WMU News

Hirsch and Nelson honored with named professorships

Nov. 10, 2004

KALAMAZOO--Two Western Michigan University professors with international renown in their respective fields have been honored with named professorships, WMU President Judith I. Bailey announced today.

Dr. Christian R. Hirsch, a national leader in the field of mathematics education, has been named the James H. Powell Professor of Mathematics, and Dr. Nickola W. Nelson, recognized by colleagues around the country for her research, teaching and clinical work, has been named the Charles Van Riper Professor of Speech Pathology and Audiology. Bailey announced both appointments today in her State of the University address. The designations are part of a program Bailey launched in February that is designed to honor faculty members for outstanding performance in teaching, research or creative activity. Each person honored through the initiative is named to a professorship that bears the name of a significant member of the University community.

"Both are outstanding teachers with extensive publication records and significant research accomplishments," Bailey said of Hirsch and Nelson in announcing the professorships. "They extend the reputation of this University in the national arena."

Named professors receive an annual stipend of at least $12,500 for the first three years following their appointments. The stipend is derived from the earnings of an endowment from private donations put at the discretion of the president. Up to one-half of the stipend may be used to augment the faculty member's salary. The balance is to be used for expenditures on appropriate professional endeavors.

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Christian R. Hirsch, a WMU faculty member since 1973, is the director of the Core-Plus Mathematics Project, a research and development project launched in 1992 with funding from the National Science Foundation that has now exceeded $10 million. The CPMP curriculum, which is focused on improving students' mathematics preparation, is currently in use in urban, rural and suburban school districts nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education has recognized the curriculum as one of five "exemplary programs" in the country.

Hirsch also is the co-director of a national research center--the Center for the Study of Mathematics Curriculum--that was funded by the NSF under its prestigious Centers for Learning and Teaching Program.

He earned a bachelor's degree in 1966 from the Univeristy of Iowa, a master's degree in 1970 from the University of Illinois and a doctoral degree in 1972 from the University of Iowa. He is the former president of the Michigan Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and he has served on the boards of directors of both the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the School Science and Mathematics Association.

The professorship Hirsch was appointed to bears the name of Dr. James Powell professor emeritus of mathematics and statistics. Powell was a 33-year member of the faculty, who served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 1966 to 1969 and as chairperson of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics from 1960 to 1967 and from 1977 to 1984. A leader in advancing computer usage, Powell coordinated Project EXCITE, a program implemented in 1982 to ensure that all WMU students graduate with computer literacy. Under his direction, the University received nearly $1 million in state funds to support the program and became the first public institution to establish a computer literacy requirement for undergraduates. Powell died in 1996.

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Nickola W. Nelson, a faculty member since 1981, also serves as associate dean for research in the College of Health and Human Services. She has had a distinguished career as a teacher, clinician and researcher. Her special areas of expertise include language and learning difficulties in children, classroom amplification and the use of computers to address language disorders.

Nelson's research has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health. Her most recent research projects have revolved around improving language and literacy for diverse populations and using a computer-aided approach to improve the oral and written language skills of early elementary students who have disabilities.

Recently, Nelson was selected to receive the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer award at the University of St. Xavier in Chicago. The award is recognized as a top national honors in her field.

A fellow of both the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Nelson is a widely published author, with two multiedition textbooks to her credit. She earned her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Wichita State University in 1968, 1969 and 1973, respectively.

The professorship Nelson was appointed to bears the name of Dr. Charles G. Van Riper, who came to WMU in 1936 to develop a curriculum in speech correction and to establish a reputable, scientifically-based speech clinic. He retired in 1976, following four decades at WMU, and died in 1994. A stutterer himself, Van Riper developed techniques for dealing with the condition. His success in treating clients from around the world earned him a reputation as a giant in the field. During his WMU career, Van Riper built and ran not only the speech clinic, but also the internationally recognized Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. One of his textbooks remains a primary teaching tool in today's classrooms.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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