Faculty in Biology, History and Physics Named to Endowed Professorships

Head and shoulder photos of professors Rachel Levin, April Mayes and Thomas Moore

Three members of the Pomona College faculty were named in May to endowed professorships by vote of the College’s Board of Trustees. Each of them is a past winner of Pomona’s highest faculty honor, the Wig Distinguished Professor Award for excellence in teaching and service. “Endowed professorships are where the vision and value of the College meet the generosity of donors who care deeply about higher education and Pomona College,” says Y. Melanie Wu, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College.

“An endowed chair is a recognition, inside the College and in the wider academic world, of senior standing in their field,” says Pierre Englebert, associate dean of the college.

Biology and Neuroscience Professor Rachel Levin is now the William A. Hilton Professor of Zoology, a title previously held by the late Jonathan Wright. She joined the College in 1991. Levin’s research focuses on animal language and sexual behavior, with special attention to birds, as well as biological influences on the development of gender identity. She is deeply invested in promoting disability awareness on campus and is known for making students feel welcome and validated. She also serves as dean of women.

Levin “is an incredible lecturer, teaching relevant and memorable examples of ecology and animal behavior,” wrote one student in their Wig nomination. “Labs are built on scientific exploration and the art of asking novel and relevant ecological questions. She is also just an incredibly kind person who promotes inclusion and flexibility in the classroom.”

April Mayes ’94, professor of history and coordinator of Latin American Studies, has been named to the Warren Finney Day History Professorship, formerly held by emerita professor of history Helena Wall. Mayes is a historian of the Caribbean region, especially the Dominican Republic. She joined the Pomona faculty in 2006. She studies feminism, race, gender, health and other social issues in the Caribbean and in the wider Latin American world.

Many students have found in Mayes a mentor. “Professor Mayes is one of the most brilliant teachers I’ve ever had,” wrote one, nominating her for a Wig Award. “She has a talent for revealing the ideologies that lie underneath policy and prompting us to draw them out. In her class you learn the skills of the discipline as well as how to critique it and present new visions of the world.” Mayes also serves as an associate dean of the College.

Thomas Moore, a professor of physics who came to Pomona in 1987, now carries the title Reuben C. and Eleanor Winslow Memorial Professor of Mathematics and Natural Science. It was previously held by Kim Bruce, now emeritus professor of computer science. Moore teaches courses in areas such as general relativity and foundations of modern physics. Among his areas of expertise are gravitational waves, science and religion, and physics education.

Students noted Moore’s exceptional teaching skills in comments such as “He finds ways to make daunting material approachable while challenging students to understand concepts deeply.” Another student wrote in their Wig nomination, “Professor Moore is everything a professor should be: extremely knowledgeable, deeply thoughtful about pedagogy, and a delightful character.” A third student added that “He never fails to make students feel supported and engaged.”

“The appointments recognize and celebrate the success of these individuals in their scholarship, intellectual leadership and service to the institution and the community,” says Wu. “They are devoted teachers and mentors and have contributed to the College significantly through their many years of service.”