CU Names Two Distinguished Professors

November 13, 1997

Two well-known faculty members at the University of Colorado at Boulder were named Distinguished Professors Thursday, Nov. 13, by the CU Board of Regents.

Richard McCray, professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences, and Charles Wilkinson, professor of law, received the prestigious designation in Denver during a monthly meeting of the Board of Regents.

“Professors McCray and Wilkinson exemplify what it is to be a university teacher-scholar,” said CU-Boulder Chancellor Richard L. Byyny, who recommended their designation as Distinguished Professor. “Their successes, both inside and outside the classroom, bring honor to the University of Colorado and enrich our understanding of complex fields of human inquiry.”

According to Regents’ laws, the designation of Distinguished Professor is bestowed on members of the university’s faculty “who have distinguished themselves as exemplary teachers, scholars and public servants, and who have achieved extraordinary international importance and recognition.”

Only 18 CU-Boulder professors have been so honored since the designation was established in 1977. The most recent CU-Boulder appointee was Carl Wieman, professor of physics, who was named a Distinguished Professor on Sept. 11.

Byyny said Richard McCray is “an international leader in theoretical astrophysics, adding immensely to the world’s knowledge about the formation of stars, theoretical X-ray astronomy and the evolution of supernovae.”

McCray, who joined the CU-Boulder faculty in 1971, co-authored an article in 1972 that led to the development of the theory of “interstellar bubbles,” caused by the action of winds from massive stars.

McCray and his colleagues also demonstrated that “superbubbles,” resulting from a cluster of supernova explosions, could induce the formation of stars in neighboring interstellar gas. He has made significant contributions to the theory of X-ray irradiation of stellar atmospheres and surrounding gas.

Most recently, McCray provided what has become the standard description of the evolution of the remnant of supernova 1987A, the closest supernova in several centuries, which exploded in February 1987. McCray is considered the leader in the study of the spectrum of this supernova.

McCray is a member of the National Academy of Science, has received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and is the author of more than 100 publications.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a doctorate from the University of California in Los Angeles.

Charles Wilkinson, the Moses Lasky Professor of Law at CU, has been on the law faculty since 1987, specializing in the law of public lands, American Indians, water, environment and the Constitution.

Wilkinson is “one of the most respected and productive commentators on the management of natural resources in the western United States,” Byyny said. “Professor Wilkinson has changed our thinking about the political and cultural future of the west.”

He has coauthored casebooks that have become the standard textbooks for thousands of law students. Among his recent books that have attracted popular readership are “The Eagle Bird: Mapping a New West” and “Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West.”

In addition, Wilkinson has received numerous awards for outstanding teaching at CU as well as at the University of Oregon and Michigan Law School. Wilkinson speaks frequently before diverse groups including foresters, architects, fisheries’ managers and lawyers and judges.

At CU-Boulder, Wilkinson has championed interdisciplinary work by faculty and students. He is a founder and co-chair of the Center of the American West, an interdisciplinary center in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Wilkinson holds a bachelor’s degree from Denison University and a law degree from Stanford University.

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