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Endowed professorships help recruit top researchers

If the College of Engineering is to sustain its position as one of the leading public colleges of engineering in the country, it is critical to have the best faculty in the country.

“You can’t have a great College of Engineering without great faculty,” said Brian E. Campbell, assistant dean for development and college relations, and director of the NC State Engineering Foundation.

The support of an endowed professorship – a position permanently paid for with the revenue from an endowment fund – is one of the best tools to recruit and retain great faculty members.

“With the help of endowed positions, the College can compete with other high-ranking engineering schools, such as Georgia Tech and Purdue, in appealing to the top engineering faculty,” said Campbell.

The funds in these professorships provide salary support, research flexibility, program development, graduate assistant funds, equipment and course development.

Dr. Ross Lampe Jr.
Dr. Ross Lampe Jr.

Dr. Ross Lampe Jr., president of SiteLink Software, is among 15 members of the Lampe family who have attended NC State over the past 65 years and is the grandson of  J. Harold Lampe, the College’s longest serving dean. Lampe has endowed two professorships, one in the Joint NC State/UNC Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) and another in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). With strong family ties to the university, he felt professorships were an effective way to help the College grow.

Lampe is also motivated by the kind of world-changing research that an endowed professorship allows a researcher to accomplish, a benefit that goes beyond helping the College.

Dr. Michael Steer
Dr. Michael Steer

“These endowments provide the possibility that the research we help support will benefit society,” said Lampe. “There is no certainty that any research will make a difference, but in the case of our first endowed professorship, the Lampe family was privileged to be associated with Dr. Michael Steer and his outstanding contributions.”

Steer, the Lampe Distinguished Professor in ECE, developed technology for detecting improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which acted as a game changer in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by effectively ending the use of radio-controlled IEDs against American soldiers. Steer received the U.S. Army Commander’s Award for Public Service, one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a civilian.

“I believe that with the professorship comes the responsibility to provide leadership and undertake efforts for the betterment of NC State University and its students. I see the need to train our students at both the graduate and undergraduate level to be better suited to support our national security through engineering and research,” said Steer.

Endowed professorships are not only a recruiting and retention tool for gaining new faculty members, but they also add prestige to the position. Through the creation of distinguished professorships, the donor’s name becomes the title for the position.

“It’s an added recognition that gives credibility to the position,” said Campbell. “The donor’s name is forever attached to the position and acts as an institutional reminder that brings recognition to the donor and the university.”

In attracting faculty members from other universities, these professorships help in getting the best researchers to the College, especially researchers who are already in endowed positions.

Dr. Franky So
Dr. Franky So

Dr. Franky So, the Walter and Ida Freeman Distinguished Professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, joined the department this year after leaving the University of Florida, where he was the Rolf E. Hummel Professor of Electronic Materials.

“Without endowed professorships, we wouldn’t have Franky So,” said Dr. Justin Schwartz, MSE department head. “These professorships are critical in enabling departments the ability to hire exceptional faculty, elevate the visibility of the College, and in retention and recruiting.”

Dr. Justin Schwartz,
Dr. Justin Schwartz,

Currently, the College has 40 named endowed professorships. Campbell said peer colleges of engineering aren’t standing still when it comes to recruiting excellent faculty members.

“The goal is to create two to three times as many endowments in the next five to seven years to keep up with other leading schools.”

For a full list of endowed professorships and how you can donate, visit:

Return to contents or download the Fall/Winter 2015 NC State Engineering magazine.