Cleland, Coons and Gamble Professors Named

(l to r) Profs. Kristi Upson-Saia, Sharla Fett and Amy Lyford

Three Occidental College professors have been appointed to some of the oldest, most prestigious named professorships at the College.

Sharla Fett has been appointed Robert Glass Cleland Professor of American History;  Amy Lyford, Arthur G. Coons Professor in the History of Ideas; and Kristi Upson-Saia, David B. and Mary H. Gamble Professor in Religion. This is the first time that all three have been held by women.

Each professorship recognizes the faculty member's achievements in teaching, scholarship, and service to the College and their academic department. Each comes with a small annual research stipend. Nominations by Wendy Sternberg, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, were reviewed by the Faculty Advisory Council and given final approval by President Harry J. Elam, Jr.

“The Cleland, Coons and Gamble professorships are among the most prestigious academic honors bestowed by Occidental on full professors who have distinguished themselves on multiple levels,” says Sternberg. “Professors Fett, Lyford and Upson-Saia represent the highest standard of teaching, scholarship and service.”

All three professorships were created in 1965. The Cleland Professorship was established by Board of Trustees in honor of Dr. Robert G. Cleland, distinguished historian of California and the West, successively student (Class of 1907), professor, administrator, trustee, and onetime chair of the Board of Trustees.

“I'm honored to receive the title, especially because my dear colleague Lynn Dumenil had it before me until she retired in 2016,” says Fett, a scholar of 19th-century Atlantic world slavery, the antebellum U.S. South, and race, gender and health, who joined the Oxy faculty in 2002. “This is a title I associate with Lynn, so it means a lot to me. I also have enormous respect for Kristi Upson-Saia and Amy Lyford, who also received named professorships. Both are extraordinary leaders, teachers and scholars, and I'm happy to be in their company.”

The Coons Professorship was established by the Occidental Class of 1965 in honor of Arthur G. Coons, Class of 1920, who served as Occidental’s ninth president from 1946 to 1965. “"I am honored to be recognized in this way for my scholarship, teaching and service on behalf of Occidental, a place that has been my intellectual home for 22 years,” says Lyford, whose research centers on 20th-century American and European artistic practices, with a special focus on the histories of photography and sculpture. “I am so proud to have been named the Arthur G. Coons Professor of the History of Ideas, as this title underscores the interdisciplinary nature of my work as centered on ideas, first and foremost."

The Gamble Professorship in Religion was established by the Board of Trustees in honor of David B. Gamble, churchman, civic leader and former board president, and his wife, Mary H. Gamble, who became Occidental’s first woman trustee in 1926.

“It is rewarding to have my work as a teacher, scholar and member of the Occidental community honored in this way,” says Upson-Saia, a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions and former director of both the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Center for Research and Scholarship. “I am particularly delighted to be associated with the Gambles, whose social justice efforts exemplify Occidental’s values and mission. Under their leadership, Procter & Gamble was ahead of its time in instituting shorter work week and creating one of the first employee profit-sharing systems in the country.”