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April 16, 2014

Three faculty named to professorships

From left: President Joel Seligman, Robert McCrory, Riccardo Betti, and Dean Robert Clark, at the installation of Riccardo Betti as the Robert L. McCrory Professor and Robert McCrory as University Professor.
From left: President Joel Seligman, Robert McCrory, Riccardo Betti, and Dean Robert Clark, at the installation of Riccardo Betti as the Robert L. McCrory Professor and Robert McCrory as University Professor.

Robert McCrory, Riccardo Betti, and Kenneth Gross were installed to professorships earlier this month.

The gifts support The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester, a fundraising campaign launched in October 2011 that runs through June 30, 2016.

Robert McCrory, University Professor

Robert McCrory was appointed University Professor in recognition of his contributions to the physics and engineering community, to the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and to the University in general.

“University Professorships are awarded for exceptional contributions to society and the University,” says President Joel Seligman. “I am delighted to recognize Bob’s accomplishments and extraordinary service with this professorship. As director of the LLE, he has led the largest single laboratory and research program at the University of Rochester. He has worked tirelessly in Washington, D.C., as an advocate for high-energy-density physics and the laboratory. He has recruited outstanding colleagues and has been a visionary of international prominence for his work.”

McCrory is one of only eight current or retired faculty members who hold the title of University Professor.

“Through his leadership of the LLE, Professor McCrory has served the University and its community with great distinction for over 30 years,” says Peter Lennie, provost and Robert L. and Mary L. Sproull Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Sciences & Engineering. “I am delighted we can honor him and recognize his work with this appointment as University Professor.”

Rob Clark, senior vice president for research and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, shares similar sentiments. “Bob McCrory has prominently lead the Laboratory for Laser Energetics to serve as a resource to the global community in high-energy-density physics. The lab is unique as a result of his vision and leadership,” says Clark. “It is rare to find individuals who possess the skills to productively move science forward and simultaneously develop the necessary resources to serve the mission of so many.”

McCrory reflected on the exciting implications for the future. “The time may be near when we see a breakthrough in the quest to demonstrate the scientific feasibility of the fusion process that will eventually provide a safe, secure, and environmentally benign source of limitless energy,” he says.“The LLE is a treasure for the University and a tribute to President Emeritus [Robert] Sproull and the dedicated scientists who have brought distinction to the University.”

Under McCrory’s leadership the LLE has established itself as a world-leading laboratory for the investigation of inertial confinement fusion. Since becoming the director, McCrory has been responsible for securing $1.6 billion in funding for the LLE. The laboratory has consistently received outstanding reviews from the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

McCrory received his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in physics from MIT. He began his research in inertial fusion at Los Alamos National Laboratory and came to the University in 1976. In addition to his position as the LLE director, which he has held since 1983, he also serves as vice president and vice provost of the University. In 1984 he was named associate professor of mechanical engineering and was promoted to full professor in 1986. He has also been a professor of physics since 1999.

McCrory has served on several National Academy of Sciences committees on military space policy and plasma science. At the University, he has served as a member of the Faculty Senate and as the chair of the Faculty Senate’s research policy committee. He served as executive director of governmental relations for the University from 1997 to 2004. His honors include election as a fellow of the American Physical Society. He has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Edward Teller Award given by the American Nuclear Society for his “pioneering research and leadership in the use of laser and ion-particle beams to produce unique high-temperature and high-density matter for scientific research and for controlled thermonuclear fusion.”

Riccardo Betti, Robert L. McCrory Professor

Riccardo Betti, professor of mechanical engineering and of physics and astronomy, was named the inaugural Robert L. McCrory Professor. Endowed by an anonymous donor, the professorship honors Robert McCrory, who has been the director of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics for three decades.

“Riccardo is an internationally recognized leader in the domain of fusion energy research,” says Rob Clark, senior vice president for research and dean of the Hajim School of Engineering & Applied Sciences. “It is very special for the University to have a scholar of his caliber be the inaugural holder of the Robert L. McCrory Professorship.”

“Professor Betti is an exceptionally talented scholar, and I am honored with his appointment as the first scholar to occupy the Robert L. McCrory Professorship,” says McCrory, who also expressed his gratitude to Raymond Mayewski, professor of medicine and chief medical officer at the Medical Center, who was “instrumental in securing the funding for the McCrory Professorship from a grateful anonymous donor.”

Betti is also the assistant director for academic affairs at the LLE. Prior to joining the LLE and the faculty of the University in 1991, Betti received his PhD in nuclear engineering at MIT.

Betti says his goal to perform fusion research attracted him to Rochester.

