SUNY Board of Trustees Appoints 10 Faculty to Distinguished Ranks

November 22, 2017

Albany – The State University of New York Board of Trustees recently approved the appointments of 10 faculty to the Distinguished Faculty rank.

"Each member of the SUNY family appointed to a Distinguished Faculty rank has conveyed their own passion in their field of expertise with students, enriching the educational experience, accelerating research, and impacting lives within SUNY and beyond," said SUNY Board Chairman H. Carl McCall. "We are proud to honor these individuals for being leaders in their fields, for mentoring students who will go on to contribute to our society, and for pushing the boundaries of research beyond our imaginations."

"Those honored with the distinguished ranking are truly the best of SUNY’s best, and they are to be commended for passing knowledge on to and mentoring the next generation of faculty and students in a manner that is as innovating as it is engaging," said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. "Congratulations to all those receiving this honorable distinction."

Since the program’s inception in 1963, SUNY has appointed 1,101 faculty to the distinguished ranks, as follows, including these most recent appointments: 393 Distinguished Professorships; 321 Distinguished Service Professorships; 382 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 candidate’s work must be of such character that the individual’s presence will tend to elevate the standards of scholarship of colleagues both within and beyond these persons’ academic fields. Receiving this rank are:

  • Professor Ira S. Cohen – Cohen, a member of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, began his career at Stony Brook University 42 years ago. Acknowledged as one of the leading electrophysiologists in the world, Dr. Cohen has made seminal contributions to our understanding of the pacemaker and, more recently, began designing ‘biological pacemakers,’ which are cell-based vectors that normalize cardiac arrhythmias. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles and has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In recognition of his outstanding record of scholarly research, Dr. Cohen received a 10-year NIH Merit award. With 26 U.S. and international patents to his credit, Dr. Cohen consistently seeks to apply new technologies to important physiological and biophysical research questions. In 2016, Nature Biotechnology named Dr. Cohen one of the top 20 translational scientists in the world; that same year he was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors. Having trained an impressive number of scientists, many of whom have gone on to impactful careers as independent investigators, Dr. Cohen has an exceptional record of research, teaching, and mentoring.
  • Professor James P. Gibbs – Gibbs, a member of the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology at SUNY-ESF, is an international expert in conservation biology. His career comprises nearly 25 years of academic excellence in scholarship, teaching, and creative activities. Some of the more significant products of his scholarship include 120 peer-reviewed journal publications and five widely used books. One external reviewer stated, “These books have been unrivalled in their effectiveness as teaching tools and have tremendously helped in shaping the current generation of conservation biologists.” Dr. Gibbs has maintained an exceptionally high level of professional productivity, while achieving a growing national and international reputation. He has been involved in international projects around the world, including Mongolia, Tanzania, and Ecuador. He is perhaps most well-known for his work in Galapagos to conserve the giant Galapagos tortoises and the ecosystem services they provide. Dr. Gibbs has been the principal investigator for over 80 grants and contracts worth millions of dollars, and typically publishes 10 or more peer-reviewed articles annually in the leading journals. He has mentored 35 graduate students as major/co-major professor and seven post-doctoral fellows. Dr. Gibbs is a model teacher, scholar, and scientist.
  • Professor Lina M. Obeid – Obeid, a member of the Division of General Medicine and Vice Dean for Research at Stony Brook University, is a trail-blazing scientist whose work has focused on the study of bioactive lipids and their effects on the regulation of cell processes. She has explored in depth the biochemistry and cell biology of sphingolipids, including their biosynthesis and degradation, and investigates their role in cancer and aging. Her studies led to the critical discovery of the role of ceramide as a mediator/regulator of apoptosis (programmed cell death). Her research is of the highest standards and quality, and many of her contributions have become classics in the world of signaling and cell regulation. Dr. Obeid’s seminal manuscript that described those findings (in Science) has been cited more than 1,600 times. Her work has spanned the biological spectrum, ranging from employing yeast as a model system, to dissecting the basic biochemical pathways of lipid biosynthesis, to translating these insights to human cancer and aging. Moreover, throughout her career, Dr. Obeid has served as an outstanding mentor and role model for female students, trainees, and junior faculty. Her amazing enthusiasm for developing new knowledge in basic and clinical research has enabled her to make landmark primary scientific contributions. Dr. Obeid has also been an active physician, maintaining her clinical activities at the VA Hospital in Northport, New York, where she works with geriatrics patients.
