Sunday, October 23, 2011

Distinguished Chair Celebration

Bill Waiser, Distinguished Chair

Earlier this month, the Faculty of Arts and Science held a celebration for Bill Waiser and Ron Steer (Chemistry) who had recently been named Distinguished Chairs.  As part of the celebration, Bill was expected to explain History to chemists and Ron was to explain Chemistry to historians.

Although the natural division of the room into disciplinary sides, as like gravitated toward like, did not seem to bode well, both speakers eloquently explained the importance of their work and did, in fact, find common ground.

The 'History' Side, amused during Bill's talk

Bill spoke to the need for history in the modern world, particularly in terms of encouraging an engaged citizenry.  He discussed the thirst of the general public to know more about their past and the way in which historians constantly revise our understanding of the past as new questions arise.  Ron told us that he discovered his subject because he wanted to know what would happen when he shone light on molecules -- and stressed the necessity of continued funding for curiosity-driven research, which is what his own work had always been.

In a week when a local journalist had attacked curiosity-driven humanities research, the emphasis of both speakers on the role of new questions in driving innovation was a particularly welcome message for the audience.

Congratulations to Bill and Ron for being named Distinguished Chairs -- and for their masterful explanations of their work!