Two professors from the College of Media & Communication will be honored with named professorships thanks to endowments from alumni donor funds.
Dean David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D., who oversaw the creation of the professorships, commented, “Named professorships are a way for the academic community to signal special achievements and special commitment in different areas. In this case we are blessed with two different professorships that highlight the important and complementary parts of the tenure line professor's vocation: first, the expansion of knowledge through research, and second, the dissemination of knowledge within internal and external communities and constituencies.”
Department of Professional Communication Professor Kerk Kee, Ph.D., earned the Virginia and Choc Hutcheson Professorship in Mass Communication through his acclaimed publications and consistent thirst for new knowledge. Kee previously received large grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his research on the diffusion of innovation and information, and his graduate students have gone on to win awards for their own research that was conducted under his guidance.
Kee says the supplemental funding from the professorship will allow him to seek further support from the NSF as well as create more opportunities, projects, and training for his graduate students.
“Being recognized like this means the kind of research that I do is advancing the vision and mission of CoMC and Texas Tech University,” said Kee. “It is an acknowledgement that I should keep pushing the research boundaries of my institution.”
Kelli Cargile-Cook, Ph.D., professor & chairperson for the Department of Professional Communication, says she expects similar advancements thanks to the professorship.
“An endowed professorship is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive,” Cargile-Cook said. “The professorship honors Dr. Kee for the quality and success of his research. It also provides him with enhanced support to share his research broadly on national and international stages, promoting his name, his work, his department, and the institution.”
The professorship comes from funding seeded by Choc Hutcheson, a 1948 journalism major who has remained connected to CoMC by investing in generations of students as a major donor.
From the Department of Journalism & Creative Media Industries, Professor Lyombe Eko, Ph.D., earned the William S. Morris Professorship in Innovation, Journalism, and Information after years of public and student engagement fueled by his academic pursuits. Each year, Eko curates an undergraduate and graduate student research symposium where he highlights the oppression of the exercise of free speech around the globe by inviting renowned journalists to speak with his students.
Eko not only goes to great lengths to gather stories and information for the preservation of free speech but also applies the same tenacity and passion when sharing his findings with students and peers alike. He won a TTU President's book award in 2021 for his book, “The Charlie Hebdo Affair and Comparative Journalistic Cultures: Human Rights Versus Religious Rites.”
“I consider myself a student of human rights and freedom of expression,” Eko said. “The thematic and intellectual focus of the professorship will be on research, teaching, and outreach in international human rights and freedom of expression. We will specifically engage in outreach towards, and highlight, female journalists whose right of freedom of expression is being curtailed in many parts of the world.”
Rob Peaslee, Ph.D., associate professor and chairperson for the Department of Journalism & Creative Media Industries, says there was little hesitation in selecting Eko as the professorship recipient.
“His scholarship and his commitment to engage in research, his mentorship of graduate students, his background as a working journalist—all these things are exactly what the professorship is intended to honor and support,” Peaslee said.
Eko's professorship is named after the leader of Morris Communications and friend of the college, William S. Morris III.
Supported by new funding, Kee and Eko seek development and escalation in their fields as well as healthy support for the student body. Such objectives can often remain distant without the gracious relationships between CoMC and the alumni family.
Lauren Hill, assistant director of development, says CoMC alumni are vital in the mission to provide students with fruitful opportunities.
“These two endowments create a lasting legacy in CoMC,” Hill said. “This legacy shows that our alumni are invested in our faculty and, even more, invested in our students.”
With the new endowments, CoMC now proudly retains three endowed professors in its faculty roster.