Graham Peck, Ph.D. was honored as the Wepner Distinguished Professor in Lincoln Studies in a Ceremony of Investiture on Thursday, September 24, 2020. A complete recording of the ceremony and Dr. Peck’s speech are available to watch on-demand, as well as a photo album from the occasion.
Investitures: A Special Celebration of Academic Excellence
At UIS, when a professor is chosen to be an endowed chair or distinguished professor, a special ceremony called an investiture takes place. The ceremony is among the oldest in the world of higher education. Modeled after knighthood ceremonies, investiture ceremonies began in early English universities. At UIS, the honored faculty member is presented with a medallion as a symbol of his or her high position. The faculty member is then entitled to wear the medallion at special events like commencement.
Why professorships and chairs are so important
One professor or chair can touch hundreds of lives through the courses they teach, the students they mentor or the academic work they complete. These positions also help the University recruit and retain excellent faculty, who want to work with such an accomplished colleague. The professor also benefits from the additional funds that come with the position, available for their research, for paying student workers or collaborating with scholars locally or around the world.
UIS has chairs and professorships created by businesses and corporations, as well as by private donors. Corporations appreciate the long-term thinking and basic research that takes place within the universities. They also give back because the University provides them with creative, capable talent. Private donors give because they have specific areas of interest and in order to honor a beloved professor or loved one through the name given to the chair or professorship.
Distinguished Chair and Professorships at UIS
Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies
Michael Burlingame, Ph.D., Department of History
Dr. Burlingame is an internationally renowned scholar who has published twelve books on the life and times of Abraham Lincoln. His most recent work, “Abraham Lincoln: A Life”, is a two-volume biography that was 30 years in the making. The book was honored with Gettysburg College’s 2010 Lincoln Prize. Now he’s researching how journalists covered Lincoln by studying newspaper articles from the era. Burlingame received a Ph.D. in history from Johns Hopkins University.
The distinguished chair in Lincoln Studies was established in 2000 when the Dr. Richard E. Vaden Family donated a gift for that purpose to honor their longtime friendship with then-UIS Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn and her husband, Robert. Dr. Lynn retired as chancellor on March 30, 2001, after serving nearly 10 years in that capacity.
Ameren Distinguished Professor in Business and Government
Karl A. McDermott, Ph.D., Department of Accountancy
Dr. McDermott’s primary field of interest is public utility regulation. Other research interests include antitrust economics, monetary economics, environmental economics and economic history. He has served as a commissioner at the Illinois Commerce Commission from 1992-98, as Vice President of the National Economic Research Associates from 1999-2008, and President and Co-Founder of the Center for Regulatory Studies from 1985-92. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
The Ameren Illinois Utilities are pleased to play a role in securing Springfield’s future with our endowment gift to fund a professorship at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The Ameren Illinois Utilities have a long history of supporting education in the communities they serve. This contribution reflects that involvement and continues that proud tradition.
PNC Distinguished Professor in Banking and Finance
Leo Bin, Ph.D., Department of Business Administration
In 2001, Dr. Bin joined the Business Administration Department at UIS, where he teaches classes on corporate financial management, investment analysis, financial institution management, and capital budgeting. He became a full professor in 2016. Leo’s published scholarship focuses on financial analysis and international investment, especially related to risks. Some of his research is first in its field, such as investment group decision efficiency and risk-return effectiveness as simulated in the StockTrak portfolio management program and the risk-return association for US gaming industry stocks. He earned a Ph.D. in Finance from the University of Mississippi in 2000.
PNC Bank and the PNC Foundation have long histories of strengthening and enriching the lives of communities in which they live and work. The Foundation makes it a priority to partner with local nonprofit organizations to enhance educational opportunities and promote economic growth. Their continued support of a Distinguished Professor in Banking and Finance at UIS exemplifies this commitment.
Louise Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts
Lan Dong, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of English
Dr. Dong encourages her students to consider challenges as learning opportunities. Her research interests include Asian American literature and film, comics and graphic narratives, and children’s literature. She is a leading researcher in the area of graphic novels. Specifically, she studies the legend of Mulan and how the story has changed from its Asian roots to popularity in the United States. In 2012, Dong was named the University Scholar, the university’s highest teaching honor. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
A bequest from Louise Hartman Schewe created the Louis Hartman Schewe and Karl Schewe Professor in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Louise was a teacher and active civic leader in Springfield and Karl was a member of the Chicago Board of Trade and A.G. Edwards and Sons, Springfield. Endowed professorships at UIS create a lasting tribute to the donors who create them and are crucial for recruiting and retaining the high quality of faculty who are a hallmark of the University of Illinois Springfield.
James J. Stukel Distinguished Professorship of Educational Leadership
Karen Swan, Ph.D., Department of Educational Leadership
Dr. Swan’s research interest is in the impact of online learning, and she works to improve online learning for future generations of students. She prides herself on being able to personally connect with her students, even though some are thousands of miles away. She’s now part of a national research study trying to find ways to improve retention rates among online students. Swan holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology from Columbia University.
The Stukel Distinguished Professorship was created with internal funding from the University of Illinois System. It honors the 15th president of the University of Illinois, in office from 1995 to 2005.
Wepner Distinguished Professor of Lincoln Studies
Dr. Peck’s published scholarship—which includes multiple articles and the book “Making an Antislavery Nation: Lincoln, Douglas and the Battle Over Freedom”— focuses on antebellum American political history, and particularly on Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, and the origins of the Civil War. His scholarship goes beyond the written word, as evidenced by the feature-length film he wrote, directed and produced on Douglas for use at the Douglas Tomb State Historic Site in Chicago. He also created an eight-episode podcast on Mother Catherine McAuley, the 19th century nun who founded The Sisters of Mercy. The Center for Lincoln Studies at UIS drew him to the university, and will enable him to contribute to an initiative that provides students, faculty, scholars and the public a platform to better understand Lincoln’s life and his continual impact on our world.
The Wepner Distinguished Professorship was established at UIS as the result of a $1.2 million unrestricted estate gift from a Springfield couple, Wilbur and Margaret Wepner, longtime supporters of UIS. The funds are being used for scholarships and the Wepner position. As a member of the Committee for Higher Education in Central Illinois, Wilbur Wepner helped found this university (then called Sangamon State University) in 1969.