SUNY Board of Trustees Appoints 19 Faculty to Distinguished Ranks

May 14, 2014

Albany – The State University of New York Board of Trustees recently approved the appointments of 19 faculty to distinguished ranks. All distinguished faculty in active service within SUNY are also members of the SUNY Distinguished Academy.

“SUNY’s highest faculty honor, the distinguished ranking, is reserved for the best of the best,” said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. “Each professor to earn this distinction has advanced their field while teaching and mentoring their students, often collaborating and innovating with their colleagues, and serving society at large through their work. Congratulations to all of our new distinguished faculty.”

“We are deeply proud to recognize our faculty with these prestigious rankings, and to have the opportunity to honor the work they do on behalf of the students, campuses, and communities they serve throughout New York State and around the globe,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Many thanks and congratulations to this most recent class of distinguished faculty.”

Since the program's inception in 1963, SUNY has appointed 994 faculty to distinguished ranks, as follows, including these most recent appointments: 337 Distinguished Professorships; 296 Distinguished Service Professorships; 356 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 or international prominence and a distinguished reputation within a chosen field. This distinction is attained through significant contributions to the research literature or through artistic performance or achievement in the case of the arts. The candidates’ work must be of such character that the individuals’ presence will tend to elevate the standards of scholarship of colleagues both within and beyond these persons’ academic fields. Receiving this rank today are:

