Remarks by John A. Orr, Provost and Senior Vice President

Upon the Installation of Kristin N. Wobbe as the first Metzger Professor of Chemistry at WPI

October 15, 2008

It is my privilege to welcome you all today—Mrs. Metzger and members of the Metzger family, WPI trustees, faculty, students, administrators, and friends of WPI—to the first formal installation of a professorship in many years, and perhaps in the history of WPI. It is wonderful to have so many here today; it is truly a day of celebration for Professor Wobbe, and indeed for all the faculty, students, and staff at WPI. We celebrate Professor Wobbe’s accomplishments that richly merit this honor, and also the generosity and very tangible sign of commitment to, and confidence in, WPI that the Metzger endowment represents.

Kristin Wobbe joined the WPI faculty in 1995. She holds a BA in chemistry from St. Olaf College and a PhD in biochemistry from Harvard University. She completed a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School and then spent three years as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University and at Massachusetts General Hospital. During that time she began her research on the molecular behaviors that determine the outcomes of plant/pathogen interactions. As a member of WPI’s Interdisciplinary Plant Research Group, she has explored a number of ways to augment the production by plants of artemisinin, a potent antimalarial compound.

Professor Wobbe has built a distinguished career at WPI as an innovative researcher who is also dedicated to teaching the next generation of scientists. She was named the Leonard P. Kinnicutt Assistant Professor of Chemistry in 1999 and received the Romeo L. Moruzzi Young Faculty Award for Innovation in Undergraduate Education in 2001. In 2007, she co-developed and co-taught Feed the World, one of the inaugural Great Problems Seminars designed to bring the WPI project emphasis to first-year students. She was appointed interim head of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in January 2007 and began a regular term appointment as department head in July 2008.

I had the opportunity to get to know Kris rather well as the Great Problems Seminars were being developed, and during her service as chair of the Provost Search Committee, as well as working with her as head of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. She is the sort of person that you just enjoy being around. She has a wonderful combination of pleasant personality and evident competence that inspires confidence and the knowledge that good things are going to happen. This has been wonderfully demonstrated in the Feed the World seminar that she co-developed and is co-teaching for the second year now.

The WPI community is delighted to recognize Professor Wobbe with this honor today. I will read the citation and President Berkey will present it to Professor Wobbe:

"Kristin N. Wobbe: WPI proudly recognizes your outstanding contributions to teaching and scholarship, honors your exemplary service to your department, and acknowledges the distinction you have brought to the university by appointing you John C. Metzger Jr. Professor of Chemistry. Established in 2007 through the generosity of John C. Metzger Jr. ’46, and his wife, Jean, this professorship symbolizes and celebrates the special bond between WPI and the distinguished friends who support the university’s highest hopes and deepest ambitions." Presented at a ceremony of installation, October 15, 2008.

We would also like to recognize the Metzger family for their endowment of this professorship. I will read the citation prepared for the family.

"Jean and John C. Metzger Jr. ’46: True Friends of WPI. With deep gratitude, Worcester Polytechnic Institute recognizes the extraordinary generosity and the splendid support of excellence in teaching, research, and scholarship at WPI reflected in the establishment of the John C. Metzger Jr. Professorship in Chemistry. Established in 2007, this professorship symbolizes and celebrates the special bond between WPI and the distinguished friends who support the university’s highest hopes and deepest ambitions." Presented at a ceremony of installation, October 15, 2008.

Thank you all for joining us this morning. Events like this serve to interrupt our busy routines and direct our attention to aspects of WPI that we are often too busy to consider. We tend to focus on our job–educating our students or performing our research—and tend not to step back to consider the larger picture.

However, from time to time we do need to look at WPI as an institution extending over almost 150 years, and whose effectiveness is very much a function of long-term decisions and actions–in particular, of the careers of the faculty who define WPI as an academic institution. It is characteristic of WPI to be modest, and to focus on our programs rather than on our people. But it is people–faculty, students, and staff--who design, implement, and benefit from our programs, and who make WPI what it is.

By honoring our top contributors, like Professor Wobbe, we define the aspirations for us all, and our collective aspirations as a university. Thank you again for sharing this time with us, and please congratulate our new Metzger Professor.

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Last modified: October 21, 2008 15:22:57