Thanks to two alumni couples, the man who founded and led the Institute for the Arts and Humanities for over a decade will be remembered for generations to come. Their gift of a $1 million professorship honors Ruel Tyson and endows the institute director’s position, ensuring the institute’s continued work in retaining and rejuvenating outstanding faculty at Carolina.

C. Knox Massey Jr. and his wife Mary Ann Keith Massey (both ’59) of Atlanta, and John Woodfin Burress III and his wife Mary Louise Bizzell Burress (both ’58) of Winston-Salem, established the professorship. Their commitments, in addition to the state matching grant of $334,000, brought the total endowment for the professorship to $1 million.

Knox Massey and John Burress said the professorship was inspired by their work on the institute’s board.

“We became the committee to come up with a solution to the issue of hiring Ruel’s successor, so we decided to just be the solution,” Massey said.

The Ruel W. Tyson Jr. Distinguished Professorship Fund was used to establish an endowed chair in the College of Arts and Sciences and will enable the dean to attract distinguished successors to the directorship of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities.

Established in 1987, the institute helps Carolina support outstanding faculty in the arts, social sciences and humanities by funding semester-long on-campus study leaves. Through the faculty fellowship program, a number of faculty members receive fellowships every semester and use the institute as a base for weekly meetings where faculty help each other with creative projects and research. The institute encourages interdisciplinary conversations between faculty members and discussions of ways to improve their teaching. The result is a re-invigoration of faculty and a renewed commitment to teaching.

“The heart and soul of the University is the undergraduate school, and the heart and soul of the undergraduate school is the faculty,” Burress said. “The faculty inspire the students, and anything that can be done to inspire and motivate faculty is the best investment that one can make to the University.”

A professor of religious studies at Carolina since 1967, Tyson was instrumental in creating the Institute for the Arts and Humanities in 1987. The institute raised more than $12 million for faculty fellowships and programs under his leadership.

The institute is one of only a few such institutes and centers in the country with an endowed professorship for its director. These endowments recognize the increasing role such centers play in the recruiting, retaining and revitalizing their best faculty.

“There are many reasons for me to be grateful to John Burress and Knox Massey, two of the IAH’s longtime supporters,” Tyson said. “First, I am grateful for this extraordinary honor; it is a rare gift to have my name associated with successor directors of the institute.

“Second, to be honored by two persons who embody the Carolina spirit so fully and whose services to our board and to other units of the University are so exemplary is an unforgettable honor for me.

“Third, knowing Knox and John as I do, I am sure they have in mind that their collaborative gift of this professorship will inspire others to do likewise for other units in the University.”

For Massey and Burress, collaborating on the gift was key in bringing the professorship to fruition.

“John and I are longtime friends,” Massey said. “We thought it might be a nice model for other people who are thinking about collaborating on a project. It makes it fun and it’s easier to split something and get more done.”

(from a spring 2001 Carolina Connections article by Kristina Casto.)

The Ruel W. Tyson Jr. Distinguished Professorship

2006 – 2014:  John McGowan

2014 – Present: Mark Katz