Features — 27 June 2013

First faculty recipients are Drs. Renee Fister, Michael Kemp and Kit Wesler

Throughout Murray State University’s recently concluded fundraising campaign, no donor was more generous and supportive than university alumnus Dr. Jesse D. Jones. One of his latest charitable gifts to the university establishes the Dr. Jesse D. Jones Endowed Professorship. When fully endowed, four professorships will be funded.

Jones donated $500,000 at the end of 2012 to establish the fund; another $500,000 will follow to total $1,000,000 for the endowment. This gift follows the recent naming of the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET).

Named as the first recipients for the four-year professorships are MSU faculty members Dr. K. Renee Fister, Dr. Michael C. Kemp and Dr. Kit W. Wesler, all from the Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

“The Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology is excited to recognize these deserving faculty members and we appreciate Dr. Jones’ encouragement of teaching, research and service excellence,” said Dr. Steve Cobb, dean of the college. “Each of these individuals has achieved distinction in their fields, they represent our college well and they certainly help achieve Dr. Jones’ generous goal of promoting the best qualities in an outstanding collegiate faculty.”

Fister will serve as the Jesse D. Jones Endowed Professor of Mathematics and Statistics. She has taught at Murray State since 1996, and is a professor in the department of mathematics and statistics.

Fister’s awards include the MSU Board of Regent’s Teaching Award, Kentucky Academy of Sciences Outstanding Teacher, Dr. Virginia Slimmer Outstanding Faculty Award, MSU Presidential Research Fellowship, MSU Distinguished Mentor, and Richmond and Hester Colleges Member of the Year. She was recently elected as the faculty regent on the Murray State board of regents.

She works collaboratively to enhance student learning through innovative uses of technology in the classroom and through interactive research. Fister has served as the principal investigator of three large National Science Foundation grants that have supported 60 students and nine faculty members in bio-mathematical research. She is a leader in professional and community organizations, serving as a board member and treasurer of the Society for Mathematical Biology, clerk for the Association for Women in Mathematics and representative for a local Site-Based Decision Making Council.

Fister earned the baccalaureate degree from Transylvania University, and the master’s and doctorate from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, all in mathematics.

Kemp will be the Jesse D. Jones Endowed Professor of Engineering. A professor in the department of industrial and engineering technology, Kemp has been teaching at MSU since 1995.

Kemp has been recognized with several awards including the CSET Outstanding Professor for the International Student Organization, Sandra Flynn MSU International Student Professor of the Year, Clark Residential College Angel Award, and Kentucky Residence Hall Association Best of Bluegrass Award for Faculty Adviser (Clark Honor Society) and received a Certificate of Recognition from the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, his teaching experience includes a summer appointment with the Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology and co-leading stream assessment and training for teachers, volunteers, planners, engineers, developers and policy makers. An active researcher, Kemp currently is working on a Watershed Planning in Chestnut Creek project in Marshall County, Ky. He has also researched urban stream contamination levels, performed groundwater monitoring and serves as an environmental restoration consultant.

Kemp’s bachelor’s degree in civil engineering was earned at Tennessee Technological University; his master’s and doctoral degrees in civil/environmental engineering were granted from Utah State University and Tennessee Tech, respectively.

Wesler is the Jesse D. Jones Endowed Professor of Geosciences. He is a professor of archaeology in the department of geosciences and has been teaching at the university since 1983. Wesler is also the director of the Mid-America Remote Sensing Center.

Wesler’s honors include a Fulbright lecture/research award at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, a Presidential Research Fellowship at MSU, a Fulbright lecturing award at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and the Elsie Clews Parsons Student Paper Award for the American Ethnological Society.

His research interests encompass the late prehistoric and historical archaeology of eastern North America, West Africa and the Caribbean, the comparative study of complex societies and computer applications to archaeology. Wesler is continuing to analyze 15 years of excavations at the Wickliffe Mounds site in Ballard County, Ky., excavations and a survey at Columbus-Belmont State Park in Hickman County, Ky., and excavations at Hematite in the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area. His study of the Taino culture in Jamaica was included in the recently released Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Archaeology. Wesler will be presenting results of excavations in Jamaica this summer at the Congress of the International Association for Caribbean Archaeology in Puerto Rico.

Wesler holds doctoral and master’s degrees in anthropology from the University of North Carolina. He earned his baccalaureate degree, also in anthropology from Washington University.

Jones’ many gifts to the university have been made in the interest of fostering excellence in students — aiding them in the achievement of their goals in their chosen fields of study. Ultimately, Jones knows, the most direct path to helping students is through outstanding teaching and research. His latest endeavor for the university, and particularly the CSET, is to recognize and support professors who embody that kind of exemplary work.

“The primary focus of many of my previous contributions to MSU was to help students directly,” Jones said. “The professorship endowment is an opportunity to realize my long-time dream to establish a permanent, publicly visible recognition for outstanding teaching efforts and results in the college of science, engineering and technology.

“I believe outstanding work deserves special recognition and reward. The three recipients this year are excellent choices and I congratulate them on being selected and express my personal appreciation to them for all they do for Murray State and its students,” Jones concluded.

The professorships provide not only salary supplement funding, but also support for awarded faculty participation in research opportunities, conferences and professional travel, as well as release time for research activity, and funding for research equipment and supplies.

Jones, a native of Marshall County, Ky., is a 1963 chemistry and mathematics graduate of Murray State University. He is the largest donor to MSU’s Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology, and has been responsible for a number of initiatives for Murray State including giving for the clock tower, scholarships, faculty awards and endowments, and funding for research, laboratory equipment, the Racer Writing and the Racer Oral Communication Centers, and Heritage Hall.

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