SUNY Board of Trustees Appoints 15 Faculty to Distinguished Ranks

April 11, 2018

Albany – The State University of New York Board of Trustees recently approved the appointments of 15 faculty to the Distinguished Faculty Rank. All distinguished faculty in active service within SUNY are also members of the SUNY Distinguished Academy.

"We are proud to honor SUNY faculty for their accomplishments as researchers, teachers, mentors, who are dedicated to their work and making a positive impact on campus," said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. "In order to receive distinguished ranks, appointees must possess the ability to lead and innovate, as well as meet the rigorous standards of our distinguished ranks. Congratulations to all honorees, who embody the spirit and values of SUNY’s core values."

"The SUNY faculty members receiving these distinguished ranks have achieved immeasurable success within their fields and on their respective campuses," said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. "These individuals have set the bar for their peers, and work closely with students to help them find their calling inside and outside of the classroom. It is their excellence that drives SUNY forward."

Since the program’s inception in 1963, SUNY has appointed 1,116 faculty to the distinguished ranks, as follows, including these most recent appointments: 399 Distinguished Professorships; 326 Distinguished Service Professorships; 386 Distinguished Teaching Professorships; and 5 Distinguished Librarian Professorships. More information about SUNY’s faculty award program is available online.

The Distinguished Professorship is conferred upon individuals who have achieved national and/or international prominence and a distinguished reputation within their chosen field. This distinction is attained through extraordinary contributions to, and impact on, the candidate’s field of study, often evidenced by significant research and/or creative activity. Moreover, the candidate should be a role model for students and other faculty and their work must be of such character that it has the potential to elevate the standards of scholarship or creative activity of colleagues both within and beyond their academic fields. Their work must be of such quality that students and scholars on other State University of New York campuses would wish to benefit from lectures and seminars, or other appropriate presentations the faculty members might provide. Further, to be eligible for nomination, a faculty member must have attained and held the rank of full professor for five years, and must have at least one year of full-time service at the nominating institution. Receiving this rank are the following:

