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"accepted a chair"....a little clarification

Posted by Bob on January 06, 2003

In Reply to: "accepted a chair"....what does it mean? posted by Bob on January 06, 2003

: : : : Does it mean the person accepted a job as chairman of the board?

: : : Any academics here? I think it means accepting the chairmanship of a college department rather than a board.

: : I've recently been accused of being a professor, so I ought to answer this one. Accepting a chair is the jargon for taking a professorship. In UK universities at least professors are the top of the academic tree. The top wire-bending expert would be offered the chair and become Professor of Wire Bending.

: A little different here in the US. Professor is the top rank among the Very rank-conscious faculties of universities ... but being the Chairman of a Department is not quite the same thing as being offered a Chair. Wealthy alumnus Joe Gotrocks gets his arm twisted by the University President (that's his #1 job) and Joe writes a nice, fat check for say, a million dollars. That's not enough to build a building, so Joe's ego can't swell as he walks past the Gotrocks Center for Wirebending Studies ... but a million is enough to endow a Chair. The interest on the million is enough to pay a handsome salary to Professor Schmoe, luring him away from Rival U., so he can become the Gotrocks Professor of Wirebending. It's his title, and signifies his worth-the-extra-dough value of his wirebending wizardry, the generosity of the Gotrocks family, and the ingenious trick of hanging a plaque on thin air to make everyone happy.

It's always a dogfight to get to be a department chairperson ... and it often turns into too much work, and less pleasure than one imagined, so it's not the Holy Grail of Academe. But ... being offered a Chair, which imposes few obligations (an extra lecture here and there - no department management!) and which revolves around prestige -- that's the bee's knees.