Academic titles of many professors in U.S. (and maybe in Canada) include one or more honorary names the samples of which are be Jean-Lou Chameau Professor of X and Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Y. I am curious about the mechanics of using such titles in view of academic norms. To be specific,

1- Are such titles something that any professor at any level (assistant, associate, or full) may pick for herself or academic individuals need specific advantages to use honorary names?

2- Is there any restriction or ethical norm, such as permission, to select an honorary person's name? I am wondering the necessity of permissions because in many cases an honorary person of interest might be already died.

1 Answer 1


These are called named professorships. If you put that term in a search engine you will get explanations from many schools.

Typically, a large donation is made to fund the named professorship or named chair. The name can be the donor or someone the donor wants to honor.

The person who gets the named professorship is selected by the school. It is often already a faculty member or can be somone recruited for that specific spot. It comes with prestige of the name and additional resources.

Since the OP examples are Cal Tech, here is what they say about it. Note: this press release was not from the year that either OP example was listed.

During the 2018–19 academic year, Caltech recognized three faculty members with the Institute's most distinguished award for individual faculty—a named professorship. This honor provides faculty with additional funds and resources to pursue their best ideas while they continue to mentor future generations of leaders.

Each named professorship brings its own distinct legacy. Many professorships, for instance, have long-standing histories and pass on through each appointment a tradition of discovery and exploration from one academic generation to the next, from one colleague to another. A professorship may also provide a faculty member with an opportunity to forge meaningful connections with the philanthropists who provided the donation that made it possible.

So the answers are 1. No and 2. Not applicable to an individual taking a name, but the donor would want to have the prominent person’s assent or his or her estate/foundation/relatives’ assent.

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