Two distinguished members of the Western Carolina University faculty now have the word “distinguished” as part of their official titles following action by the Board of Trustees in March appointing them to endowed professorship positions.
The trustees approved Lisa Bloom, a professor in WCU’s School of Teaching and Learning, as the Jay M. Robinson Distinguished Professor in Educational Technologies, and Todd Collins, associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs, as the inaugural David and Lois Steed Distinguished Professor in Public Policy.
Established in 1997, the Robinson Professorship is designed to attract or retain experts from the educational or corporate sectors who are using electronic technologies to enhance the teaching and learning process. It is named in honor of Jay Robinson, the late former chairman of the State Board of Education and brother of the late H.F. “Cotton” Robinson, who served as WCU chancellor from 1974 to 1984. The professorship is endowed at more than $500,000 with a combination of contributions from the late former president of the UNC system, C.D. Spangler Jr., and matching state funds.
Bloom said her new position will allow the university to prepare educators to incorporate new technologies in learning at all levels – preschool through high school and beyond. “WCU has always been a leader in preparing and supporting P-16 education, and I am looking forward to continuing and building on that tradition,” she said.
The Steed Professorship is designed to attract or retain an individual with a record of public service and proven capability in teaching and research who can guide the Department of Political Science and Public Affairs’ efforts to enhance the quality of life in the region by forming effective partnerships to elevate the policy dialogue and increasing the expertise of government and nonprofit professionals.
The professorship, endowed at $1 million, was created through a combination of a $250,000 gift by David and Lois Steed of Mooresville, $250,000 from the C.D. Spangler Foundation and $500,000 in matching state funds. David Steed ’73, who enjoyed a 37-year career with home improvement retailer Lowe’s, made the gift to WCU with his wife in memory of their mothers, Erlene Steed and Gladys Bennett.
Collins said he is honored to be the first person to hold the professorship. “Our region is one of great beauty, wonderful people and a rich culture,” he said. “However, it is a place that also faces some difficult challenges. Through the Steed Distinguished Professorship, we will be able to expand our engagement activities with local governments and nonprofits in our area. In supporting our outreach mission, we will also be able to provide more experiences for our students to work on real-world problems in Western North Carolina.”