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Edward J. Larson Receives University's Highest Distinction

Edward J. Larson

The title of "University Professor" has taken on new meaning at Pepperdine University. In late March, the administration and faculty officially selected two deserving professors, Seaver College's Rodney Honeycutt and the School of Law's Ed Larson, for this distinction.

"The rank of University Professor is a rare honor and is not to be found at many colleges and universities," says Provost Darryl Tippens, explaining that the title was first established at Harvard in 1935 to honor distinguished professors whose "path-breaking work crosses the boundaries of different disciplines."

Recognizing the value of the title, faculty and administrators at Pepperdine have spent almost three years working to establish a set of criteria and means of selection for a University Professor at Pepperdine. This inaugural selection process included nomination by faculty; approval by Rank, Tenure, and Promotion committees; approval by deans; and approval by the president.

Candidates for the award must exhibit the following criteria:

  • Renown - The candidate has achieved national and/or international distinction.
  • Demonstrated excellence in scholarship
  • Demonstrated excellence in teaching as evidenced by commitment to mentoring student scholars.
  • Preeminence in a field of study or excellence in two or more disciplines - The candidate is potentially able to teach in two or more schools at the University.
  • Support for the University mission.
  • Full professor status, or credentials that qualify them to be full professors.

"I am very pleased that Rodney Honeycutt and Ed Larson are our first two recipients," says Tippens, who notes that Pepperdine has granted the title on rare occasions in the past, but it was not attached to specific criteria or a formalized selection process. "Professors Larson and Honeycutt almost perfectly fit the criteria established for the award," he continues. "Their scholarship brings renown to our University. They are master teachers who love students and who make themselves available to students. They are outstanding scholars with extraordinary publication records, and they love the mission of the University."

Larson will add University Professor to his title of Hugh & Hazel Darling Chair in Law at the School of Law. He also teaches history courses at Seaver College. "I am delighted to receive this distinction along with Rodney Honeycutt," Larson says. "Rodney is an extraordinary scholar and teacher. We came to Pepperdine at the same time - both from teaching at large state universities in the South. Our colleagues and students have made us feel at home here in California," he says.

Larson is a Harvard Law graduate who also has a master's and doctoral degree in the history of science from the University of Wisconsin. He earned his bachelor's degree from Williams College. Prior to becoming a professor, Larson served as associate counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor (1983-89), counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives (1981-82), and as an attorney with Davis, Wright & Tremaine in Seattle (1979-83).

The acclaimed author has published more than 60 articles and seven books, including Summer for the Gods, for which he received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History. Click here for a full biography and list of Larson's publications.

"We have a great university. The creation of University Professorships is a logical step in Pepperdine's development," says Larson, who pledges to serve the larger Pepperdine community of students, alumni and faculty through teaching, writing and speaking in his new role. "As University Professors, Rodney and I have a responsibility to represent Pepperdine both internally and externally. We appreciate the distinction and will try to bring credit to Pepperdine."

Honeycutt, a professor of biology at Seaver College, is also heavily decorated. "Professor Honeycutt's work in the field of population genetics has led to numerous high-impact scholarly publications and significant grant awards," remarks Tippens.

Incidentally, both Larson and Honeycutt will be demonstrating their cross-disciplinary interests together when they co-teach a course in the Galapagos Islands this summer. "I am excited about teaching with him this summer in Pepperdine's new overseas summer program in South America," Larson says.

According to the University Professor guidelines, the honor of University Professor will remain a relatively rare distinction. Generally, no more than one to two percent of the tenured faculty will hold this rank.

Tippens is grateful for the many faculty and administrators who played a role in the creation of this new rank. "The University Faculty Council deserves special thanks and credit for its careful consideration of the proposal, and for its support," he says.

For more information on faculty scholarship and awards, visit the University Provost Web site.