WPI's national and international reputation is built, largely, through the scholarly endeavors and teaching talents of its faculty. Like all prestigious universities, WPI faces increasing competition for outstanding scholars and educators. Endowed professorship provide a critical means for recruiting, retaining, and rewarding gifted faculty members with demonstrated records of achievement. The professorships listed here are those that are held by current members of the faculty. Learn more about the professorships, their benefactors, and their current recipients.

George I. Alden Chair in Engineering

Established in 1970 by the George I. Alden Trust, this chair is awarded to a WPI faculty member in recognition and support of outstanding teaching in the field of engineering. George Alden graduated from Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School in 1868 and was appointed WPI’s first professor of mechanical engineering. As head of the Mechanical Engineering Department, he helped shape the school’s founding principle of merging theory with application. He also earned a far-ranging reputation for his pioneering work in hydraulics, establishing what became known as Alden Hydraulics Laboratory in nearby Holden, which is today an internationally known research center. Alden twice served as acting president of WPI and was a trustee for 14 years. In 1896 he resigned from the Institute to devote his energies full time to running Norton Company, which he had helped found in 1885, eventually becoming president and chairman. During his lifetime, he established a trust to continue his support for education and for WPI after his death. Today, with more than $19 million in commitments, the George I. Alden Trust is recognized as WPI’s greatest benefactor.

Current Recipient: Jamal Yagoobi

George F. Fuller Professorship in Mechanical Engineering

This professorship was established in 1964 with a gift from the George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation. Fuller spent his career at Wyman-Gordon Company in Worcester, a leading metal forging firm. Unable to finish high school or attend college because of the need to support his family after the death of his father, Fuller convinced Wyman-Gordon’s founders to hire him as bookkeeper. But his real interest was on the manufacturing floor, and he eventually became shop superintendent and, later, company president. Sybil Fuller, also a Worcester native, died in 1955. When George Fuller passed away in 1962, his estate funded the foundation that bears their names. In addition to this professorship, the foundation has supported a wide range of initiatives at WPI, including the Fuller Water Quality Laboratory in Kaven Hall, the Fuller Residence Center, and the George F. Fuller Laboratories, home to the university’s Computer Science Department.

Current Recipient: Richard D. Sisson Jr.

Harold J. Gay Professorship in Mathematics

This professorship was established in 1968 through a bequest from Hazel M. Gay, widow of Harold J. Gay, who had been a professor of mathematics at WPI. It was initially a special three-year professorship intended to encourage younger faculty members who had demonstrated potential for achievement that might suitably honor Gay’s memory. Gay joined the WPI faculty in 1919, the year he graduated cum laude from Harvard College. He earned a master’s degree from Clark University in 1922. He was deeply concerned about providing his students with a rigorous education that was also relevant. His daily quizzes, which he called “questions for credit,” became a well-loved tradition at WPI. He and Hazel played an active role in campus life, and his delightful sense of humor was on frequent display at athletics events and parties. Gay continued to teach until his untimely death in 1947 at the age of 49. Today, the WPI Mathematical Sciences Department honors Gay’s memory with a lecture series that brings to campus some of the top scholars in the field.

Current Recipient: Umberto Mosco

John Woodman Higgins Professorship in Engineering

This professorship was established in 1962 through a bequest from John Woodman Higgins, son of Milton Prince Higgins, the first superintendent of WPI’s Washburn Shops. It was his hope that the professorship would “give continuing leadership to the educational program at WPI.” The younger Higgins received a degree in electrical engineering from WPI in 1896 and joined the Plunger Elevator Company, a manufacturing firm owned by his father. When the company was sold, John Higgins and his father purchased the Worcester Ferrule and Manufacturing Company, which they reorganized as the Worcester Pressed Steel Company. John Woodman Higgins built the company into one of the city’s leading firms and was chairman at the time of his death in 1961. His interest in metalworking led Higgins to develop a passion for collecting arms and armor, and he traveled widely in search of specimens. After he had amassed a sizable collection, he built the Higgins Armory Museum, located in a state-of-the-art, glass and steel curtain wall building that he had erected beside his plant. It remains the only museum in the Western Hemisphere entirely devoted to the study and display of arms and armor.

