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$2M endows professorship at Friedman School

by Mark Sullivan

No more ivory tower. That's the message underlying the new Irwin H. Rosenberg Professorship in Nutrition and Human Security, says its holder, Prof. Peter Walker, director of the Feinstein International Center at the Friedman School.

"The professorship sends a powerful signal that Tufts stands behind the sort of active research we do in crisis and conflict areas around the world," Walker said. "The whole drive here is to do the research and then put it into action - to change things, not just write about them."

Named for former Friedman School Dean Irwin Rosenberg, the professorship is conferred upon the director of the Feinstein International Center, devoted to field-based research to benefit communities beset by famine, war or other humanitarian crises.

Walker was installed as Rosenberg Professor on Nov. 13. The inaugural program at the Jaharis Family Center in Boston featured an address by Walker, "Human Security and the Pivotal Role of Science in Achieving It," and a reception for students and faculty. A dinner followed at President Lawrence S. Bacow's residence on the Medford campus.

More than $2 million raised through private philanthropy established the professorship and secured the Feinstein International Center's excellence into the future. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation pledged half the total.

Rosenberg said the translation of scientific knowledge to field application has been an approach long associated with Tufts, particularly since the time of President - and Friedman School founder - Jean Mayer, who he described as a "champion and voice for the movement for freedom from hunger."

Rosenberg, now a University Professor, also holds the Jean Mayer Professorship in Nutrition. It was Mayer who encouraged Rosenberg, a physician by training, to embark on his first experience in international nutrition, leading to study and intervention in malnutrition and famine in Bangladesh. During Rosenberg's nine-year tenure as dean, the Feinstein International Center was founded, as a center devoted to the study and alleviation of famine in the world.

"Needless to say, I am deeply grateful to be associated with this professorship," Rosenberg said in remarks at Walker's installation in November. "Nothing could be a higher honor, but this named professorship goes far beyond recognition of any individual contribution to the essential fusion of human nutrition and human security. This professorship recognizes the long commitment of this university to the concept of humanitarian rights, freedom from hunger, starvation and disease."

Eileen Kennedy, dean of the Friedman School, said: "The Rosenberg Professorship is a tribute to the tireless efforts of the former Dean in enhancing the scientific and academic excellence of the school. The professorship is a prime example of what I call 'beyond discovery.' Dr. Walker's scholarship has linked cutting edge research and knowledge to action. I could not think of a more appropriate person to hold the Rosenberg Professorship."

Walker described the professorship as a platform for the "participatory research" to which he and his center, housed at 200 Boston Ave. in Medford, are dedicated. "Tufts brands itself as a university that cares about global issues," Walker said. "Our research requires us to get involved.

"We need to have a dialogue with people, to understand their perspective of what's going on. We don't go to Ethiopia, for instance, and just stand back, ask questions and tick boxes.

"Most of what we do is about problem-solving," Walker said. "At Tufts, we look for solutions and thereby make a difference in people's lives, whether we are taking on obesity here in the USA, or human rights violations and war crimes in Uganda."

In Somerville, he said, this approach can mean working with local residents to make school lunches more nutritious; in Uganda this can involve negotiating a working relationship between the tribal justice system and UN peace tribunals.

"We ask people, how do things work in this place? Then we find the levers we can touch to make things change," Walker said.