BATON ROUGE – LSU’s College of Science and Manship School of Mass Communication will continue to be on the forefront of research in their fields with the establishment of two new endowed chairs: the Dr. William A. Pryor Chair in the Department of Chemistry, and the Wendell Gray Switzer Jr. Chair in Media Literacy.
The two positions recently received matching funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents, and will begin searching for scholars to fill the positions as soon as possible.
Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos believes that the Switzer Chair may be one of the first of its kind on the country. And it comes at a time when many Americans have questions about their news coverage.
“We want to be on the forefront of helping people figure out what about news is reliable,” he explained. “Everything can look the same today, whether it’s on a TV network or a blog, and people don’t often know what questions to ask about the information they are receiving.”
Ceppos said that he hopes to have the position filled in a year’s time, and views this chair as one that could benefit more than just mass communication majors.
“We would like to host some classes that students of any major can enroll in, because this is a topic we really feel could benefit a lot of people and interest them too,” he said.
The Pryor Chair is endowed in the name of Dr. William A. Pryor, a Boyd Professor Emeritus and pioneer in the field of free radical research. The chair was begun in 2004 by Michael Griffith, who received a Ph.D. in chemistry from LSU in 1968, and was Dr. Pryor’s first doctoral student. Griffith created the chair as a tribute to his friend and mentor. Friends, family and the Pryors themselves have generously contributed to the fund with the goal of honoring Pryor’s legacy by reaching an endowed chair level.
“The realization of this chair is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Dr. Pryor’s extraordinary legacy in biomedical research,” said Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Science. “In recognition of Dr. Pryor’s distinguished career, we will recruit an eminent scholar whose research is relevant to human health. We are deeply grateful for the collective generosity of Bill and Gail Pryor, and to their friends and family that made this wonderful endowment possible.”
Pryor is a pioneer in the field of free radical research, and his research on smog and oxidative stress led to new insight into the toxicity of ozone. His studies of the chemistry of nitric oxide are also relevant to biochemistry because of the discovery that cells in the body produce nitric oxide and use it as a hormone. Pryor also made numerous contributions to the use of antioxidants, such as vitamin E, in disease prevention.
Additionally, Pryor was the founding director of both the Biodynamics Institute and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. His research group has been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National Foundation for Cancer Research, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Health Effects Institute and a substantial number of national and international corporations. Research grants awarded to Pryor have exceeded $50 million.
The Switzer Chair originated as a gift from Kevin and Dee Dee Reilly, and is named for Mrs. Reilly’s brother, who died while serving in the military.