  • Professor Phillip McCallion, University at Albany – Dr.  McCallion is in the School of Social Welfare at the University at Albany, a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Faculty Scholar and Mentor and is Co-Director of the Center for Excellence in Aging and Community Wellness.  Professor McCallion's research centers on system design to create aging prepared communities, foster the evaluation of the implementation of non-pharmacological interventions for persons with dementia and of psycho-educational interventions for family caregivers, and increase the reach of palliative care programs.  As part of these agendas, Professor McCallion has a strong emphasis on standing up widespread use of evidence-based interventions, collaboration with state and local agencies, building community capacity and realizing effective, sustainable community-clinical linkages.  Professor McCallion's research has been supported by grants and awards from numerous federal, state, local, private, and international sources.  He has over 100 publications on interventions with older adults with chronic conditions, caregivers of frail elderly, persons with Alzheimer's disease, and persons with intellectual/developmental disabilities.  Dr. McCallion has also written on management issues for the providers of human services.
  • Professor Georges Dicker, SUNY Brockport – Dr. Dicker has taught philosophy at the College at Brockport since 1970.  He is the author of books on John Dewey, perceptual knowledge, Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant; four of these were published by Oxford University Press, the leading English-language publisher in philosophy.  Professor Dicker’s books are distinctive in that they are accessible to undergraduate students, and yet sufficiently rigorous and insightful to be indispensable to, and regularly praised by, expert scholars.  Dr. Dicker has also published over 40 articles and reviews, and he has made roughly 100 paper presentations in ten Western countries and guest-taught in Taiwan.  He has held a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship-in-Residence at Brown University and he was selected for participation in four N.E.H./Council for Philosophical Studies summer institutes.  He has been highly active in university service for over three decades and has served as Chair of the Philosophy Department since 1994. 
  • Professor Margarita L. Dubocovich, University at Buffalo – Dr. Dubocovich is the world’s foremost authority on the brain hormone melatonin and the regulation of melatonin receptors. Professor Dubocovich has significantly broadened the scientific understanding of melatonin’s impact on circadian rhythms, sleep disorders, and depression.  Credited with discovering melatonin receptor subtypes, which revolutionized the field, she also pioneered the pharmacology of melatonin receptors agonist and antagonist agents.   The owner or co-owner of three patents related to agents developed for her research, since 1985 she has received continuous funding support from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and major pharmaceutical companies including Glaxo, Inc. and Eli Lilly and Company. Dr. Dubocovich is also an ardent educator, with the goal of building a culturally and intellectually diverse and academically inclusive community of undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty.  She has received numerous international honors, including the 2005 Award for Outstanding Scientific Contributions from the Latin-American Congress of Pharmacology, the 2011 Aaron B. Lerner Pioneer Award, and the 2012 PhARMA Foundation Award in Excellence in Pharmacology and Toxicology.
  • Professor Jerold C. Frakes, University at Buffalo – Dr. Frakes is internationally renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to the field of Early Yiddish and for his work on Jewish, Christian, and Muslim intercultural relations as revealed in their respective literary traditions.  Within the last year alone, he has won four major fellowships: a Guggenheim, a National Humanities Center Fellowship (declined), Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, and a research fellowship in Paris (declined).  External reviewers note that he is “in a class of his own, ”performing heroic scholarship, without any peer” in the U.S. in his pioneering publications on Yiddish literature, and is ”perhaps the most important figure in medieval Germanic Studies in the broadest sense.”  He reads in every language pertinent to his broad range of scholarship and has published in, or translated from German, Yiddish, and French as well as English.  In 2011, he published three books—a monograph, an edited collection on Latin and German medieval perceptions of the “Muslim Other,” and a “cultural history of Litvak Jewry”—all seminal contributions that continue to build his legacy to Yiddish studies and comparative literary scholarship.
  • Professor Aidong Zhang, University at Buffalo – Dr. Zhang is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and is an internationally recognized authority in the fields of multimedia and bioinformatics.  Credited with major conceptual and practical advances in the fields of databases, multimedia, and bioinformatics, Professor Zhang has also had a major impact on these fields through the patented algorithms she has developed with her team.  Her stature and reputation can be further gauged by her editorship in major journals, including the most prestigious journal in her field, IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering.  Instrumental in forging new research directions in the Information Retrieval (IR) community, Dr. Zhang has pioneered novel techniques for semantic clustering and querying that are now widely accepted as the standard in image database design.  She has received a number of awards and honors, and has attracted continuous external funding for two decades with federal grants totaling more than $12 million, including a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation and funding from the National Institutes of Health. 
