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Distributed February 28, 2004
Contact Ricardo Howell

February 2004 Corporation Meeting
Wideman, Houston, Bowen among new faculty appointments at Brown

At its winter meeting Saturday, Feb. 28, 2004, the Brown Corporation appointed three senior scholars to the University faculty: author John Edgar Wideman, anthropologist Stephen Houston, and neurobiologist Wayne Bowen. The new appointments and the appointments of several current faculty to named professorships are part of a continuing strategic effort to expand and better support the Brown faculty. (See also news release 03-082.)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — At its regular winter meeting today (Saturday, Feb. 28, 2004), the Brown Corporation appointed a distinguished author, a pioneering neurobiologist, and a noted archaeological anthropologist to senior positions within the University faculty.

Author and essayist John Edgar Wideman will join the faculty as the Asa Messer Professor and professor of Africana studies and English. Stephen Houston, an anthropological archaeologist, has been appointed professor of anthropology. Wayne Bowen, a biochemist and neurobiologist who is one of the nation’s leading researchers in the neuronal action of opiate drugs, will join the Brown faculty as professor of medical science.

In addition to those new appointments, the Corporation approved the appointment of four current faculty members to named and endowed professorships.

The appointment of Wideman, Houston and Bowen and the appointment of current faculty to named chairs is part of the University's ongoing investment in the support and expansion of its core faculty. The Plan for Academic Enrichment, also approved by the Corporation today, supports the University’s current effort to add 100 additional faculty positions within the next five to eight years (a 20-percent increase), and endorsed a proposal to add as many as 13 additional positions annually thereafter.

“The University’s efforts to expand and enhance its faculty were particularly successful in creative writing and anthropology last year,” said Brown Provost Robert J. Zimmer. “The appointments of John Edgar Wideman and Stephen Houston will further establish those areas as programs of national and international distinction.

“The appointment of Wayne Bowen in neurobiology is an important and early step in the University’s strategic investment in faculty and facilities for basic medical and biological sciences,” Zimmer continued. “The Division of Biology and Medicine, including the Brown Medical School, will be an area of rapid and highly visible development for the University for years to come.”

John Edgar Wideman

John Edgar Wideman, appointed the Asa Messer Professor and professor of Africana studies and English effective March 1, 2004, is noted as one of the foremost and influential contemporary writers of fiction and prose. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the author of more than a dozen books of fiction and numerous essays on literary theory and criticism.

Since 1986, he has taught at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst, where he is Distinguished Professor of English. His award-winning books include The Cattle Killing, winner of the 1996 James Fenimore Cooper Prize for historical writing; Philadelphia Fire, which received both the American Book and PEN/Faulkner awards in 1991; and Sent For You Yesterday, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award in 1984. (He is the first two-time recipient of the PEN/Faulkner Award.) His story “Weight” received the 2000 O. Henry Award for best short story, and the essay “Whose War” was included in The Best American Essays of 2003. Wideman has also received a 1999 Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Grant; the 1998 Rea Prize for short fiction; a 1993 MacArthur Fellowship; and the 1991 Lannan Literary Award for fiction.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in 1963, Wideman became the second African American to receive a Rhodes scholarship, receiving a B.Ph. from Oxford University's New College in 1966.

Stephen Houston

Stephen Houston, whose appointment as professor of anthropology begins July 1, 2004, is noted as one of the world's experts on Mayan epigraphy. His research interests include the decipherment of Mayan writing, anthropological and historical studies of religion, Mayan linguistics, political anthropology and approaches to meaning and function in ancient architecture.

Since 1993, Houston has taught at Brigham Young University, where he serves as the Jesse Knight University Professor in the Department of Anthropology. Houston has been a Guggenheim fellow and is the author or editor of 10 books and monographs and more than 125 articles, essays and reviews in his field. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1980. In 1987 he earned his Ph.D. in anthropology from Yale University.

Wayne Bowen

Wayne Bowen, whose appointment as professor of medical science begins Oct. 1, 2004, is nationally recognized as a leader in research on sigma receptors in the brain as molecular targets for typical antipsychotic drugs. His major areas of interest include biochemical mechanisms involved in the neuronal action of opiate drugs, and the biochemistry of sigma receptors in cancer cells and in the brain.

Bowen is currently chief of the unit on receptor biochemistry and pharmacology in the drug design and synthesis section of the medicinal chemistry laboratory of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Prior to that, he was associate professor of biology at Brown from 1989 to 1991.

Bowen received his B.S. in chemistry from Morgan State College in 1974. In 1981 he earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and neurobiology (neuropharmacology) from Cornell University. He served as president of the NIH Black Scientists Association in 2001.

Endowed Professorships

The Brown Corporation has approved the advancement of several of its current faculty to endowed professorships. Brain sciences researcher David Berson has been appointed the Sidney A. Fox and Dorothea Doctors Fox Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Professor of Neuroscience. Cardiologist Alfred E. Buxton, M.D., has been appointed the Ruth and Paul Levinger Professor of Cardiology.

Berson is a leading figure in research that explores the structure and function of the output neurons of the retina. In 2002, he was lead author of a groundbreaking paper that reported the discovery of a cell in the eye which acts as a photoreceptor and sets the body’s circadian clock. Berson, who was associate professor of neuroscience, received his B.A. in psychology from Brown in 1975, and his Ph.D. in neuroanatomy from MIT in 1980.

Buxton is an internationally recognized academic cardiologist whose research examines new applications for implantable defibrillators and pacemakers in the treatment of heart failure, prevention of sudden cardiac death, and ventricular tachycardia. Buxton is also professor of medicine at Brown Medical School and director of arrythmia services and the electrophysiology laboratory at Rhode Island Hospital. He was principal investigator of the 1999 NIH-funded study of patients with heart rhythm disorders. He received an A.B. in biology from the University of Rochester, and his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Endowed Assistant Professorships

In the early 1990s, Brown University and President Vartan Gregorian began to develop endowed chairs at the assistant professor level. These chairs were established to enhance support for the rising generation of faculty members as they established their academic careers of research and scholarship.

At its meeting today, the Corporation named two current faculty members to endowed assistant professorships:

  • Jennifer B. Hughes, a conservation biologist, was appointed Manning Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor Biology.
  • George S. Yap, a microbiologist and immunologist, was appointed Manning Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor Medical Science.


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