  • Professor Stelios Andreadis – Andreadis, a member and chair of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University at Buffalo, has made seminal contributions to the field of bioengineering, spanning both fundamental and translational research, with emphasis in the areas of stem cell bioengineering; vascular, skin, and gland tissue engineering and regeneration; molecular design of biomaterials; protein and gene delivery, and lentiviral arrays for high-throughput pathway analysis of stem cell differentiation and reprogramming. Among his highly recognized findings are those in the area of stem cells for cardiovascular tissue engineering. These advances place him at the forefront of worldwide efforts to use tissue engineering approaches for treatment of cardiovascular disease. He also discovered that stem cell senescence (aging) could be reversed using a single pluripotency factor, a discovery with significant implications in the field of aging and the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine. Notably, his discovery that skin stem cells can be the source of neural crest stem cells and their derivatives (neurons, glial cells, melanocytes, muscle, bone, cartilage) is a paradigm shift in stem cell biology with profound implications on regenerative medicine as it can provide an unlimited source of stem cells for treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, for which cell sourcing remains an intractable barrier to development of cellular therapies.
  • Professor Steven J. Fliesler – Dr. Fliesler, a member of the Department of Ophthalmology and the Meyer H. Riwchun Endowed Chair Professor at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is a highly sought-out expert in the field of vision science. His research focuses on the retina and pathologies that affect vision. The former president of the International Society for Eye Research (ISER) and recently elected president of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), the world’s premiere eye research association, Dr. Fliesler is internationally renowned by his peers as a distinguished scholar and is widely considered by colleagues to be "the world's foremost authority on the topic of cholesterol biosynthesis and metabolism in the retina." His laboratory investigates retinal degenerations caused by metabolic defects, particularly lipid abnormalities (dyslipidemias) related to defective cholesterol metabolism as well as lipid and protein oxidation that underlies causes of photoreceptor cell death in retinal degeneration. Dr. Fliesler is a leading lipid biochemist on cholesterol metabolism and its role in retinal structure and function. His work was the first to invoke disturbed cholesterol metabolism in the retina as a disease mechanism. The translational relevance of his research findings are crucial to the field’s understanding of retinal health and pathology. His work is viewed as seminal in our understanding of the antecedents to pathology in age-related macular degeneration.
  • Professor Bernice Porjesz – Dr. Porjesz, a member of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Director of the Henri Begleiter Neurodynamics Laboratory at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, is an outstanding leader in the field who has engaged in cutting-edge research in alcoholism, neurophysiology, and genetics for the past 40 years. Her early discoveries of subtle deficits in the brain function of alcoholics and their children were published in Science. Since that time, her research has been continuously funded by the NIH, she has authored over 200 publications, serves on the editorial boards of several renowned journals, and is a dedicated mentor to trainees and junior faculty. Dr. Porjesz leads the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), an NIH funded initiative launched in 1989 that remains on the forefront of cutting-edge science. Building on her earlier discoveries that certain genetically influenced brain features make people more likely to develop alcohol use disorders (AUDs), Dr. Porjesz’ research has led to the identification of the genes involved in the development of AUDs. Under her leadership, COGA has progressed well beyond identifying genes to understanding the genetic mechanisms involved in risk, as well as Gene x Environment interactions during the development of AUDs. Dr. Porjesz has been the recipient of the prestigious MERIT award (2002), the Mendelson award (2014), the Research Society on Alcoholism’s Henri Begleiter Award for Excellence in Research (2016), and has been a member of Downstate Medical Center’s "Million Dollar Club" for 13 consecutive years. The Club honors faculty who received $1 million or more during the academic year for funded research, public service, or training programs.
  • Professor Sharon R. Steadman – Dr. Steadman, a member of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at SUNY Cortland, is a global authority on the Chalcolithic to Byzantine archaeological periods of the Turkish Anatolian Plateau. In addition to supervising 14 excavations throughout the Near East, including Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, Steadman has been the field operations director for evacations at Ҫadir Höyük in Turkey for the past 20 years. A prolific author of books and articles, Dr. Steadman has authored two well-cited books, The Archaeology of Architecture and the Human Use of Space, and The Archaeology of Religion, and co-authored a third, Ancient Complex Societies, works which have shaped a more comprehensive understanding of Anatolian culture in the Near East. Her work is distinctive for placing archaeological data alongside models of human behavior to create testable hypotheses of prehistoric phenomenon. Editor of the influential Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia, Dr. Steadman has also co-edited four essay collections, three on the archaeology of Anatolia, and a fourth on agency and identity in the Ancient Near East. Her three-volume book series on the excavation at Ҫadir Höyük excavation spans from the late Chalcolithic and early Bronze Age to the Classical and Byzantine periods. Recipient of grants from the National Science Foundation among others, Dr. Steadman reviews grants for the NSF and the National Geographic Society; book manuscripts for publishers including Routledge; and articles for 16 archaeological journals. She is a member of the Editorial and Advisory Board of Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies, and is also a member of the Committee on Archaeological Policy and the American Schools of Oriental Research.
  • Professor Andrew S. Whittaker – Dr. Whittaker, a member of the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo, is a Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI), and the American Concrete Institute (ACI). He is an internationally renowned structural engineer who has made fundamental contributions across a wide range of areas including performance-based earthquake engineering, seismic probabilistic risk assessment, and characterization of the effects of detonations of high explosives. A national leader among the earthquake and blast engineering communities for decades, Dr. Whittaker served for seven years as president of the Consortium of Universities for Research in Earthquake Engineering (CUREE), and has served on a number of national committees developing standards of practice. He currently chairs the ASCE Nuclear Standards Committee. His work has been recognized with several national awards including Fellow of ASCE, Fellow of American Concrete Institute, four best paper awards, and ASCE Walter P. Moore and Stephen D. Bechtel Awards. Among the most highly cited civil engineering scholars in the U.S., Dr. Whittaker has served as the director of University at Buffalo’s Multi-hazard Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) since 2011, the Institute of Bridge Engineering (IBE) since 2015, and the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory (SEESL) since 2016.
  • Professor Zhen Yan – Dr. Yan, a member of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University at Buffalo, is an extraordinarily prolific researcher who has received global recognition for her groundbreaking findings and scholarship, particularly for her investigations related to the areas of schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). A preeminent, innovative, experimental neurophysiologist in the field of cellular and synaptic neurosciences linked to neurological diseases, Dr. Yan investigates the mechanisms by which chronic stress exposure underlies cognitive deficits and depressive behaviors. She has made important advances delineating the genes and molecular mechanisms underlying human neurological disorders and is considered one of the leading authorities among molecular and cellular neurobiologists of her generation. Since 2000, Dr. Yan has been continuously funded with more than 20 grants totaling nearly $18 million from such sources as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health—National Institute of Drug Abuse, the National Alliance on Research for Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the National Institute of Mental Health, the American Heart Association, the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, and the National Institute on Aging. Dr. Yan published 125 peer-reviewed journal articles and 10 book chapters, among others and garnered more than 10,000 citations.

