Regents' Professors, University Distinguished Professor Inducted

The honor is given to faculty who have gained national and international recognition for their achievements.
Jan. 24, 2008

Three University of Arizona professors were inducted as Regents' professors, and another as a University Distinguished professor, for their exceptional achievements during an on-campus ceremony Thursday.

Professors Malcolm Hughes, Michael Marcellin and Ofelia Zepeda were inducted as Regents’ professors and J. Jefferson Reid was inducted as a University Distinguished Professor. They become part of this distinguished group because their academic achievements have garnered them national and international recognition.

Regents' Professor is an honor awarded only to full professors. No more than 3 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty members may hold the rank at any given time.

Becoming a Regents' Professor at the UA requires nominations from other tenured faculty members. After an advisory committee reviews the nominations, the president then decides which names to forward to the Arizona Board of Regents for approval. The designation comes with a permanent $5,000 annual salary increase.

Malcolm Hughes is at the forefront of the scientific group using tree-ring data to understand global changes in temperature and precipitation over the past 3,000 years.

Hughes' collaborative research with Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania and Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts dropped a bombshell in the area of climate change when first published in 1998, revealing that the late 20th century was the warmest period in the northern hemisphere for at least the past thousand years. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently reviewed this work and other corroborating evidence and generally accepted these findings. This work has led to worldwide acclaim and a surge of interest and new research in climate history from tree-rings.

Hughes' leadership for 12 years at the UA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, his desire to internationalize his field and his determination to obtain scientific data that is not just research for the sake of research but rather something fundamentally relevant have turned the UA into one of the scientific centers for the worldwide understanding of global warming.

His involvement in developing the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, his interactions with scholars from all over the world who have come to Arizona to learn from him, his mentoring of graduate students, and his offering of introductory courses in dendrochronology to first-year students have contributed fundamentally to the global importance and integrity of the UA. He is much sought after for his teaching, writing, international collaborations, especially with scientists from the former Soviet Union, and residency awards such as the distinguished Bullard Fellowship at Harvard University.

Michael Marcellin recently led a team to develop a new method that not only competes with but surpasses celluloid film, winning a global competition to develop the new technology.

The next time you go into a movie theater, if you are dazzled by the brilliance of color, the quality of the image, the lack of flicker in the film, and the symphonic sound quality, it is likely to be because you are viewing a new form of film, developed by Marcellin's team.

Marcellin's submission, based on a data compression technique named JPEG 2000, to which he was a major contributor, outpaced all other competitors with unprecedented image and color quality. As movie theaters and movie studios set up facilities for recording and playing films digitized and compressed by this new method, viewers will experience video and audio of a quality previously afforded only to the few Hollywood moguls who owned the first copy of the film master.

Conversion of all major theaters in the United States could be finished in three to five years, with the rest of the world following soon after.

But the new image-compression standard is not just limited to movies. It is widely expected to become a broadly applied standard for all images and audiovisual products for at least the next decade and already has been incorporated into over 300 commercial products, such as video cameras, cell phones and archival storage at the Library of Congress and the American Museum of Natural History, and has been selected to be the standard for a number of medical imaging applications, including CT scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Ofelia Zepeda's work to inspire appreciation of the Tohono O'odham language is among her many efforts to preserve and revitalize the world's many endangered languages. She is considered one of the most prominent voices in the field.

An internationally renowned poet, Zepeda was a key player in steering through the U.S. Congress the 1990 Native American Languages Act, which gave hope to indigenous language activists around the world. As co-founder and longtime director of the American Indian Language Development Institute, known as AILDI, an annual summer institute where American Indian teachers learn about language teaching and the development of instructional materials, Zepeda has overseen the training of more than 2,000 students, almost all of them American Indians working in their tribal communities.

"AILDI is first and is still the biggest training program for people doing indigenous language education, and Zepeda is one of the leading figures in language revitalization, in both publication and action," said Leanne Hinton, professor of linguistics at the University of California- Berkeley.

"I know of no other comparable organization internationally which has had the same reach and influence," said Stephen May, professor of education at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. "The academic reach and influence of Professor Zepeda is palpably beyond question."

In addition to her creative poetry and the scholarly and outreach contributions to language revitalization, Zepeda is "clearly one of the most prominent contemporary linguists dealing with American Indian descriptive linguistics," said Joel Sherzer, professor of anthropology and linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin. "She is a model for others to follow."

J. Jefferson Reid has been an exceptional member of the UA faculty since 1973. Not only does he have an outstanding record of undergraduate teaching that reaches back more than 35 years, he also is a preeminent pre-historian of the American Southwest.

Although Reid, a professor of anthropology at the UA, has taught many upper-division courses, 67 percent of his classes have been oriented toward undergraduate students. From 1974 to 1980, Reid was the anthropology department’s undergraduate adviser. Undergraduates continue to seek his advice about their studies and career paths. He is widely appreciated as one of the most approachable faculty members on campus.

During his long and distinguished teaching career at the UA, Reid has been actively involved in undergraduate curriculum innovation.

To erase overly romantic notions of the past, Reid usually begins his introductory undergraduate courses this way: ”The ancient ones were smelly, dirty and of poor health.” Many students remember his classes even decades later.