  • Professor Christopher A. McRoberts, SUNY Cortland – Dr. McRoberts is a worldwide authority on the Triassic Period, focusing on bivalves and the end-Triassic mass extinction event.  A field paleontologist specializing in the taxonomy and paleoecology of bivalves, Dr. McRoberts’ geological expeditions have taken him to Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Texas and multiple regions of Western Europe.  His prolific and innovative research on the timeframe for defining the global Triassic-Jurassic boundary has impacted the geoscientific study of other periods of global change.  Professor McRoberts has been recognized through numerous prestigious international appointments, including Secretary General for the International Union of Geological Sciences Commission on Triassic Stratigraphy; Co-leader of the International Geological Correlation 458 Project; Chair of the Northeast Section of the Paleontological Society; and two Research Associate posts, at the American Museum of Natural History and at Binghamton University.  He is currently Editor-in-Chief of Albertiana, the official journal of the Subcommission on Triassic Stratigraphy.  A strong advocate for undergraduate research, Dr. McRoberts often collaborates with his students in the field and in professional publications.  
  • Professor M. Mahmood Hussain, Downstate Medical Center – Dr. Hussain is an internationally renowned expert and leader in lipid biology and cardiovascular disease.  He is one of SUNY Downstate’s most accomplished scientists.  Throughout his long and productive scientific career, he has paved many important new inroads into the molecular and cellular biology of how the hepatic and small intestinal cells participate in lipid metabolism to find better treatments for high cholesterol.  The significance of his work is reflected in numerous institutional, national and international awards, being speaker and organizer for international conferences, over two decades of continuous extramural support by many national agencies including the NIH – bringing millions of dollars to the campus – and having published more than 150 articles, with several cited more than 100 times.  He serves on numerous national and international grant review committees, on editorial boards of several scientific journals, including as Editor-in-Chief of Nutrition and Metabolism (Lond).  
  • Professor Jose-Manuel Alonso, SUNY Optometry – Dr. Alonso, ofthe SUNY College of Optometry, is a visual neuroscientist who has made significant contributions to the understanding of how visual information is processed in the primary visual cortex, the area of the brain with the most detailed representation of visual space.  A large body of Professor Alonso’s work has been devoted to understanding the functional role of the connections from thalamus to visual cortex, which provides the main entrance of visual information to the brain.  He also made contributions to understanding how receptive fields are constructed in the primary visual cortex, the role of neuronal synchrony in sensory processing, and the role of spatial attention and alertness in visual cortical function.  More recently, his work has revealed pronounced asymmetries in the processing of darks and lights in the visual cortex, which could potentially explain a wide range of visual phenomena including an almost four-century-old puzzle dating back to Galileo.
  • Professor Vitaly Citovsky, Stony Brook University – Dr. Citovsky has made several major contributions to the field of plant-pathogen interactions with a focus on transport of nucleic acids using plant viruses and Agrobacterium as models.  Dr. Citovsky was first to describe how plant viral cell-to-cell movement proteins form complexes with viral genomes and how Agrobacterium exports bacterial effectors and DNA into plant cells.  These studies have had a major impact in the plant biotechnology industry that is based on the efficient transfer of genes and corresponding traits from any organism into crop plants.  Professor Citovsky’s research also contributes substantially in areas beyond plant-pathogen interactions.  For instance, he also studies the composition and biochemical activities of a plant histone demethylase gene repressor complex. Dr. Citovsky found that unlike similar complexes in animal systems, in plants this includes a histone deubiquitinase activity.  Research in his laboratory also pioneered the production of autoluminescent plants by reconstituting a bacterial multigene biochemical pathway for autoluminescence within plant chloroplasts. Professor Citovsky has multiple editorial responsibilities, is an enthusiastic mentor, has maintained a well-funded program, and has published over 170 articles in high impact journals.
  • Professor Robert Harvey, Stony Brook University – Dr. Harvey, of Stony Brook University, is a pre-eminent presence in the field of cultural and literary studies.  He is widely known in the United States and Europe as a distinguished practitioner of such studies.  His several books and numerous articles are recognized as ground-breaking, original contributions to a field he has created virtually single-handedly.  His most recent book, Witnessness: Beckett, Levi, Dante and the Foundations of Responsibility, has revolutionized the understanding of what it means to be a witness of historically and personally significant events.  Another sign of Professor Harvey’s stellar international standing is found in his recent appointment as Program Director at the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris: a position reserved only for the most prominent scholars and critics of our time.  At Stony Brook, Dr. Harvey has been the moving force behind the creation of an immensely promising new department, Cultural Analysis and Theory, which provides an innovative interdisciplinary approach to literature and affiliated fields.
  • Professor Kenneth Kaushansky, Stony Brook University – Dr. Kaushansky, of Stony Brook University, is a leading hematologist whose seminal contributions to hematopoiesis have been recognized by his election to membership in the most prestigious scientific and medical institutions including the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  As President of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the American Society of Hematology, Dr. Kaushansky has been a major driver in transforming medicine such that the treatment of patients can truly harness findings in the laboratory.  He has been a prominent advocate and mentor of young physicians and researchers considering careers that bridge the clinic and laboratory.  Dr. Kaushansky has brought a palpable sense of optimism and self‐confidence to the faculty and students of the School of Medicine.  In his two‐plus years as Dean and Vice‐President, Dr. Kaushansky has catalyzed transformative changes in basic and translational research, curriculum development, and the delivery of superb clinical medicine. He is an extraordinary scientist who has made lasting contributions to the basic biomedical sciences, is a clinician of the highest integrity, and is a wonderful role model in his capacity as outstanding physician‐scientist, mentor and teacher.