The Distinguished Service Professorship honors and recognizes extraordinary service by faculty across SUNY.  Candidates must have demonstrated substantial distinguished service, not only at the campus and the system-level, but also at the community, regional and state levels. They must have held the rank of full professor for five years, must have at least three years of full-time service at the nominating institution, and must have completed at least 10 years of full-time service in the SUNY system. Further, many individuals appointed to this rank have rendered influential service at the national and international levels. To be considered, service activities must exceed those generally considered to be a part of a candidate’s basic professional portfolio of work and should include service that surpasses that for which professors are normally recognized. It must also extend over multiple years and, very importantly, must involve the application of intellectual skills drawing from the individual’s scholarly and research interests to issues of public concern. Receiving this rank are the following:

  • Professor Andrew (Drew) J. Kahn – Dr. Kahn, a member of the Department of Theater at Buffalo State College, has consistently achieved the highest caliber of faculty service. He is the founding director of The Anne Frank Project, a multi-layered social justice initiative that utilizes the wisdom of Anne Frank as a springboard for the intense examination of genocide, bullying, and intolerance through the lens of storytelling and performance. With an expertise in devised theatre, he presents and teaches internationally on the universal language of theater and the intersection of storytelling, conflict resolution, and reconciliation. His passionate work through the Anne Frank project, his position as a Professor of Theater, and his activism in all arenas promoting the improvement of the quality of life for all, has had an impact in classrooms and audiences from Buffalo to Africa. Dr. Kahn marries his scholarly and creative work with his teaching, bringing them into sharp focus on serving the public good. Students studying under his tutelage learn the power of their craft and creativity in addressing some of the world’s most pervasive problems of prejudice and inhumanity that know no community boundaries. He demonstrates a sustained and focused commitment to social justice that transcends a daily schedule of classes and research. His innovative work in drama-based education has brought voice to the silent, as close to home as the urban youth of Buffalo, and as far away as the healing of Rwanda’s deep spiritual wounds. Dr. Kahn offers significant leadership that dramatically transforms the lives of his students, the communities they serve, and the Buffalo State community. His work is grounded in the mission of the College and has deepened the ways that Buffalo State College manifests a commitment and dedication to social justice in both measurable and immeasurable ways.
  • Professor Timothy B. Mihuc – Dr. Mihuc, a member of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and director of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Lake Champlain Research Institute, has a long-standing record of service to the campus, community, New York State, and beyond. An expert in stream and lake ecology, he has extensively studied freshwater ecosystems and the impact of a variety of forces on Lake Champlain. Dr. Mihuc has received funding for his work from a number of agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. He is an affiliate of the Center for the Study of Canada, member of the International Joint Commission Lake Champlain-Richelieu River Study Board, and co-director of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant. He is also Director of the Lake Champlain Research Institute at SUNY Plattsburgh, drawing hundreds of students, faculty, and community members into its research efforts, creating a base of knowledge and activism on behalf of the lake that makes a major contribution to its preservation. Dr. Mihuc is editor in chief of the Journal of Great Lakes Research and also created and edits Scientia Discipulorum, an online undergraduate research journal that introduces students to the processes of scientific publication. He has anchored the leadership of graduate programs in natural sciences, serving as longtime coordinator of the Professional Science Master’s Program as well as the M.S. program in Natural Science. He has led or served as a member of a broad range of campus committees and task forces (experiential learning, information literacy, and more) and regularly works with master teacher programs, community organizations, and individuals needing expert guidance on issues connected with Lake Champlain. He has mentored over 100 undergraduate student research projects and served as thesis advisor for 11 master’s degree students.