  • Professor William Alex Pridemore – Dr. Pridemore, Dean and Professor of the School of Criminal Justice at the University at Albany, has distinguished himself as an international scholar in the field of criminal justice and criminology, and as an expert in homicide, suicide, and the influence of alcohol on these and other forms of violence. His research spans the fields of criminal justice and criminology, sociology, and public health, and has reframed the ways in which both scholars and practitioners think about critical issues in these areas. One external reviewer notes that his work is “relevant to efforts to devise policies and strategies for preventing violence in diverse cultural and political contexts.” His research has impacted the way policymakers, scholars, and practitioners approach their work in the U.S. and abroad. The interdisciplinary nature of his work has led to collaborations with premier scholars in sociology and public health. The value of such linkages cannot be understated. He has published in highly-regarded journals across the three disciplines, including Criminology; Social Forces; Journal of Health and Social Behavior; American Journal of Public Health; Social Science and Medicine; and Journal of Quantitative Criminology; among others. Dr. Pridemore has received nearly two dozen honors and awards for his work, including two that are considered lifetime achievement awards from the American Society of Criminology and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. His work is well-funded, and he is a sought-after speaker at top universities around the world.
  • Professor Jean H. Quataert – Quataert, a member of the Department of History at Binghamton University, has made pioneering and transformative contributions to German and women’s history, gender studies, global history and human rights history. At each stage of her career, she has challenged the prevailing assumptions and categories of the fields in which she works, broadening the framework of understanding and discussion in ways that have not only made her a figure of national and international renown, but that fundamentally reframe how we as a society conceptualize and address questions of justice and human rights. Her research has highlighted the role of women in history, the relationship between the gendering of society and power relationships, the need to think transnationally about issues faced by modern nation-states, and the importance of global grassroots efforts in advancing positive change. Many of the assumptions fundamental to historical research today emerged through debates and inquiries in which Dr. Quataert played a pivotal role. She has published three books that, according to one external reviewer, have shaped “five major historical fields: European socialism and feminism; gender and labor in manufacturing; the history of patriotic women, philanthropy and nation formation; gender, medicine and war; and the history of international law and human rights.” Dr. Quataert is recognized as a highly productive and imaginative scholar.
  • Professor Arthur G. Samuel – Samuel, Chair and Professor of the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, has an outstanding record of teaching, mentoring, scholarly publications, and professional service. His research in the field of Cognitive Science, with a focus on how humans perceive spoken language, has led to a better understanding of the recognition and categorization of human speech, even when noise obscures individual signals. He has been continuously funded by federal grants since his first year as a faculty member. According to one external reviewer, his findings “critically inform the architecture of the speech-lexical processing system.” Dr. Samuel has also taken on major leadership roles within the University, nationally, and internationally. At Stony Brook, he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and Department Chair. Nationally, he has served on a half dozen Editorial Boards of major journals, and served as Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Memory and Language (#1 ISi ranking in Linguistics, and #3 ISi ranking in Experimental Psychology). Dr. Samuel also served as Chair of the Perception and Cognition study section at the National Institutes of Health. In recognition of his scientific expertise, he was invited to serve as Associate Director of the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language to help create a world-class institute in San Sebastian, Spain. Dr. Samuel is a leader in a substantial field in psycholinguistics, and has produced a wealth of imperial data and theoretical developments that have been a major component in the progression of the field.
  • Professor JoEllen Welsh – Welsh is an Empire Innovation Professor at the University at Albany Cancer Research Center and School of Public Health. She received her Ph.D. in Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, and completed post-doctoral training as a fellow at the Human Nutrition Research Council of Ontario. She then joined the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Ottawa, where she received tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. In 1994, Professor Welsh moved to the W. Alton Jones Cell Science Center as a Senior Scientist focusing on vitamin D and breast cancer. In 1998, she moved to the University of Notre Dame, where she became the first female Full Professor in the 150-year history of the Department of Biological Sciences. She joined the University at Albany in 2008, where she has been externally funded by the National Cancer Institute, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the USDA CREES program, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the DOD Breast Cancer Research Program, among others. Recognized internationally as the authority on the role of vitamin D in the prevention and etiology of breast cancer, Dr. Welsh’s expertise spans the areas of cell biology, human nutrition, and molecular biology. She recently expanded her work to examine the role of other vitamins, particularly vitamin E, in the etiology and prevention of breast cancer. Dr. Welsh regularly presents at scholarly meetings and through high-profile media outlets, including ABC News and Good Morning America. She has mentored students at many levels who have gone on to become distinguished investigators, as well as Hudson Valley Community College students through the Biotechnology Internship Program. Dr. Welsh serves on the Editorial Board of Endocrinology, and is a highly sought after grant reviewer for NIH, DOD, NCI, and the American Cancer Society.