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, 10 years of full-time teaching in the System, and must have regularly carried a full-time teaching load as defined by the campus.

  • Professor Russell D. Briggs, SUNY ESF – Dr. Briggs joined the faculty at SUNY ESF in 1995 (having earned his Ph.D. at the college ten years earlier). He is a Professor of Forest Soils, Director of the Division of Environmental Science, and Director of the Forest Soils Analytical Laboratory.  Dr. Briggs' areas of expertise are forest soils and silviculture.  He is held in high regard by his peers for both the diversity of courses he teaches as a divisional director and the joy and enthusiasm he brings to his daily work.  Professor Briggs is a stellar researcher who is active in the Soil Science Society of American and the Society of American Foresters. He has held leadership positions in both organizations and was recently selected to serve as Division Chair within the Soil Science Society.  He has authored or co-authored with his students over 70 articles for these professional societies.  He has served as an Associate editor for two national/international journals in the field and has helped numerous graduate students and young scientists publish their first manuscripts and begin their professional careers.  Dr. Briggs has consistently demonstrated a commitment to training future generations of forestry professionals. His past students attest to the impact he has had on their lives.  For many, being in his class is a life-changing event; several emphasize that new career options opened for them because of Dr. Briggs’ inspiration.  He is generous with his ideas and shares credit willingly with colleagues and students.
  • Professor Stephen P. Kershnar, SUNY Fredonia – Dr. Kershnar joined the SUNY Fredonia faculty in 1998 and was promoted to the rank of full professor in 2005.  His expertise in the areas of philosophy of law, ethics, and political philosophy animate his teaching and scholarship.  Dr. Kershnar earns exceptional evaluations from his students and many of those with whom he has worked closely have achieved great success in business, law, and philosophy after graduation.  He is renowned for his unique, effective style of teaching, which combines the Socratic method of questioning employed by law school instructors and a philosophical technique of vigorously defending conflicting conclusions in turn.  In addition, Dr. Kershnar is generous with his time outside the classroom, overseeing several student clubs and working independently with students who seek his aid.  He has high expectations of students and by levying rigorous standards brings out the best in them.  Finally, his professional development, as judged by scholarly activity, has been ongoing and robust: he has published six books, over 60 articles, and a host of book reviews during his time at the institution.  In recognition of his accomplishments, Professor Kershnar has earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. 
  • Professor Ganie DeHart, SUNY Geneseo – SUNY Geneseo Professor DeHart is an outstanding teacher who has introduced scores of students to the field of developmental psychology.  She uses a wide range of methods to encourage active learning, emphasizing practical application, data collection and analysis, and teamwork.  Her unique contribution beyond the classroom is the dozens of students she has mentored in her large and flourishing lab, which has been conducting longitudinal research on sibling and peer relationships for over two decades.  Her research assistants, who progress from running experiments to supervising other research assistants and designing studies, go on to some of the nation’s most prestigious graduate programs and post-baccalaureate internships and fellowships.  Dr. DeHart is an active scholar, and to prepare her students for professional success, she has co-authored over 100 paper and poster presentations with them.  She has been recognized with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2010), the Geneseo Alumni Association Supported Professorship (2007-2010), and the Carol and Michael Harter Mentoring Award (1999); the Society for Research in Child Development selected her for both a Policy Fellowship at NIH and a seat on its Teaching Committee.
  • Professor Rita Colon-Urban, SUNY Old Westbury – SUNY Old Westbury Professor Colon-Urban is a well-respected teacher, dedicated to students’ personal and professional success, as attested in letters from current and former students.  She received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1991.  She has developed and taught biology courses at all levels, been innovative in her teaching style and content, demonstrating high standards in her teaching and evaluation of students.  She is an active scholar-teacher, with over twenty peer-reviewed articles, including two with Old Westbury undergraduate student co-authors.  She is a much sought after mentor, both because of the quality of her work, and her commitment to the success of her student collaborators, many of whom have received awards for presentations at national meetings.  Her research and related activities have greatly contributed to the College’s ability to attract external funding for undergraduate research.  She is known for her leadership abilities, having served her department and the College in many important roles.  Her professional contributions to the National Academies through the Ford Foundation Fellows program show that her strengths are recognized beyond SUNY Old Westbury as well. 
  • Professor Tracy Karl Lewis, SUNY Oswego – Over the course of nearly 30 years at SUNY Oswego, Dr. Lewis has earned a reputation as an extraordinarily effective teacher of Spanish and Portuguese language and culture.  Students respond to his charismatic, encouraging teaching style, and learn from his sometimes unconventional method that keeps them engaged and ‘on the hook’ to verbalize in the language they are studying.  He has lectured on South American culture in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.  His former students teach Spanish and Portuguese throughout the world.  He is a distinguished humanist and the world’s foremost international scholar of Paraguayan literature.  He is also an expert on the Paraguayan Guarani language, one of the most widely spoken indigenous languages of South America.  This past September, he received the Albert Camus Prize presented by the Universidad del Norte, Paraguay, for service to Paraguayan higher education.  At Oswego, he has been honored for his teaching, his advising of undergraduate students, and his contributions to the internationalization of the SUNY Oswego curriculum.
  • Professor Lisa M. Bastiaans, Nassau Community College – Whether storm chasing with students across the Plains, working with at-risk students, training colleagues to use Blackboard, or educating teachers and students about weather, Nassau Community College Professor Bastiaans has devoted her career to engaging others.  Professor Bastiaans is a dynamic instructor who makes difficult concepts understandable by relating them to everyday occurrences.  Her lessons interweave her professional experience and knowledge with her timely photographs and videos of remarkable weather phenomena.  Additionally, she advises the Meteorology Club and shares career and internship information with students beyond required office hours.  A pioneer in online learning at Nassau Community College (NCC), Professor Bastiaans currently coordinates the faculty training program, leads the Distance Education Forum on best practices, and continues to be on the cutting edge of technology.  Her noteworthy professional activities extend beyond NCC.  The American Meteorological Society regularly invites her to lead workshops for international master teachers, to pilot new online courses, to review textbooks and lab manuals, and to serve on their boards. 

