6 Faculty to be Appointed to Endowed Professorships

Bill HolderMay 9, 201212min

Rob Rosenthal, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, announced that six faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1. They include:

Anthony Braxton and Neely Bruce, professors of music, are being jointly awarded the John Spencer Camp Professorship of Music, established by a Wesleyan Trustee in 1929.

Jill Morawski, professor of psychology, professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, will become the Wilbur Fisk Osborne Professor. The Osborne Professorship was established with a gift from Wesleyan’s 1861 class valedictorian.

Laurie Nussdorfer, professor of history, professor of letters, is appointed to the William F. Armstrong Professorship, established in 1921 with a gift from Armstrong’s estate.

Joel Pfister, professor of English, professor of American studies, formerly Kenan Professor of the Humanities, is being recognized with the Olin Professorship, established in 1863 to fund a professorship of “rhetoric and English literature.”

Joe Siry, chair and professor of art history, will become the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities (a position also held by Clark Maines). These professorships were established in 1976, with an endowment from the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

Brief biographical sketches of all six recipients follow:

Anthony Braxton has been a member of the Wesleyan faculty since 1990. A recipient both of the Guggenheim (1981) and MacArthur (1994) Fellowships, as well as the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching (2006), Braxton is lauded inside and outside the classroom.

As a multi-instrumental performer and composer, he is a seminal figure in contemporary music whose contributions have been extolled by critics for the past half-century. In a New York Times review last fall, Braxton was described as “a force in the American avant-garde since the 1960s, when he emerged in his native Chicago as a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.” AllMusic.com states that he has “covered just about every conceivable area of creativity during the course of his extraordinary career” and “created music of enormous sophistication and passion that was unlike anything else that had come before it,” arguing that the “best of his work is on a level with any art music of the late 20th century, jazz or classical.”

Braxton continues to actively perform and record with ensembles of varying sizes and configurations. A prolific composer, he is credited with over 350 works to date.


Neely Bruce began teaching at Wesleyan in 1974. He has previously chaired the Music Department and for twenty years directed The Concert Choir and Wesleyan Singers. Bruce’s service extends beyond the campus; he served as chorus director for Connecticut Opera for 16 years and is director of music at South Congregational Church.

During his nearly four decades in Middletown, Bruce has achieved substantial success as both a composer and pianist. In 2002, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors presented CONVERGENCE, a series of three composed parades that is Neely’s largest work to date, to an enthusiastic audience of 10,000. Among his other works are three full-length operas, twelve hours of piano music, and a choral setting of the Bill of Rights. He has also composed original musical scores for PBS’s The American Experience, as well as for two documentaries about African Americans in Connecticut for CPTV. His work has received the support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Humanities Council and many other agencies.

As a pianist, Bruce is known for his recordings of American music from the 19th and 20th centuries. He first attained prominence as one of seven harpsichordists for the 1969 premiere of HPSCHD by John Cage and Lejaren Hiller. The performance of Henry Brant’s Orbits that he conducted at the Guggenheim Museum was listed by New Yorker critic Alex Ross as one of the “ten memorable performances of 2009.” The first chair of the New England Sacred Harp Singing Convention (1976), Bruce describes his mission as working “indefatigably to promote American music of all periods.”


Jill Morawski came to Wesleyan in 1980 and has served the institution in many capacities during her tenure here. She is director of the Center for the Humanities, previously served as chair of the faculty, and has also chaired Women’s Studies and Psychology.

Morawski’s research interests concern the history of modern psychological sciences, with a focus on the scientific practices accompanying claims about the nature of subjectivity and the moral commitments of scientific psychology. She has played a prominent role regarding the development of these fields in her discipline, having served as president of both Division 24 (Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology) and Division 26 (History of Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, where she also was elected a Fellow. Her research has been supported by grants from the NSF, NEH, SSRC and the Mellon Foundation.

In addition to her historical work, Morawski has written extensively on gender issues, the psychology of women, and the psychological dimensions of reproductive technologies. Her book, Practicing Feminisms, Reconstructing Psychology: Notes on a Liminal Science (University of Michigan Press), which surveys the developments and possibilities of feminist psychology, received the William James Book Award from the General Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. The James prize is awarded annually, in recognition of works that “provide a coherent framework that stands as a creative synthesis of theory and fact from disparate areas and demonstrates an essential underlying set of themes that serve to unify or integrate the field.”


Laurie Nussdorfer has been teaching at Wesleyan since 1986. Nussdorfer is a past director of the College of the Letters and presently serves as vice-president of the Society of Italian Historical Studies. Her research has received the support of the American Academy in Rome, SSRC, NEH, ACLS and the American Philosophical Society.

Nussdorfer is a historian of early modern Rome (1500-1800), whose research explores a wide range of topics in political, social, and cultural history from popular politics, print culture, urban space, and legal practices to artists’ organizations and men’s households. Her first book, Civic Politics in the Rome of Urban VIII (Princeton University Press, 1992), was characteristically grounded in deep and patient archival research. In it she revised received scholarly opinion to demonstrate how civic political life thrived even under papal absolutism.

Most recently, she authored Brokers of Public Trust: Notaries in Early Modern Rome (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009), a landmark in the social study of writing and writers, and the development of legal evidence and the early modern state. Nussdorfer’s current project is “The Male City: Men and Masculinities in Baroque Rome,” in which she examines the experience of men in a city where they significantly outnumbered women and explores the meanings of manhood under a regime ruled by a celibate clergy.


Joel Pfister joined Wesleyan’s faculty in 1987. He has been central to the success of American Studies and English, and has served as chair of both departments.

His books are The Production of Personal Life: Class, Gender, and the Psychological in Hawthorne’s Fiction (Stanford University Press, 1991), Staging Depth: Eugene O’Neill and the Politics of Psychological Discourse (University of North Carolina Press, 1995), Individuality Incorporated: Indians and the Multicultural Modern (Duke University Press, 2004), Critique For What? Cultural Studies, American Studies, Left Studies (Paradigm Publishers, 2006), and The Yale Indian: The Education of Henry Roe Cloud (Duke University Press, 2009). He also co-edited Inventing the Psychological: Toward a Cultural History of Emotional Life in America (Yale University Press, 1997). His scholarship has been supported by fellowships from ACLS and the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as other organizations.

Pfister has been globally engaged in his research and pedagogy. Last summer, he was a Visiting Professor in the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies in the Graduate School in the Freie Universitat in Berlin. This summer, he will serve on the faculty of the West-China Faculty Enhancement Program in American Studies, co-sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the China Association for the Study of American Literature, and will teach American literature as American Studies to Chinese college and university professors in Xi’an, China.


Joseph Siry joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1984, and received Wesleyan’s Binswanger Award for Teaching Excellence in 1994.

Siry is an accomplished historian of American architecture whose work has been funded by the NEH, the Getty Research Institute, the Mellon Foundation, and the Graham Foundation. He has published four books, three of which focus on different aspects of the architectural history of Chicago, a key locus in American architectural development.

His books are Carson Pirie Scott: Louis Sullivan and the Chicago Department Store (University of Chicago Press, 1988), Unity Temple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Architecture for Liberal Religion (Cambridge University Press, 1996), The Chicago Auditorium Building: Adler and Sullivan’s Architecture and the City (University of Chicago Press, 2002), which won the 2003 Society of Architectural Historians’ Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for best book by a North American scholar, and Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture (University of Chicago Press, 2012).