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Two More Warren Distinguished Professors Named

Top faculty honor goes to profs from CAS, LAW

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Eugene Stanley mingles humanitarian work with scholarship. Wendy Gordon is a globally recognized expert in copyright law. Photos by Kalman Zabarsky

A physicist who worked to liberate Soviet refuseniks and whose polymathic research spans topics from stock market prices to Alzheimer’s disease. A law professor whose copyright scholarship was taught abroad and who once teamed in class with a Shakespearean actor to teach rhetoric’s role in copyright law debates. These boundary-pushing scholars have received BU’s highest faculty honor.

President Robert A. Brown last week named H. Eugene Stanley of the College of Arts & Sciences and Wendy Gordon of the School of Law as William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professors. The second and third Warren Professors named this month, their appointments came less than two weeks after CAS biologist Thomas Kunz received the same honor. The professorships were established in 2008; Kunz was the first named since 2009.

Brown has called the professorships “the highest honor bestowed upon senior members of our faculty who will continue to be involved in research and scholarship, as well as in the civic life of the University.”

The Warren Distinguished Professorships are named for the University’s first president, who led BU for three decades, beginning in 1873. The appointments of Stanley and Gordon bring the total number of Warren professors to 8; the University hopes ultimately to name as many as 15. The endowed professorships are supported by the William Fairfield Warren Fund.

“I am deeply touched to join seven other scholars to represent the hundreds exemplifying the University’s commitment to excellence,” says Stanley. “One key feature of my teaching and research is to recognize the priceless value of each student and the ability of a student to bring their innate creativity to bear in approaching new problems.”

Stanley, observing his 35th anniversary at the University, is a statistical physicist, one who studies unpredictable events, such as the possible outcomes of Japan’s nuclear crisis. In 1973, appalled that refuseniks had been denied admission to a Russian scientific conference he was speaking at, he announced from the podium that attendees could hear the refuseniks’ talks at their homes. He was hustled off by trench-coated security men and briefly feared he was going to be tossed out the top-floor window. But he did lead conference-goers to the refuseniks’ homes and later headed a new organization lobbying the Soviets to permit more emigration. Those efforts, plus his advocacy for more women in physics, contributed to his winning the American Physical Society’s Nicholson Medal for Human Outreach in 2003.

Stanley’s eclectic research has included the study of water’s structure; the onset of Alzheimer’s disease; and common statistical patterns governing disparate phenomena, such as the distribution of stock price fluctuations and the speeds of air molecules.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has been thesis advisor to almost 100 PhD candidates at BU and MIT, where he previously taught. Holder of seven honorary degrees, he earned a BA at Wesleyan and a doctorate at Harvard.

Gordon is “deeply honored and thrilled to have my work recognized this way by our world-class university,” she says. “It’s also humbling, given BU’s immense depth of talent.” Gordon has taught at the School of Law since 1993.

An expert on copyright, trademark, and fair use law, Gordon last fall co-taught a University Honors College course with Aaron Garrett, a CAS associate professor of philosophy. The course involved “the history of ideas, philosophical questions, and judicial decisions about property,” she says. The syllabus spanned classic philosophical texts by Hobbes, Locke, Hume, and others to legal decisions and even fiction.

Collaborating with teachers from other walks of life, like actors and philosophers, reflects Gordon’s view that the law is “the stuff of life,” she says. “If a philosopher is asking, ‘What is the good life?’ the lawyer says, ‘How do we achieve it? To what extent do we achieve it, humans being limited?’ The law is all about making things work on the ground. And many questions of law have philosophical or social science answers to them. It isn’t necessarily dependent on these other things, but sometimes the law wants to reach outside.”

Gordon earned a bachelor’s at Cornell and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a Fulbright scholar and a visiting senior research fellow at Oxford University and is a recipient of the New Jersey Governor’s Fellowship in the Humanities. Three U.S. Supreme Court opinions cite her scholarship, and Japan’s University of Hokkaido has taught a seminar devoted to her work.

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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