Five Elon faculty members awarded endowed professorships

The professorships support members of the faculty from a variety of disciplines across the university.

Elon University named five faculty members to endowed professorships on Wednesday, Aug. 12, during the Opening Day ceremony to officially launch the 2020-21 academic year. The professorships will support faculty members in the fields of cinema and television arts, physics, religious studies, history and entrepreneurship.

J. Earl Danieley Distinguished Professor

Naeemah Clark, professor of cinema and television arts and director of assessment and accreditation

Professor Naeemah Clark is just the third faculty member to be named the J. Earl Danieley Distinguished Professor since it was created by the university’s board of trustees in 1997 to honor 50 years of the service to Elon by the university’s sixth president. The professorship is awarded to an outstanding professor in any field.

Clark has been a member of the Elon faculty since 2009 when she joined the School of Communications as an assistant professor and she was promoted to full professor in 2019. During her time at Elon, Clark has distinguished herself as the epitome of a teacher-scholar-mentor.

“I’m so proud to be named the Danieley Distinguished Professor,” Clark said. “It was clear that Dr. Danieley found joy inside and outside of the classroom. I hope that I have exhibited that same enthusiasm through the work I’ve done at Elon around media representations and inclusive communities.”

Clark has taught an impressive range of classes from the introductory courses such as Communications in a Global Society to the capstone communications course Great Ideas: Issues and Research. Additionally, she has taught courses in the cinema and television arts major including the core “thinking” course Entertainment Media that she helped transform to use a multicultural lens that analyzes power dynamics, diversity, equity and inclusion.

As a mentor, she has guided more than 20 undergraduate students including multiple Honors Program students and a Leadership Prize recipient, with her students publishing articles and presenting undergraduate research at national conferences. In 2019 alone, two of her students published articles in the Elon School of Communications Journal of Undergraduate Research.

For six years, Clark directed the School of Communications Fellows Program helping to nearly double it in size of students it serves. She mentored the subsequent director and still helps to chaperone activities, select Fellows and engage with the students and alumni of the program.

Clark has edited the book, “African Americans in the History of Mass Communications: A Reader,” and she has co-authored two editions of “Diversity in U.S. Media.” In addition, she has presented at national conferences and has served as a consultant to organizations including AARP.

She has made significant contributions to the life of the university including serving as the Faculty Fellow for Civic Engagement, as the co-chair of the presidential task force on social climate and out-of-class engagement, as a member of the Inclusive Community Council and the LGBTQIA task force. She has been active in training faculty in the diversity, equity and inclusivity curriculum.

T.E. Powell Jr. Professor

Ben Evans, professor of physics and director of the Lumen Prize

Professor of Physics and Director of the Lumen Prize Ben Evans has been named T.E. Powell Jr. Professor. The Thomas E. Powell, Jr. Biology Foundation established the T.E. Powell, Jr. Professorship in 1978 in honor of Powell, a professor of biology at Elon College from 1919 to 1936. The professorship is awarded to an Elon professor in the sciences with superior teaching ability, exemplary scholarship, and proven leadership, with the intent of supporting the highest-quality undergraduate research mentoring.

In his remarks about receiving the professorship, Evans noted how Elon has changed and grown during his time at the university. “I am so proud of you, all of my colleagues who make Elon the place it is now,” Evans said. “But I recognize that none of us would be here today without the long history of those who came before us.”

He noted the contributions of Professor A. L. Hook, a member of the mathematics and physics faculty for more than 50 years, as well as Professor Gene Grimley from the Department of Chemistry, who held the Powell professorship before retiring, and the role that the Powell family has played in Elon’s history.

“The gift represented by this professorship is transformative for a professor, for a laboratory, for a department and all the students that it serves, and indeed for an entire university,” Evans said. “I am immensely grateful for that contribution and to the Powell family.”

A member of the Elon faculty since 2008, Evans is regarded as an innovative and popular instructor. He teaches a number of courses such as General Physics to Modern Physics, Biophysics and the Physics of Sound. Evans also extends his mentorship of students through conscientious undergraduate research collaborations. Evans has been an active mentor, with well over half of his more than 45 presentations and almost of third of his more than 17 publications including Elon undergraduates as co-authors. Senior Associate Provost Tim Peeples noted in his announcement of the selection of Evans for the professorship that many students who enter his classroom with some anxiety about physics later recount how they came to love the discipline through their rigorous class experience.

In recognition of his strong record of scholarship, Evans was selected to receive the A.L. Hook Emerging Scholar in Science and Mathematics Award in 2012. His scholarship is interdisciplinary, with more than a decade’s work focused on ways to use magnetics to treat cancers and resolve infections, to study cells and tug on single molecules, to build robots both micro and macro, to mimic microbiology and to enhance medical diagnoses.

Evans has made dozens of presentations at regional and national meetings. He frequently takes advantage of opportunities to prepare students by including them in both research presentations and in the professional networks of physicists. Evans regularly publishes the outcomes of his scholarship in journals such as Applied Materials and Interfaces and Nanoscale.

As an associate professor, Evans is an active contributor to the life of the institution and is taking on more leadership as he moves toward promotion to full professor. He has co-chaired the Working Group on Undergraduate Research and Intellectual Climate since 2016 and served as chair of the Promotions and Tenure Committee from 2017 to 2018. He now directs Elon’s premier Lumen Prize program.