  • Professor Joseph A. Skrivanek – Skrivanek, a member of the Department of Chemistry at Purchase College, is a longtime mentor of under-represented minority students in the natural and social sciences, and his related service has extended well beyond the bounds of the campus. He is the founder and director of the Baccalaureate and Beyond (Bridges) programs, which have garnered almost nine million dollars in funding from governmental and private donor sources such as NIH, NSF, and PepsiCo. The Bridge’s program—providing mentoring and hands-on research experiences to students in two-year programs—has had an undeniably positive impact on hundreds of students who have successfully transitioned from community colleges to four-year institutions. The program received national recognition when it received the President’s Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in 2011. This prestigious award was presented to Dr. Skrivanek at the White House by President Obama, and recognizes successful sponsorship and cutting-edge training of underrepresented ethnicities as future leaders in the sciences. Dr. Skrivanek has also secured years of federal grants to support fostering intense summer research and laboratory experiences. Currently continuing and expanding his involvement and expertise in matters concerning advanced education, Dr. Skrivanek spends days each month in Albany, as part of the System Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, advising on matters of enhanced minority participation in our scientific future.
  • Professor Paula M. Trief – Dr. Trief, a member of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and Medicine and Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University, has made significant contributions locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally in the area of behavioral health and diabetes. She is a well-funded researcher for her work in the role of partner relationships and psychological factors in diabetes control, and the relationship of parenting style and parent-youth conflict in medication adherence in youth with diabetes. She serves internationally, including reviewing grants, speaking, and through elected membership in international organizations related to behavioral health and diabetes. Her innovative programs at Upstate Medical’s Joslin Diabetes Center address diabetes prevention and management, as well as health disparities. Dr. Trief has served as an elected member and officer of the Faculty Council and has developed many innovative programs in faculty development. She is also a member of the President’s Diversity Council, and is a developer and facilitator for the Corps of Diversity Allies at Upstate. Dr. Trief has previously received recognition for her service as a recipient of both the President’s and the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Faculty Service, a President’s Award for Excellence in Affirmative Action, and a Diversity Achiever Award from the Syracuse YMCA.
  • Professor Tracey E. Wilson – Dr. Wilson, a member of the Department of Community Health Sciences at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has been a valued member the Downstate Medical faculty for over 18 years. Dr. Wilson is committed to community and uses an engaged approach to improving public health and eliminating health inequities in Brooklyn. Her work supports the mission of the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC), which works toward eliminating health disparities in Brooklyn. Dr. Wilson currently serves as the Research Core Co-Director of the BHDC and also serves on its Executive Board. She has received more than $5 million in grants, and her research has led to several large-scale behavioral studies that are designed to improve engagement of care for those living with and at risk for HIV. She is a passionate advocate for her students, staff, community, and the field of public health. Dr. Wilson is recognized nationally and internationally as an accomplished researcher. Notably, given the significant time and contributions she has made to community engagement and capacity building, student teaching and mentoring, and supporting the administrative capacity of the institution, Dr. Wilson has consistently maintained a highly productive and impactful research career in the areas of infectious disease prevention and treatment, and in the psychosocial and behavioral aspects of health and health disparities.

The Distinguished Teaching Professorship recognizes and honors mastery of teaching. For this prestigious tribute to be conferred, candidates must have demonstrated consistently superior mastery of teaching, outstanding service to students, and commitment to their ongoing intellectual growth, scholarship and professional growth, and adherence to rigorous academic standards and requirements. Further, a faculty member must have attained and held the rank of full professor for five years, have completed at least three years of full-time teaching on the nominating campus, ten years of full-time teaching in the System, and must have regularly carried a full-time teaching load as defined by the campus at the undergraduate, graduate or professional level. Receiving this rank are the following:

