Four Endowed Positions Created at Drexel

4 new endowed positions

This term, Drexel University secured four endowed positions that will enable three colleges and the Office of University Collections and Exhibitions to further their teaching and research.

“I am deeply grateful to our trustees, alumni and friends of the University, for their generous support in establishing these four endowed positions,” said Drexel President John Fry. “These endowed chairs will enable our faculty to further advance Drexel’s excellence in engineering, computing and informatics, biomedical engineering and collections.” 

By providing the funding to recruit and retain exceptional faculty, endowed positions ensure that the University can continue producing groundbreaking research, offering applied learning experiences, creating opportunities for community partnerships and attracting the most promising graduate students.

“I am excited and grateful for the establishment of four new endowed positions,” said Nina Henderson Provost Paul E. Jensen, PhD. “This meaningful show of support for Drexel will provide our faculty the resources to further innovations in research, engage with the community and expand Drexel’s academic and cultural influence on students, Philadelphia and society.”

Rick Berk and Christine Berk.

Rick and Christine Berk, who established CCI’s Thomas E. and Christine D. Berk Endowed Professorship.

Thomas E. and Christine D. Berk Endowed Professorship 

This $2.5 million commitment to support a professor in the College of Computing & Informatics (CCI) comes from Thomas “Rick” Berk ’86 – a trustee and inaugural member of the Dean's Executive Advisory Council in CCI – and his wife, Christine. The couple’s prior giving to Drexel has benefitted CCI's Women in Technology Scholarship initiative and its Pi Kappa Phi fraternity chapter. 

The Berks’ investment will help CCI keep pace with increased student interest in the in-demand field of computing. This new endowed position will also help the University remain competitive more broadly, by advancing key Areas of Excellence and Opportunity including Computing, AI and Cyber Security Frontiers.

Derek Gillman and Cara Fry

Derek Gillman, left, and Cara Fry at an event on Dec. 5 announcing the chaired position. Photo credit: Shira Yudkoff.

Cara Keegan Fry University Curator

This $2 million endowment will support the University Curator position in the Office of University Collections and Exhibitions, which is currently held by Derek Gillman, distinguished teaching professor in the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and the executive director of University Collections and Exhibitions. The position was established by a lead gift from Drexel University President John Fry as well as contributions from 38 trustees and friends.

This endowment supports curatorial leadership for Drexel’s varied and various Collections, including the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, the Drexel Founding Collection and the recently acquired Atwater Kent Collection at Drexel.

Cara Fry — the position’s namesake — has taken an active role as a volunteer associate curator with the University. Colleagues have lauded her keen eye and collaborative spirit, which she applied most recently at Drexel as Gillman’s co-curator for Gateway to the University, the inaugural exhibition in the Paul Peck Alumni Center Gallery. Other notable exhibitions of the Fox Collection that she has helped develop include Immortal Beauty: Highlights of the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection, Philadelphia in Style: A Century of Fashion from the Robert and Penny Fox Historic Costume Collection and James Galanos: Design Integrity. Fry  has also secured in-kind donations and contributions in support of the Fox Collection.

John Fry, Kara Spiller and Dick Hayne

From left to right: John Fry, Kara Spiller and Dick Hayne photographed on Dec. 4 on Drexel’s campus. Photo credit: Shira Yudkoff.

The URBN Endowed Professor of Biomedical Innovation and URBN Biomedical Research Fund 

A contribution from Drexel trustee and vice chair Dick Hayne, chairman and chief executive officer of Urban Outfitters, Inc. (URBN), will be used to establish the URBN Endowed Professor of Biomedical Innovation in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, and create the URBN Biomedical Innovation Research Fund in the Provost’s Office to advance Drexel’s work in the field of cell and gene therapy (CGT). The inaugural chairholder will be Kara Spiller, PhD, a professor in the school and a Drexel alumna, with a research focus on the role of immune cells in tissue repair and regeneration and the design of immunomodulatory biomaterials 

The CGT job market in the Philadelphia region is projected to grow by as much as 94% over the next 10 years, and Drexel is poised to lead this booming field. To date, the University’s researchers have begun working toward tomorrow’s breakthroughs in addressing a range of conditions and injuries from heart attacks to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, neurodegenerative disease, HIV, spinal cord injury and acute kidney injury. 

Drexel’s faculty are not only working to translate research into real-world solutions with clinical applications, but they are also developing tailored educational programming that will nurture the next generation of talent in the field. The recently launched Cell and Gene Therapy Technology, Engineering, Analytics, Manufacturing & Science program provides undergraduate and graduate students with a comprehensive knowledge base encompassing cell and gene manufacturing, regulatory requirements, analytical techniques, immune engineering, genomics and informatics, and more. 

Hayne’s very generous support – which builds on his prior investments in Drexel including expanding experiential learning opportunities at the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design – will help ensure that Drexel remains at the forefront of the in-demand and life-changing CGT sector.

Richard Woodring and Sharon Walker
College of Engineering deans past and present, from left to right: Richard Woodring and Sharon Walker, PhD, at an event recognizing Woodring on Nov. 28

Richard Woodring ’54, HD ’10 Endowed Professorship 

An alumnus of the College of Engineering made a leadership gift toward establishing a professorship in honor of Richard Woodring ’54, HD ’10. Woodring received his BS in civil engineering in 1954, joined the faculty two years later and taught thousands of students during his nearly 40-year career at the University. He was a professor in Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and served as dean of the College of Engineering from 1974 to 1989 and then vice president of Student Life from 1990 to 1991.

In addition to bringing a student-centered approach to Drexel Engineering, Woodring helped establish Drexel’s role as an early leader in encouraging diversity in STEM careers, and he developed interdisciplinary programs to prepare students for the emerging challenges in the environmental and biomedical fields.

Additional gifts from alumni and friends of the University will help fully establish the professorship, building on prior honors Drexel has bestowed upon Woodring including naming him to the Drexel 100 in 1992, awarding him the A.J. Drexel Paul Award in 2002 and presenting him with an honorary doctorate of engineering in 2010.

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