Professor Joseph “Chuck” Williamson has been appointed to the endowed Taul Watanabe Chair in the Sciences for a five-year renewable term.
Announcing the new appointment, President Steve Thorsett said, “Professor Williamson’s leadership, scholarship, pedagogy and service to our students are all outstanding, and I’m delighted that the university is able to honor his work in this way.”
The chair was established in 1994 with a gift of $1 million to Willamette from Taul Watanabe ’41. The previous — and only other — holder of the chair was Professor Emeritus of Biology Gary Tallman, who was appointed in 1996.
Williamson says he is excited to be appointed to the chair, and, like Tallman, he plans to use the resources to improve science research at Willamette. Tallman worked to enhance the teacher-scholar research culture in the Willamette science faculty, most notably by serving as the first director of the Office of Faculty Research and Resources, now part of the Office of Grants and Strategic Initiatives.
Williamson says his objectives have a slightly different focus: “I intend to use the title and resources associated with the Watanabe Chair to increase the number of science research opportunities available to Willamette undergraduates.”
Along with biology Professor David Craig, Williamson has co-directed the Science Collaborative Research Program (SCRP) at Willamette since 2010. “Willamette students’ interest in participating in summer research experiences greatly exceeds the available resources. The faculty interest is certainly there too, and SCRP helps new science faculty members establish their research programs at Willamette,” Williamson says. “As the Watanabe Chair, I hope to collaborate with the advancement office and Willamette’s science departments to grow the number of permanent undergraduate-faculty science research opportunities. In addition, during my term, the discretionary funds available through the Watanabe Chair will be allocated to support several summer research students in different departments.”
Taul Watanabe was a College of Liberal Arts graduate whose studies at Willamette College of Law were interrupted when he and his family were interned with thousands of other Japanese-Americans during World War II. After graduating from the University of Denver College of Law, Watanabe established a successful legal and business career. Over the years, he remained closely connected to Willamette and provided a number of generous gifts.