October 28, 2015

With Gift, Lab of Ornithology Establishes Endowed Professorship

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With a gift from Larry Fuller ’60 and Nancy Fuller ’62, Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology established an endowed professorship that supports ongoing research in evolutionary biology.

Prof. Irby Lovette, ecology and evolutionary biology, is the first person to hold the title of Fuller Professor of Ornithology. The newly endowed position ensures that there will always be an associated faculty position in this area of inquiry, according to Lovette, who is also the director of the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program. This change will allow the University to reallocate resources to other academic programs and initiatives.

The endowment “guarantees extraordinary stability of a major research program” at the lab, said John W. Fitzpatrick, director of the Lab of Ornithology. He also said he views the new position as a “guarantee of excellence” that will sustain the lab’s prestige in its field.

The establishment of the professorship will not only support one of the lab’s projects, but also a wide variety of research endeavors for many years to come.

“The Fuller endowments will be sponsoring novel research and helping to train future scholarly leaders long after these particular research projects have ended,” Lovette said.

The endowment is one of many contributions the Fullers have made to Cornell’s scientific community. The recent donation augments gifts that the Fullers have already made to the lab to endow the Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program and several postdoctoral scholar positions, according to Lovette.

Their continuous support “has been hugely impactful in allowing us to engage in cutting-edge — and sometimes risky — research, while placing a strong emphasis on the engagement and training of students,” Lovette said.

Fitzpatrick praised Lovette for his “outstanding work” and said the endowment will allow him to do additional work in studying the genomics of speciation.

Lovette said he is particularly invested in “teaching intellectually rigorous field courses that use special biological settings — Kenyan savannas, the Galapagos archipelago, the coast of Patagonia — to help students become better scientists and world citizens.”

He said he also takes great pride in his undergraduate researchers and their accomplishments in publishing scientific papers.

“Birds are very important and very accessible subjects for studying evolution,” Fitzpatrick said, “[which is why] we want to make sure we always have someone doing that kind of work.”

The Lab of Ornithology, Fitzpatrick said, is “extremely grateful” for the Fullers’ generosity and the many opportunities that are possible because of it.