The Distinguished Service Professorship honors and recognizes extraordinary service.  Candidates must have demonstrated substantial distinguished service not only at the campus and the State University, but also at the community, regional and State levels. Further, many candidates for appointment have rendered influential service contributing at the national and international levels.  Service must exceed the work generally considered to be a part of a candidate’s basic professional work and should include service that exceeds that for which professors are normally compensated.  It must also extend over multiple years and, very importantly, must involve the application of intellectual skills drawing from the candidate’s scholarly and research interests to issues of public concern.  Receiving this rank today are:

  • Professor Richard S. Hawks, SUNY ESFProfessor Hawks has provided decades of service to SUNY-ESF, the SUNY system, national organizations such as the Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), and communities and institutions nationally and internationally.  He has served as President of the Council of Educators of Landscape Architecture (CELA), Vice President of ASLA, and is a Fellow of ASLA and CELA.  He serves as the only permanent academic on the CEO Roundtable, an organization of leading landscape architecture design firms.  According to one reference, Professor Hawks is “particularly effective at representing educators and students as well as serving the profession and public.”  Professor Hawks created the Citizen’s Institute on Rural Design which he co-directed for 23 years to produce more than 60 workshops for rural community leaders on the importance of planning and design in community success.  He has received a number of national awards for his contributions to the profession and to the public.
  • Professor Patricia Chapple Wright, Stony Brook University – Professor Wright joined the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University in 1991.  Several years earlier (1986), she discovered a heretofore unknown species of lemur (the golden bamboo lemur, Hapalemur aureus) while on an exploration trip to Madagascar.  Discovering that the rain forest that this species inhabits, and hence the future of this and other animal species, was threatened by timber exploitation, Wright’s attention turned to conservation.  She spearheaded a conservation and development project that helped establish Ranomafana National Park in 1991, which preserves the endemic flora and fauna in the 43,000 hectares of rainforest.  Dr. Wright’s work has also promoted rural development, education, and the delivery of health services in the park's peripheral zone.  The park was managed by Stony Brook University and Professor Wright until 1998 when management was turned over to the Madagascar National Parks.  Building on the work she began two and a half decades ago, Dr. Wright has spearheaded a new kind of research center. NamanaBe Hall (Friendship Hall) is the technology and outreach wing of the Centre ValBio Research Station, founded in 2003 by Stony Brook University in conjunction with the universities of Helsinki (Finland), Antananarivo (Madagascar), and Fianarantsoa (Madagascar).  NamanaBe Hall embodies a new concept – a hub for an innovative and inclusive way to make rainforest conservation and research happen.  With this inauguration, Centre ValBio offers the world a window on a remarkable ecosystem using new tools including high-speed Internet, top lab equipment for genetics, genomics, hormones and infectious disease. Through Wright’s initiative, Ranomafana National Park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.  The Centre ValBio is a research center with a heart.  Strong health, education and economic development programs built on 26 years of relationships and collaborations with the people of Madagascar link the center with the surrounding community.  Thanks to Dr. Wright’s vision and monumental efforts, conservation has a strong foundation in Madagascar.  Today, Centre ValBio still stands strong saving the rainforest, its wildlife, and its human inhabitants through programs of research, global connectivity, technology, health and economic development. 

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York 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 2023, 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

Share this:


Holly Liapis
Email the Office of Communications