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Sept. 2, 2009
In fall 1978 the Northwest Board of regents created the faculty rank of Distinguished University Professor. Since that time only five faculty members have achieved this distinction, and only one is still teaching, Dr. David Easterla of the Department of Biological Sciences.
Because elevation to the rank -- but not the status of faculty so distinguished -- was abolished in 2001, Easterla may be the last Northwest scholar and educator to hold a Distinguished University Professorship, which he received in 1993. Now 71, he continues to teach full-time, write and publish prolifically and to conduct strenuous field research -- in addition to grabbing gold medals by the handful as a competitive swimmer in the Senior Olympics.
To date, Easterla, whose interests include wildlife biology, herpetology, ornithology, mammalogy, vertebrate paleontology and archaeology, has published some 215 articles in peer-reviewed journals, including a half-dozen this year alone. Much of his life's work is represented by the glass cases filled with hundreds of fossils and other artifacts that line the walls of the Garrett-Strong Science Building.
But friends and colleagues say what makes Easterla truly special are his superb teaching skills and dedication to students, many of whom simply call him "Doc."
"As far as the teaching aspect, you won't find any professor who has a more loyal student following than David," said Dr. Gerald Brown, the former Northwest agriculture and science dean who nominated Easterla for his Distinguished University Professorship. "There is not a more dedicated teacher who lives and breathes. As they say, he walks the walk."
Brown said Easterla also excelled in the two other categories used to evaluate Distinguished University Professor nominees, research and outreach/service.
A tireless researcher and writer, Easterla has authored outright or contributed to a small mountain of books, articles and peer-reviewed papers over the years, leading to his status, Brown said, "as a recognized national figure on our campus."
Easterla's service and advocacy on behalf of his field and the University have also made a lasting impact, and he has frequently assisted and advised forestry and wildlife experts, presented workshops and participated in conservation programs at locations such as the national Squaw Creek Wildlife Refuge.
In addition to Easterla, the following emeriti faculty have been named Distinguished University Professors: Dr. John Harr, history; Dr. Leon Miller, education and former Graduate School dean; Dr. Elwyn DeVore, former dean of the School of Business and Government; and Dr. William Trowbridge, English.
Mark Hornickel, Media Relations Specialist
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