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Endowed professorship established for Biostatistics

The Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) has established an endowed professorship in biostatistics. Tom Bruce, M.D., former dean of the UAMS College of Medicine and acting dean of the COPH in its early days, initiated the creation of the professorship with a donation, which the College of Medicine matched.

Bruce named the professorship in honor of Robert C. Walls, Ph.D., who served as head of the COM Biometry Division under Bruce.

Keith Williams, professor in the COPH Dept. of Biostatistics, will be the inaugural holder of the professorship, the tenure of which is five years. The formal investiture of Williams is planned for spring 2014.

Bruce said that his gratitude towards UAMS motivated him to establish the endowment.

“Towards the end of a rewarding professional career it’s sometimes possible to return some of the favor to the institution that gave you its blessing,” Bruce said. “I’ve long wanted to create a lectureship or professorship at UAMS as my way of expressing that gratitude, and due to the wisdom of the College of Medicine clinicians who have set up a matching gifts program I’m now able to launch that dream.”

Because the Department of Biostatistics serves both COM and COPH, it seemed fitting to Bruce to create a professorship that honored both.

“To honor both the College of Medicine and the College of Public Health that have given me a home, it seems logical to base that professorship in Biostatistics, the one department that is common to both,” Bruce said. “Further, since I have no desire to have the professorship carry my own name, I’m free to honor anyone I want, and I choose Dr. Robert Walls who’s the wonderful guy that I appointed as head of the old Biometry Division some 30+ years ago. Bob has always been the essence of integrity and responsibility, a gentle, soft-spoken and smart guy who never passed a chance to help his colleagues in their own teaching or research. I count it a great honor to recognize his many years of service by announcing the creation of the Robert C. Walls Endowed Professorship in the Department of Biostatistics.”

Paula Roberson, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biostatistics, said that the selection of Williams for the honor was consistent with the “prominent role he has played in both Colleges.”  Williams, whose primary appointment is in COM and secondary appointment is in COPH. and COM, was the first faculty member hired by Roberson after she took the helm of Biometry and transformed it into the Department of Biostatistics. “He not only teaches several of our courses and is involved in research for both colleges, but has played a major role in the growth of the COPH, serving on numerous committees over the years,” Roberson said.

That Bruce chose Biostatistics as the beneficiary of his generosity was a bit of a surprise to Roberson.

“You hear about other departments getting these but biostatistics is not one you think of as having a benefactor,” she said. “It is quite an honor for our department as well as Dr. Williams. It is certainly a nice and lasting contribution.”

“I’ve known Dr. Walls since I came here in 1998, and I have always been impressed with him,” Williams said. “I am very flattered to be chosen for the endowed professorship. It’s quite an honor.”

The Robert C. Walls Endowed Professorship in the Department of Biostatistics is the second endowed professorship established by the COPH. The first was the Obesity Prevention Professorship endowed on behalf of Sid McMath, former governor of Arkansas.

Professorship Endowment Announcement_Biostat (2)

Left to right, COM Dean G. Richard Smith, M.D., Robert C. Walls, Ph.D., Keith Williams, Ph.D.,
COPH Biostatistics Chair Paula Roberson, Ph.D., COPH Dean Jim Raczynski, Ph.D.