Lawrence University Art Historian, American History Scholar and Jazz Director Named to Endowed Professorships

Lawrence University President Jill Beck announced the appointment of Carol Lawton, Jerald Podair and Fred Sturm to endowed professorships Thursday (5/26) at the college’s annual honors convocation.

Lawton, professor of art history, was named to the Ottilia Buerger Professorship in Classical Studies. Podair, associate professor of history, was named to the Robert S. French Professorship in American Studies. Sturm, professor of music, was named to the Kimberly-Clark Professorship in Music.

Appointments to endowed professorships recognize academic distinction through teaching excellence and scholarly achievement. Lawrence currently has 47 endowed chairs.

Lawton, a specialist in ancient Greek sculpture, joined the Lawrence art department in 1980 and serves as curator of Lawrence’s Ottilia Buerger Collection of ancient and Byzantine coins. She has made research trips to Greece each of the past 25 years. Working with the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, she is studying Greek and Roman votive reliefs excavated from the Athenian Agora, the center of civic activity of ancient Athens.

She has received research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the J. Paul Getty Trust and is the author of the 1995 book “Attic Document Reliefs of the Classical and Hellenistic Periods” (Oxford University Press).

In 2004, Lawton was recognized with Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, becoming the only faculty member to earn all three of the college’s major teaching awards. She was the recipient of the college’s Young Teacher Award in 1982 and the Freshman Studies Teaching Award in 1998. She earned her Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University.

The Buerger professorship was established in 2002 by a bequest from the estate of Ottilia Buerger, a 1938 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Lawrence with a degree in Latin. A native of Mayville, Buerger taught Latin and English for several years at high schools in Goodman, Wautoma and Beaver Dam.

Combining a life-long interest in history, classics and numismatics, Buerger began coin collecting as a hobby in the 1950s and wound up assembling a world-renowned collection of ancient Greek and Roman coins. Buerger’s collection of 352 coins was donated to Lawrence after her death in 2001 and is used extensively today as a teaching and research resource for students and faculty studying the ancient world.

Podair joined the Lawrence faculty in 1998. A one-time Wall Street lawyer, he turned his attention to 20th-century American history in the early 1990s, focusing his research interests on urban history and racial and ethnic relations. He was recognized in 1998 with the Allan Nevin Prize from the Society of American Historians, which honored him for the single most outstanding dissertation in American history that year. It was published as the book “The Strike That Changed New York” in 2003 by Yale University Press.

He served as a consulting scholar for the recent Joe McCarthy exhibition at the Outagamie County Museum and worked with documentary filmmaker Richard Broadman as a historical consultant on a film chronicling the history of Black-Jewish relations in modern New York City. He earned his doctorate at Princeton University.

The French Professorship was established in 2001 by a gift from William Zuendt in honor of his former high school counselor and long-time friend, Robert French, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Lawrence in 1948 with a self-designed major in American studies. The professorship is intended to embrace a broad array of subjects, including history, literature, political thought and artistic expression, in examining America’s past.

French, a devoted student and collector of items relating to Abraham Lincoln and his legacy, helped establish the Lincoln Reading Room in Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library. He donated a collection of more than 1,500 items related to Lincoln, among them books, artwork and published speeches.

Sturm, director of jazz and improvisational music, is in his second stint as a faculty member in the Lawrence conservatory of music. A 1973 Lawrence graduate, he first directed jazz studies here from 1977-91, then returned in 2002 after spending 11 years as professor and chair of jazz studies and contemporary media at the Eastman School of Music in New York.

An award-winning composer, his jazz compositions and arrangements have been performed by Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis and Clark Terry, among others, and have been issued by numerous record labels, including Concord Jazz, RCA and Warner Brothers Records. Sturm received a Grammy Award nomination in 1988 and was named the 2003 recipient of the ASCAP/IAJE Commission In Honor of Quincy Jones, a prize granted annually to one established jazz composer of international prominence.

He concurrently serves as principal guest conductor of the Hessischer Rundfunk (German Public Radio for the State of Hessen) Big Band in Frankfurt, Germany and as visiting conductor of professional jazz ensembles and radio orchestras in Europe. During his nearly 30-year university teaching career, Sturm’s jazz ensembles have been cited by Downbeat Magazine as the finest in the United States and Canada eight times. He earned a master’s degree in music composition from Eastman School of Music.

The Kimberly-Clark Foundation established the Kimberly-Clark Professorship in Music in 1995 in recognition and support of the cultural contributions Lawrence makes to the quality of life in the community.