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Three named to ‘distinguished’ professor rank

By : Katie Ellis

Three Binghamton faculty members have been promoted to the distinguished professor rank, a tenured University ranking that is conferred solely by the SUNY Board of Trustees for consistently extraordinary accomplishment. The highest academic rank within SUNY, distinguished professors have achieved national or international prominence and a distinguished reputation within their chosen field.

Recipients are nominated by their campus presidents for having made significant contributions that elevate the standards of scholarship of colleagues both within and beyond the individual’s academic field.

Marilynn Desmond, professor of English, general literature and rhetoric; Thomas Dublin, professor of history; and Randall McGuire, professor of anthropology, were appointed at the Nov. 17 meeting of the board of trustees. They join more than 50 other Binghamton colleagues who have received this distinction. 

Desmond, who earned her PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, has authored three groundbreaking books on the reception of classical Latin texts in medieval France and England that her nomination notes have “changed the way scholars think about gender, sexuality and authorship in late medieval culture.” By integrating the study of visual and textual cultures, her work has had a major impact on classics, medieval French, Middle English and manuscript studies.

“This is wonderful recognition that enhances professional identity in the things that matter,” said Desmond, who will be a visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in spring 2010, to work on her next book, The Fall of Troy and the Origins of Europe: Homer and the Medieval West, which will raise fundamental issues of how the West became the West through culture formation and cultural reception.

Throughout her academic career, which began when she was hired as an assistant professor at Binghamton in 1985, Desmond’s study of literature and history in the High Middle Ages with a feminist focus has been path-breaking.

With considerable resistance to feminist scholarship in medieval literature when she began her studies, she notes that she has seen a shift in her field since then that validates her work.

“Everyone recognizes that it is important work and has made a contribution to the field,” she said. “It seems as if this work has ‘arrived.’”

Dublin earned his PhD from Columbia University in 1975. His first book on women workers in the early Lowell textile mills shattered the prevailing understanding of 19th-century working women and received two prestigious national book awards. He later turned his attention to the decline of the anthracite coal industry and, using multiple grants, pursued a research project that led to five scholarly articles and two books, one of which won another national award.

In addition, Dublin developed and co-edits a quarterly online journal/database/website that complements his scholarly writing and textbooks. Dublin, along with Bartle Distinguished Professor Kathryn Kish Sklar, has also received three Teaching American History grants, which have enabled partnerships with area BOCES districts to organize workshops and seminars that provide area teachers with new insights into American history. 

His letter of nomination highlights the broad-ranging impact Dublin has had: “There are very few historians who can lay claim to the kind of influence that Professor Dublin has had in his field. His work created a major shift at the highest levels of his field and he has successfully disseminated his work so that it is required reading of students from high school through graduate school.”

“This (promotion) is very much a reflection of the intellectual strength of our department and of the strong support the University has provided my research over 21 years,” Dublin said. “Without the strong interaction with colleagues and the resources of the University, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish all that I have.”

McGuire, who earned his PhD from the University of Arizona, has had his work published in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Catalan.

His nomination notes that he “brings innovative thinking about archaeological theory and a creative integration of new theory into the practice of archaeology, making his research impactful, unique and world-renown.”

McGuire’s work on Marxian and Marxist approaches in archaeology, his particular interests in history and power, and his ability to excel in both theory and practice lent a key voice in bringing these concerns back into American archaeology.

McGuire has received more than 20 grants totaling over $2.8 million and he has authored four books, edited four others and authored nine other monographs and more than 100 articles and chapters.

A native of Colorado, McGuire found the Southwest to be the “close-by exotic place” he was most interested in.

“For me, when I first started as an archaeologist even as an undergraduate, my goal was to become a person of some respect in Southwestern archaeology,” he said. “The path has led to much more than that and I’m very gratified.”

Like Desmond, McGuire began his academic career at Binghamton.

“In terms of the people I know of who have reached this rank across campus, I’m joining very excellent company,” he said.


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Last Updated: 10/14/08