Maude Sharpe Powell Professor

Lynn Huber, professor of religious studies and director of the Honors Program

Professor Lynn Huber has been honored with the Maude Sharpe Powell Professorship, which was established by Dr. James Powell and his siblings, Thomas E. Powell III and Sophia Maude Powell Wolfe, in honor of their mother. The professorship is awarded to faculty in any academic discipline.

Huber is recognized as an exceptional colleague, teacher, scholar, mentor and campus leader, Gabie Smith, dean of Elon College, the College of Arts & Sciences, said in her remarks about Huber’s selection for the professorship.

Huber has previously led the Women’s, Gender and Sexualities Studies program, chaired the Department of Religious Studies, and served as the Founding Director of Elon’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society. Huber has also made significant contributions to efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion on our campus. Her commitment has been recognized by Elon’s Gender and LGBTQIA Center with a community enrichment grant and the Faculty/Staff member of the year award.

Huber thanked her colleagues for their support and camaraderie, and her students, past and present, who she said continue to push her to think in new ways. “I am honored by this award, especially since it signals Elon’s commitment to feminist and LGBTQ+ academic work,” Huber said.

During her time at Elon, Huber has demonstrated an exceptional ability to push students beyond what they thought they could accomplish both in her on-campus courses and courses offered through study abroad. Students comment on her ability to challenge them to tackle difficult concepts and topics while motivating them to want to succeed. She is also noted for her ability to nurture an environment of mutual respect in which students can discuss and debate.

Huber is a highly respected scholar in her field of religious studies. She’s written two books: “’Like a Bride Adorned:’ Reading Metaphor in John’s Apocalypse” (2007) and “Thinking and Seeing with Women in Revelation” (2013). Huber examines the ways women and modern readers interpret, engage with, and depict the Revelation’s texts. Her works have been described as “must reads” by reviewers and she continues to advance a sustained program of research through feminist analysis of religious texts.

She has further established a productive record of dissemination of her scholarly work through number of chapters, manuscripts and presentations relating to her areas of disciplinary expertise and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Her scholarly accomplishments have been recognized with the Elon College Faculty Excellence Award in Scholarship in 2008 and the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2020.

William J. Story Sr. Professor of History

Charles Irons, professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Geography

Professor Charles Irons has been named the William J. Story Sr. Professor, a professorship in Southern history endowed by the late Hatcher P. Story ’38 and his sister Louise in honor of their father.

Irons completed his graduate studies in American History at University of Virginia. His program of scholarship focuses on the relationships between religion and race in the Southern United States in the 1800s. Teaching in the Department of History and Geography, the Elon Core Curriculum and the Honors Program, Irons is regarded by his peers and students as a very strong teacher and mentor.

Irons has maintained a productive record of scholarship while serving as Chair of the Department of History and Geography. He regularly disseminates his scholarship through high-quality publications such are peer-reviewed articles, book chapters in edited volumes and a book, “The Origins of Proslavery Christianity.” Irons has further created productive synergies between is areas of expertise and his contributions to the life of the University. He has provided expertise in service on the African and African-American Studies minor advisory committee, the Committee on Elon History and Memory, and the Black Experiences Task Force.

In his remarks, Irons noted that the study of Southern history has often ignored the contributions of Black people, and that a White-centered approach to Southern and American history is enshrined in texts, popular culture, police practices and the built environment. Irons plans to commit the resources from the professorship award to the work of telling a more inclusive history and promoting equity.

“Redeeming the past will ultimately require the promotion of a more just vision of the future,” Irons said.

Doherty Emerging Professor for Entrepreneurial Leadership

Elena Kennedy, assistant professor of entrepreneurship

Assistant Professor Elena Kennedy has been named the Doherty Emerging Professor for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a professorship endowed by Trustee Ed Doherty and his wife, Joan, Elon parents who also established the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Since joining the Elon faculty in 2016, Kennedy has taught five different courses, including the service-learning course Entrepreneurship for the Greater Good. Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Love School of Business, noted in his remarks about Kennedy receiving the professorship that she has brought a strong commitment to coverage of social entrepreneurship into the entrepreneurship major and minor, working closely with staff in the Doherty Center as well as the Kernodle Center for Civic Life.

Kennedy noted in her remarks that since joining Elon, she’s been able to develop her research and contribute to the university in ways she has found meaningful. Along with thanking local entrepreneurs for their willingness to work with Elon, Kennedy thanked the Dohertys for their support of the study of entrepreneurship at the university.

“Your consistent support for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship at Elon has allowed us to build a dynamic program for our students,” Kennedy said. “This award will allow me to deepen my practice in teaching as well as research to support today’s innovators.”

Kennedy’s research focuses on social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial community development, and entrepreneurship education. Her work on social entrepreneurship has been published in such highly regarded academic journals as the Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, and the Journal of Business Venturing.

Currently, her research focuses on the entrepreneurial community of Saxapahaw in Alamance County and how local entrepreneurs leverage relationships to strengthen their businesses and community. She has a manuscript under review from this research with a 2020 Elon alum as co-author. Additionally, Kennedy has focused on entrepreneurial education and is currently leading a two-year multi-university project examining career readiness of entrepreneurship graduates at Elon, Towson University and The College of William & Mary. She and her co-investigator, Associate Professor Sean McMahon, were awarded a Colonial Academic Alliance Innovation and Collaboration Grant to fund this work.