Current Recipient: Nikolaos A. Gatsonis

Milton Prince Higgins II Distinguished Professorship in Manufacturing

WPI established this professorship in 1988 in gratitude for the 31 years of service that Milton P. Higgins II devoted to WPI as a member of its board of trustees. Higgins, who represented the third generation of his family to serve on WPI’s board, funded the professorship with annual gifts. Higgins was the grandson of Milton P. Higgins, first superintendent of WPI’s Washburn Shops, and the son of Aldus C. Higgins, who built Higgins House, the mansion that now houses WPI’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations. Milton Higgins II spent his entire career at Norton Company, which was co-founded by his grandfather and where his father had risen to the rank of chairman. Under the younger Higgins’s leadership, Norton experienced its greatest period of growth and became a publicly traded Fortune 500 company. Higgins generously supported numerous organizations in Worcester and his many gifts to WPI were often directed to physical improvements in memory of his grandfather. In addition to establishing this professorship, WPI honored Higgins with an honorary degree and, in 1984, by naming a lecture hall for him in the newly renovated Washburn Shops.

Current Recipient: Robert L. Norton

Howmet Professorship of Mechanical Engineering

This professorship was established in 1987 to recognize contributions made to Howmet Corporation by Diran Apelian, who served as chair of the scientific council for Howmet’s board of directors between 1983 and 1992. Howmet is a world leader in the investment casting of superalloys, aluminum, and titanium, primarily for jet aircraft and industrial gas turbine engine components. From its corporate headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, the company operates 27 facilities in the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Howmet traces its history to 1926 and the founding of Austenal, a manufacturer of orthodontic devices that later expanded its product line to include aircraft engine superchargers. It was acquired by a metals and mining business in 1958 and was renamed Howmet in 1965, marking the transition from mining to the manufacture of precision metal products. In 1975, it was purchased by Pechiney, a multinational aluminum company. Alcoa acquired Howmet in 2000, renaming it Alcoa Howmet seven years later when it became a division of the new Alcoa Power and Propulsion unit.

Current Recipient: Diran Apelian

Leonard P. Kinnicutt Professorship

In 1964, WPI received an extraordinary $5 million bequest from George C. Gordon, Class of 1895. A large portion of the funds was used to build Gordon Library, but the gift also endowed this professorship. Intended to encourage the professional development of younger faculty members, the chair is named for Leonard P. Kinnicutt, the professor who most influenced Gordon’s life. A member of WPI’s civil engineering faculty from 1882 to 1911, Kinnicutt was the first WPI professor to hold a doctorate and the first Worcester native to join the faculty. An expert in sanitary chemistry, his research and consulting work was known worldwide. At WPI, Kinnicutt managed an unofficial financial aid program, helping many students with out-of-pocket loans. Gordon, who credited Kinnicutt with encouraging him to complete his WPI education, spent five years at Wyman-Gordon Co. in Worcester before joining the Park Drop Forge Co. in Cleveland, Ohio, where he eventually became chairman.

Current Recipient: Amy Peterson

James H. Manning Professorship

Established in 1998, this professorship was endowed through a bequest from Frances B. Manning, widow of James Henry Manning, Class of 1906. James Manning joined the international engineering and construction firm Stone & Webster four years after his WPI graduation; he became president in 1928, a position he held until 1937. He then spent 17 years as president of Ulen & Co., as senior partner of Manning & Co. (New York consulting engineers specializing in reports, appraisals, and special engineering studies), and as a limited partner in N. A. Lougee & Co. (consulting engineers in New York). Manning, who grew up in a Fall River, Mass., family of modest means, never forgot how he arrived at WPI with only $10 in his pocket and a dream of becoming an engineer, and how a loan made it possible for him to earn his degree and realize his ambition. In 1973, he and Frances established and endowed the James H. Manning Scholarship Loan Fund to give, in perpetuity, that same opportunity to students.

