Muhlenberg Establishes Faculty Rising Scholars Program

Recent gifts to the College—more than $500,000 in near-term funding, plus a $1 million endowment—have allowed Muhlenberg to create a new program designed to support junior faculty as they conduct student-aided research.

By: Meghan Kita  Thursday, August 29, 2019 04:07 PM

The Faculty Rising Scholars Program will provide up to five annual awards, starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, for tenure-track faculty members who have completed successful third-year reviews. Each award will allow the recipient to release a course in order to focus on scholarship, with funds going toward covering that course, paying for research expenses and hiring a first-year or sophomore research assistant. The program’s goal is to help attract, support and retain talented faculty and to provide distinctive research opportunities for junior faculty members with talented first- and second-year students.

The program’s near-term funding originated with trustee and former board chairman John Heffer P’96, who approached then-Provost Kathleen E. Harring with an interest in funding a program. Harring identified a need and worked, with Heffer’s input, to develop the program.

“I was particularly happy with it because it enhanced both the faculty experience and the student experience,” he says. It also appealed to Heffer and his wife, Barbara P’96, because the College was ready to launch the program quickly: “Barbara and I like to see the results of our philanthropy,” he says.

“The College and its constituencies benefit right away.”

The Heffers pledged $250,000 to establish the program. John, along with current Board of Trustees Chairman Rich Crist ’77 P’05 P’09, challenged his fellow trustees to collectively match his donation. Together, the Board raised an additional $261,000.

“I pitched [the program] at a board meeting, and there wasn’t that much pitching that had to be done,” John says. “The board, to its credit, saw this as a very desirable program and a program we wanted to do sooner rather than later.”

The program will continue on in perpetuity thanks to a $1 million endowment from Crist and his wife, Cindy P’05 P’09.

“The element of having faculty and students working together is a huge draw for us, because we’ve been so impressed by the quality and sophistication of the research that we’ve had the opportunity to review,” Rich says.

“The Faculty Rising Scholars Program provides direct evidence of the value we place on scholarship as central to our liberal arts mission,” says Harring, who’s now the College’s interim president. “Through the vision and generosity of John and Barbara Heffer and Rich and Cindy Crist, as well as the collective efforts of the Board of Trustees, we are able to strengthen support for engaged learning and scholarship for faculty and for students at Muhlenberg.”