  • Professor Christopher S. Cohan – Dr. Cohan, a member of the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is a teacher and investigator in the neurosciences with a more than 30-year history of excellence in academic education. He uses innovative approaches to integrative neuroscience teaching, and has continuously developed and improved his already outstanding skills as an educator. He adopted digital methods in education long before they were common. Dr. Cohan’s teaching integrates a cross-disciplinary approach to subject matter with state-of-the-art educational methodologies attuned to individual student learning styles. Dr. Cohan has developed novel websites, unique interactive learning exercises, and a one of a kind hands-on "brain museum" in support of the multi-modal education of students in neuroscience. He is known as a preeminent teacher both regionally and nationally. Medical students have selected Dr. Cohan for award recognition of his teaching excellence 13 times.
  • Professor Pete K. Ducey – Dr. Ducey, a member of the Department of Biological Sciences at SUNY Cortland, has devoted over two decades to the mastery of teaching and learning. He implements a variety of teaching methods, including scaffolding and innovative applied learning activities designed to engage students at all levels. As a faculty mentor, he introduces majors and non-majors to professional undergraduate and graduate research. He maintains longstanding mentorships with former students, many of whom go on to become physicians, teachers, and Ph.D.’s, and who attest to the positive impact he has made on their lives. He serves as a member of the SUNY Master Teacher Advisory Board for Central New York, sharing his expertise with K-12 teacher-leaders from across the region. He is frequently sought after as a model educator and mentor with colleagues frequently asking him to attend their classes and offer suggestions. Dr. Ducey possesses a strong record of scholarship, which is reflected in his teaching. Dr. Ducey’s students are authors or coauthors in more than 25 of his publications, including peer-reviewed journal articles and published abstracts of conference proceedings. He serves on the editorial board for Northeast Naturalist and has served as a reviewer for NSF and NIH. He is a 2004 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the 2006 SUNY Chancellor’s/Research Foundation Recognition for Exemplary Contributions to Research in Scholarship, as well as the SUNY Cortland Excellence of the Use of Research in Teaching Award in 2002, the Outstanding Achievement in Mentoring Undergraduate Research Award in 2016, and the Excellence in Academic Advisement Award in 2017.
  • Professor Daniel George Payne – Dr. Payne, a member of the Department of English at SUNY Oneonta, has proven to be a truly exceptional instructor in both English and the Environmental Humanities since his arrival in 2001. In addition to the student-centered classroom environment and wide-ranging classroom activities provided by Dr. Payne, he has routinely engaged with his students outside the classroom, advising independent study students (45 since 2001) and arranging innovative field experiences. Dr. Payne’s teaching accolades include the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2012); the SUNY Oneonta Inter-Greek Council Award for Outstanding Faculty (2011); and the SUNY Oneonta Outstanding Advisor and Mentor Award (2007). His excellence in teaching and mentorship is fed by his internationally recognized scholarship in the area of environmental literature, expertise he has used to encourage SUNY Oneonta to incorporate sustainability throughout its curricula and as a part of its identity. In addition to developing interdisciplinary courses in the Environmental Humanities deemed key to the program’s success, Dr. Payne has regularly hosted internationally acclaimed environmental writers on SUNY Oneonta’s campus to engage and inspire students. For the past 15 years serving as Director of the John Burroughs Nature Writing Conference, Dr. Payne has created a unique and extraordinary opportunity for students from various disciplines to interact with international experts in the field of Environmental Literature.
  • Professor Andrea A. Zevenbergen – Dr. Zevenbergen, a member of the Department of Psychology at SUNY Fredonia, is a superb mentor and teacher. Through data driven assessment, she continuously refines her courses in order to maximize the student learning experience. She recently pursued and received a faculty development grant to pilot innovative teaching strategies. Dr. Zevenbergen exemplifies the teacher-scholar model through lessons informed by her scholarship, as well as the provision of countless hands-on opportunities for her students outside of the classroom. She is committed to faculty-student collaborations and has supervised more than 50 independent study students, three McNair students, and one undergraduate research fellow. In addition, she has co-authored paper presentations with 35 students and supervised more than 150 student internships, engaging students in her research on child language acquisition and emergent literacy. Dr. Zevenbergen has more than 25 widely cited publications and nearly 70 research presentations. She has served on and led many committees, including those relating to athletics, diversity, curriculum, and student success, and has mentored colleagues on how to be more effective in advising. As Fredonia's Faculty Athletic Representative (FAR), she provided sound academic support and advocacy for student athletes, chaired the Intercollegiate Athletic Board, and led the SUNYAC FAR Organization. Evidence of her noteworthy teaching can be seen in her extremely high teaching evaluations, extensive and very effective mentoring, numerous teaching awards, as well as enthusiastic student comments.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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