Current Recipient: Yi Hua (Ed) Ma

Kenneth G. Merriam Professorship in Mechanical Engineering

Established in 1977 by an anonymous donor, this professorship honors the memory of one of WPI’s most beloved professors and the founder of its Aeromechanics Program. Kenneth Merriam began his WPI teaching career shortly after graduating from MIT in 1923; he started the Aero Program four years later and took pride in following the professional accomplishments of the program’s graduates over the remaining 42 years of his tenure at WPI. Merriam made his own contributions to aviation, completing pioneering research on pitot-static tubes, widely used to measure aircraft speed, and developing anti-aircraft fire-control systems as a colonel in the artillery during World War II—work that earned him the Legion of Merit. WPI honored him in 1961 when he was selected as the second recipient of the Board of Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Teaching; he retired in 1969. In 1977 a former student established this professorship to recognize the impact Merriam had on his career. Merriam died unexpectedly just four days following a ceremony to announce the first recipient of the professorship.

Current Recipient: Ryszard J. Pryputniewicz

John C. Metzger Jr. Professorship in Chemistry

Established in 2007 through the generosity of John C. Metzger Jr. ‘46, and his wife, Jean, the professorship is awarded to the chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. A native of Norristown, Pa., John Metzger studied at WPI under the U.S. Navy's wartime V-12 program, graduating in 1945 with a B.S. in chemical engineering. He served as a commissioned officer during World War II and then joined E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., where he spent his entire professional career. He was elected a vice president in 1978 and retired in 1986 as group vice president for the Photosystems and Electronic Products Division. Among his significant accomplishments was the launch of Dupont's instruments business, which produced a line of automatic clinical analyzers used in thousands of hospitals and clinics worldwide. A member of the WPI’s Fire Protection Engineering Advisory Board and a longtime trustee, he received the Robert H. Goddard '08 Alumni Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement in 1981 and was a member of the Presidential Founders, a lifetime member of the WPI President's Advisory Council, and charter member of the George I. Alden Society. Metzger died in 2006.

Current Recipient: Arne Gericke 

Alena and David M. Schwaber ’65 Professorship in Environmental Engineering

Established in 2008 by David M. Schwaber ’65, and his wife, Alena, the professorship is awarded to the director of WPI’s Environmental Engineering Program. David Schwaber holds two degrees in chemical engineering: a BS from WPI, where he developed his interest in polymer chemistry, and an MS from Cornell University. He earned a PhD in polymer science at Akron University. Schwaber spent most of his career at his family’s business, Monarch Rubber Company, where he rose to become president. The company developed the revolutionary EVA cushioning for athletic shoes, but saw its business wane when American shoe manufacturing began moving to Asia. Drawing on the problem-solving skills he learned at WPI, he helped Monarch reemerge as a manufacturer of gasketing materials. As Monarch’s president, he continually faced the challenge of recycling manufacturing waste. The experience led to his passion for the environment and environmental engineering, and his desire to inspire that passion in others. "It’s important that scholars have a strong voice in helping solve the ecological and health crises in the world," he says. "I’m excited about helping WPI rise to that challenge."

Current RecipientJeanine D. Plummer

Ralph H. White Family Distinguished Professorship

Not restricted to any academic department, this professorship was established in 1987 by Ann and Leonard White ‘41, along with their son, David White ‘75, and his wife, Shirley. The couples had earlier established the Ralph H. White Scholarship Fund to honor the memory of Leonard’s father, who founded the R. H. White Construction Co. in 1923. Leonard White joined the company after graduating from WPI and contributed significantly to its devel­opment into a major New England construction firm. He was elected to the WPI Board of Trustees in 1977 and, as longtime chair of its Physical Facilities Committee, helped oversee several major campus construction projects, including Founders Hall and Fuller Laboratories. He received WPI’s Herbert F. Taylor Alumni Award for Distinguished Service in 1981. Like his father, David White joined the family business after earning his WPI degree and now oversees operations as president and CEO. He later earned an MBA from WPI, and in 1990 received WPI’s Ichabod Washburn Award for professional achievement by a young alumnus.

Current Recipient: Rajib Basu Mallick