for developing the concept of zoopharmacognosy, the notion of animal self-medication with plants. Who knew, but monarch butterflies are one of the few insect groups that are known to self-medicate!