“Fusion experiments are very expensive, and the scale of the experiments usually are outside the normal scale of a university experiment,” Betti says. “So there are only very few places that have fusion experiments of this scale and that are associated with a university.” In Rochester, Betti says, he could find both.

In 2011, Betti received the Ernest Orlando Award from the U.S. Department of Energy for a series of theoretical discoveries he has made in the physics of inertial confinement fusion. He has also received the leadership award from the Board of Directors of the Fusion Power Associates “for the leadership he has been providing to the U.S. and world inertial fusion efforts,” and the Edward Teller Medal from the American Nuclear Society for his “seminal contributions to the theory and understanding of hydrodynamic instabilities, implosion dynamics, and thermonuclear ignition in inertial confinement fusion.”

Betti is a fellow of the American Physical Society, the vice chair of the Division of Plasma Physics of the American Physical Society, and a member of the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Academy of Science. He served as chair of the National Research Council Plasma-Science Committee and vice chair of the Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee. He has been the head of the theory department at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory and visiting professor at MIT, the University of Texas at Austin, the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California at Santa Barbara, and the Comissariat á l’Ènergie Atomique in Paris. He also holds degrees in nuclear engineering from the University of Rome.

Kenneth Gross, Alan F. Hilfiker Distinguished Professorship in English

Kenneth Gross with Joanna Olmsted, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Alan Hilfiker, and President Joel Seligman.
Renaissance scholar Kenneth Gross, second from left, is the inaugural holder of the Alan F. Hilfiker Distinguished Professorship in English. He is pictured with Joanna Olmsted, dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Alan Hilfiker, and President Joel Seligman.

Kenneth Gross, a Renaissance scholar and professor of English, is the inaugural holder of the Alan F. Hilfiker Distinguished Professorship in English.

“When I graduated from Rochester in 1960 I felt that I should do something special to repay the University for the education, financial support, and experience I received as a student,” says longtime Trustee Alan Hilfiker. “The creation of this endowed position soon became number one on my bucket list, and it has been 44 years in the making.”

A cornerstone of the University’s curriculum since 1850, the Department of English has a rich history of talented faculty, including two Pulitzer Prize–winning poets and a MacArthur fellow. Hilfiker says he hopes the professorship will help the department continue to attract and train the next generation of scholars.

“Alan’s continued support of the English department at Rochester is reflective of the University’s commitment to the humanities,” says President Joel Seligman. “Ken’s dedication to both his students and his craft as a scholar of dramatic literature embodies what this new professorship represents.”

Gross received his doctorate from Yale University in 1982 and has taught English at Rochester for nearly 30 years. Much of his research focuses on Renaissance literature and the work of William Shakespeare, but also branches out to lyric poetry, literature, visual arts, and traditional and experimental theater. For five years he served as the director of undergraduate studies in English and director of the English Honors Program. His books include Shylock Is Shakespeare (University of Chicago Press, 2006), Shakespeare’s Noise (University of Chicago Press, 2001), The Dream of the Moving Statue (Cornell University Press, 1995), and Spenserian Poetics: Idolatry, Iconoclasm, and Magic (Cornell University Press, 1985).

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for his book Puppet: An Essay on Uncanny Life (University of Chicago Press, 2011), fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Academy in Berlin, and the University’s Goergen Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. Next academic year he will be a visiting scholar at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

“I am very proud to be the first person to hold this named professorship,” says Gross. “I have a strong sense that, along with my own teaching and research, it honors more broadly the work of the English department and the University’s commitment to the study of literature and the humanities. That’s a great thing. Having the support from Alan Hilfiker, who has also created a graduate fellowship in English and a scholarship fund for first-generation college students, makes me want to do my job even better.”

Hilfiker is a founding partner of Garlick, Hilfiker & Swift, LLP, a law firm in Naples, Fla. Born and raised in Rochester, he was a partner for 39 years at Harter, Secrest & Emery and a founding partner of the law firm’s Naples office in the early 1980s. He received a law degree in 1963 from Cornell Law School, where he was a member of the board of editors for the Cornell Law Review.

A trustee since 1988, he is closely engaged with the University and a generous supporter of scholarship initiatives, as well as the Alan F. Hilfiker Gallery in the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation in Rush Rhees Library. He also is a charter member of the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society. In 1992, he was awarded the University’s James S. Armstrong Alumni Service Award, and in 2010 he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the School of Arts & Sciences. Hilfiker and his wife, Carol, an active alumna who received her degree in education from the University in 1960, live in Naples, Fla., and have three children and nine grandchildren.

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