Prof. Charlene Makley [anthropology] is among the faculty to receive endowed chairs.
Prof. Charlene Makley [anthropology] is among the faculty to receive endowed chairs.

Six Professors Named to Prestigious Chairs

The newly appointed faculty inspire as both scholars and teachers.

March 8, 2023

Six Reed professors are the recent recipients of endowed chairs, appointments that reflect their commitment and contributions as both scholars and teachers. Here we celebrate the six, who officially begin their appointments in the 2023-24 academic year.

Prof. Mir Bowring

Margret Geselbracht Professor of Chemistry

Prof. Bowring is an organometallic chemist whose research program, funded most recently by a grant from the National Science Foundation, reveals the invisible mechanisms of chemical reactions with applications in producing greener fuels like hydrogen. They have recently published papers with Reed undergraduate coauthors on large isotope effects in organometallic chemistry, and their inorganic chemistry class participates in their research on reclaiming palladium from road dust. They earned their Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Washington and Yale University before joining the Reed faculty in 2016.

Created with a $3 million gift by an anonymous donor, the Geselbracht Chair memorializes the career of Prof. Maggie Geselbracht, who joined Reed’s faculty in 1993 as the only woman in the chemistry department. The first woman in the department to receive tenure, she taught courses in general and inorganic chemistry until 2014, and was also highly respected as a mentor and researcher.

■ ■ ■

Prof. Kelly Chacón

Arthur F. Scott Professor of Chemistry

Prof. Chacón studies how metal ions are trafficked in the cell by using a mixture of biochemistry and spectroscopy, work that has implications for tempering bacterial resistance to antibiotics and bioremediating harmful atomic compounds in the environment. A fast-rising figure in the chemical sciences, they are also passionate about increasing the presence of historically underrepresented groups in chemistry. Chacón earned their Ph.D from Oregon Health & Sciences University and has been at Reed since 2015.

The Scott Chair honors Prof. Arthur F. Scott, who was a Reed chemistry professor from 1923 to 1926. He taught at the Rice Institute before returning to teach at Reed in 1937, and was department chair until he retired in 1965. In 1968, he raised $300,000 through private sources to build the Reed Reactor.

■ ■ ■

Prof. Alison Crocker

A.A. Knowlton Professor of Physics

Prof. Crocker is an astrophysicist whose research focuses on the physics of star formation in nearby galaxies. She works on connecting what we know about the gas in galaxies (the precursor to star formation) to what we know about the stars that actually form. She earned her DPhil in astrophysics from Oxford and completed postdoctoral positions at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Toledo before joining the physics faculty at Reed in 2014. In 2019 she won the Swanson Promise Award for her outstanding efforts in science research and education.

The Knowlton Chair honors Prof. Ansel A. Knowlton, who taught at Reed from 1915 to 1948. A highly respected instructor, he received honors for his teaching from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement and the American Association of Physics Teachers, and was the author of a widely used textbook, General Physics for College Students.

■ ■ ■

Prof. Lucas Illing

David W. Brauer Professor of Physics

Born in Germany, Prof. Illing studied physics at the Humboldt University in Berlin, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego, and joined Reed in 2007 after a postdoctoral position at Duke University. He’s interested in the nonlinear dynamics of dissipative systems and networks of such systems. Experiments in his lab range from mechanical systems, such as a chaotic water wheel whose slow movements can be observed with the naked eye, to optoelectronic oscillators whose light intensity fluctuates on timescales of nanoseconds or less.

The Brauer Chair honors David W. Brauer, a 1983 alumnus who majored in physics. After leaving Reed he moved to Japan, where he co-founded the company Paltek, which imports and distributes semi-conductors used in large telecom and networking equipment. The firm went public in Japan in 1998 and Brauer endowed the chair shortly thereafter as his first major act of philanthropy.

■ ■ ■

Prof. Laura Leibman

Kenan Professor of English and Humanities

Prof. Leibman’s work focuses on how material culture changes our understanding of the role of women, children, and Jews of color in the early Atlantic World. The winner of several National Jewish Book Awards and a Jordan Schnitzer Book Award, her most recent manuscript is Once We Were Slaves, about an early multiracial Jewish family who began their lives enslaved in the Caribbean and became some of the wealthiest Jews in New York. Other honors include Fulbright scholarships at the University of Panama and the University of Utrecht and a visiting fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and has been at Reed since 1995.

The Kenan Chair was established in 1978 by the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. According to the trust, the chair should support a "scholar-teacher whose enthusiasm for learning, commitment to teaching, and sincere personal interest in students will broaden the learning process and make an effective contribution to [Reed's] undergraduate community."

■ ■ ■

Prof. Charlene Makley

Elizabeth C. Ducey Professor of Anthropology

Prof. Makley has spent the past 20 years conducting ethnographic and historical research in the troubled Sino-Tibetan frontier zone in China. Her first book was based on several years of fieldwork in the famous Buddhist monastery town of Labrang in Gansu province, while her second book examined the multi-faceted impacts on Tibetan communities of state-led development projects since 2000. She is now pursuing a collaborative historical and ethnographic project with Tibetan colleagues on the triumphant post-prison 1980s tours of the controversial and beloved Tibetan incarnate lama, the Tenth Panchen Lama. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and arrived at Reed in 2000.

The Ducey Chair was created in 1985 with the broad purpose of supporting academic efforts in Asian or Pacific Rim studies. Elizabeth Ducey, a graduate of Smith College, had a longtime interest in Reed. Once a staff assistant to Senator Richard Neuberger of Oregon, she pursued progressive policy and social issues throughout her life. She also made substantial gifts to Reed in the 1960s and ’70s aimed at helping students become involved in public affairs and public policy analysis.

Tags: Academics, Awards & Achievements, Institutional, Professors