The Distinguished Service Professorship honors and recognizes extraordinary service. Candidates must have demonstrated substantial distinguished service not only at the campus and SUNY, 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 are:

  • Professor Gary D. James – Dr. James, a member of the Department of Biomedical Anthropology, has provided exemplary service to Binghamton University, the medical community of the Binghamton region, and to national professional societies through editorial services, scholarship, and leadership. In addition to his remarkable service contributions, he is an internationally known scientist in areas of stress and blood pressure research, and in 2009 was recognized with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. James’ distinguished record of service is characterized by leadership on numerous administrative committees, including longstanding contributions to the University’s Institutional Review Board providing oversight and management. Service to the medical community arises from his experience in biomedicine and commitment to interdisciplinary training and research. He assists residents and practicing physicians in designing and conducting research, and has served on the United Health Services IRB for more than a decade. As a biological anthropologist and biomedical scientist, Dr. James’s professional service spans many societies. He currently serves on seven journal editorial boards, he has served as president of two societies, and he reviews papers for numerous journals.
  • Professor Ezra B. W. Zubrow – Dr. Zubrow, a member of the Department of Anthropology at the University at Buffalo, is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London—the world’s oldest and most prestigious archaeological professional society. Dr. Zubrow has achieved remarkable distinction in sustained and outstanding service to the UB campus, to the State University of New York, and to his discipline—the broadly defined field of anthropology. His level of publication, scholarly work, and professional service are also distinguished, and he has attained international and national prominence for the significance of his achievements. His leadership roles in service to the University at Buffalo and SUNY promote the advancement of faculty and meaningful faculty governance, academic freedom, equity, and excellence. His outstanding leadership in and service to his field have had a sustaining impact on climate change, demographic modeling, social policy, law, disability, literacy, and heritage. Dr. Zubrow is a stellar scholar, teacher, and administrator whose national and international prominence in service, research, and teaching have brought recognition and distinction to the University at Buffalo and the State University of New York.
  • Professor Mira I. Sakrajda – Dr. Sakrajda, an endowed chair and member of the Department of English, Reading, and ESL at Westchester Community College, has a record of service to her students, college, SUNY, and her discipline that has consistently revealed her commitment to providing opportunities that support scholarship and achievement. At Westchester Community College, where she has been a professor for 27 years, she has served in many leadership capacities including Co-Director of the Honors Program, Project Director of the Honors College Grant, and Chief Designer of the Common Writing and Resource Shell. Dr. Sakrajda currently serves as the Interim Director of both the Honors Program and Honors College at Westchester Community College. In 2017, she established the Honors College offering Honors-designated degrees in Liberal Arts. Dr. Sakrajda has been a leader in promoting the regional Beacon Conference, where students from nearly 20 area participating colleges present original research papers each year. She has hosted three Beacon Conferences at Westchester Community College over the past 25 years, and serves on the Steering Committee. Dr. Sakrajda created a connection to Cambridge University in the U.K. in 2003 for summer study programs for WCC students. To date, over 170 WCC students and 10 professors have participated in this program. Her work with the national Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship has brought scholarship opportunities to many students, resulting in awards of as much as $120,000 for students to go on to further their studies at prestigious four-year colleges.

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, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2018, more than 424,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2017-18 academic year. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Its students and faculty make significant contributions to research and discovery, contributing to a $1.6 billion research portfolio. There are 3 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 opportunity, visit

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