Groundbreaking researchers, educators named Distinguished Professors

Five faculty leaders earn CU’s highest honor
By Staff

The University of Colorado has introduced five newly designated Distinguished Professors, the highest honor awarded to faculty across the CU system’s four campuses.

CU Distinguished Professors are faculty members who demonstrate exemplary performance in research or creative work, a record of excellence in classroom teaching and supervision of individual learning, and outstanding service to the profession, the university and its affiliates.

CU President Bruce D. Benson reviewed nominations from CU’s campuses; with the recommendation of a committee of Distinguished Professors, he forwarded the candidates’ names to the CU Board of Regents. During its Nov. 16 meeting at the University of Colorado Boulder, the board voted in favor of the nominees.

Honorees for 2017 are:


Paul Harvey, Ph.D., professor and former chair, Department of History, University of Colorado Colorado Springs. A leading expert on U.S. religious history, his work has brought a new perspective to thinking about the interaction and interplay of religion and race in American history. Harvey has authored, co-authored and edited 11 books and over 47 articles and book chapters, while the Religion in American History blog he established connects a far-reaching network of scholars. An outstanding educator and mentor of students, his numerous honors include the CU Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, the UCCS Outstanding Teaching Award and the designation of Presidential Teaching Scholar, recognizing specially designated scholars-teachers throughout the CU system. Read more in Communique.


Peter Molnar, Ph.D., Department of Geological Sciences and CIRES (Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences), University of Colorado Boulder. Curious about a variety of processes in the earth, he is known as an expert on how mountain ranges and high plateaus have formed and evolved. His current research addresses how both high terrain, like the Tibetan Plateau, and ocean islands affect climate on geologic timescales, including both the history of the Indian monsoon and the development of ice ages that resulted in some 50 successive ice caps that covered Canada. In 2014, he was awarded the Crafoord Prize in Geosciences, awarded every four years by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. Other honors include CU Boulder’s Distinguished Research Lectureship. Read more in CU Boulder Today.


Douglas Seals, Ph.D., Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder. An internationally renowned scientist, his research has provided significant insight into not only the basic mechanisms of biological aging, but also lifestyle and pharmacological interventions for preserving physiological function with age, including cardiovascular health. At CU Boulder, Seals established the General Clinical Research Center – since renamed the Clinical Translational Research Center – which remains the only National Institutes of Health-supported clinical research center not housed in a hospital or at a medical school. His many CU awards include Professor of Distinction in the College of Arts and Sciences, Boulder Faculty Assembly Research Award and CU Boulder’s Distinguished Research Lectureship. Read more in CU Boulder Today.


Dan Theodorescu, M.D., Ph.D., Departments of Surgery and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The director of the University of Colorado Comprehensive Cancer Center, Theodorescu is an internationally renowned leader in understanding bladder cancer. His work has led to the discovery of genes that regulate metastasis in bladder cancer, tools that determine effectiveness of drugs in patients and the discovery of new drugs for cancer. Under his leadership, the CU Cancer Center has grown as a statewide consortium of three universities and three hospital systems. While maintaining a clinical practice as a surgeon, he has written or co-authored more than 300 peer-reviewed research publications. Theodorescu has received many awards and serves on several society boards and federal government committees. He is the founding co-editor of Bladder Cancer, the first journal focused on the disease. Read more at the Colorado Cancer Center Blogs.


Thomas Veblen, Ph.D., Department of Geography, University of Colorado Boulder. An internationally renowned scholar, his work has changed people’s understanding of temperate forests and the spatial and temporal dynamics of temperate forest landscapes. Veblen’s work is widely recognized to have shaped the viewpoint that “disturbances” – fire, insect outbreaks, wind storms and (in some landscapes) landslides, etc. – are inherent, essential components of forest ecosystem functioning, rather than abnormal events in the overall forest ecology. His research has led to groundbreaking insights on the role of climate change in bark beetle epidemics and forest responses to beetle kill and fire in the Rockies. CU awards include Professor of Distinction in the College of Arts and Sciences and CU Boulder’s Distinguished Research Lectureship. Read more in CU Boulder Today.

With these five new designees, CU has recognized 92 Distinguished Professors since the program’s establishment in 1977.