Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
April 27, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. — It’s safe to say David Hedin, William Baker and Ronald Carter are at the top of their games.
They are world renowned for their research and artistry and are known for drawing students into their creative work. Not surprisingly, these NIU professors also are among the university's most effective teachers in the classroom, praised by students and colleagues alike.
The trio has been named as the 2009 Board of Trustees Professors. The professorships, established in 2007 and first awarded last year, recognize faculty members who have achieved a consistent record of excellence in teaching, academic leadership, scholarship or artistry and service and outreach.
In the selection process, special emphasis is placed on the recognition of those who have earned national or international acclaim for their scholarship or artistry and continue to engage students in their research and professional activities.
All three are familiar names on campus: Hedin is a veteran physics professor; Baker holds a joint appointment with University Libraries and the Department of English; and Carter is director of jazz studies.
“David Hedin, William Baker and Ronald Carter rightfully join an elite group of faculty members who are recognized for excelling in all aspects of what we consider to be the top priorities of this university,” says NIU President John Peters. “Each has made outstanding contributions to their respective fields and to our NIU community—and we expect more good things to come.”
Each BOT Professorship is accompanied by a $10,000 stipend, renewable annually during a 5-year term. The BOT Professors will be honored during the Faculty Awards Recognition Ceremony at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, in Altgeld Auditorium.
Here's a closer look at the 2009 BOT Professors.
NIU enjoys an international reputation for its research program in experimental high energy physics, which seeks to indentify and understand the building blocks of nature.
Identifying the building blocks of the NIU program, however, is a much simpler task. It starts with David Hedin, who formed the physics department's experimental group more than two decades ago.
The 54-year-old physics professor has been conducting research at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory since 1976. In 1982, Hedin began working on what would evolve into DZero, one of two large and now world-famous experiments at the Batavia laboratory.
The DZero collaboration involves hundreds of scientists and is conducted at the Tevatron, the world’s most powerful particle collider. The Tevatron has helped physicists understand nature's forces and observe the smallest things ever seen, such as particles inside a proton.
Hedin has helped lead the design, construction and operation of a system for detecting particles known as muons (pronounced mew-ons), or heavy electrons. These particles were important sign posts for Fermilab scientists who were seeking in the early 1990s to discover the top quark, the heaviest known constituent of matter. Top quarks were thought to decay into muons—a theory that proved correct.
“Dave is one of the ‘founding fathers’ of the DZero experiment and collaboration,” says Boston University Physics Professor John Butler. “He played a key role in the most important physics result to come from experiments at the Tevatron—the discovery of the top quark in 1995.”
Hedin earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University, where he graduated first in a class of 3,500, and his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He came to NIU in 1987 and recruited both faculty and student researchers for the experimental high energy physics group. Since that time, 85 undergraduates and 79 graduate students have worked with the group—with more than 120 contributing to DZero.
“The opportunities that David presented us with at DZero were transformative; we became scientists and full partners in one of the most exciting research endeavors of the late 20th century,” says Edwin Mierkiewicz, an assistant scientist at UW-Madison who was among the first students recruited by Hedin.
“Suddenly, Northern Illinois University was contributing and collaborating with the best physics departments in the world,” Mierkiewicz recalls.
Hedin also has a knack for instilling confidence in his students. “I was and am still motivated to succeed because of his belief that I can,” says former student Laura Layton, now a NASA science writer.
Hedin now has turned his research focus to the intense search for the Higgs boson, an elementary particle sometimes referred to as the “holy grail of particle physics.” Awarded NIU’s Presidential Research Professorship in 1998, he has published 276 papers, written 44 proceedings and given 50 talks. He spearheaded the creation of a physics outreach program for K-12 students. And his grant activity, some of which funds student workers, totals nearly $8 million.
Hedin teaches courses ranging from astronomy to quantum physics. He also helped write the physics department’s proposal to become a Ph.D.-granting program, approved in 1999, and serves as the department’s director of graduate studies.
Despite his achievements, the soft-spoken Hedin is quick to deflect praise.
“If I get an honor, it’s because the people I work with have done well,” he says. “It’s just I’ve been here the longest.”
Growing up in the London area, William Baker inherited a deep passion for literature from his parents. His mother read and recited poetry; his father was a publisher. Sunday nights were spent around the radio, listening to BBC serializations of Victorian writers’ stories.
Baker has made an impressive career of his love of books and the stories behind the creation of works of literature.
Today, his research is internationally acclaimed in no less than four areas: descriptive bibliographies that trace and describe the history of a book from its genesis to published formats; reconstruction of authors’ libraries and the whereabouts of their books; interpretation of contemporary British drama; and literary discovery, including editing authors’ letters.
“In these days of micro-specialization, William Baker is that rare scholar who commands decisively the fields of bibliography, book history, critical theory, textual criticism and editing. His scholarship in all these fields is widely known and admired,” says James L. Harner, Professor of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University and editor of, “The World Shakespeare Bibliography.”
Baker was awarded NIU’s Presidential Research Professorship in 2003. He has published more than two dozen books and in excess of 120 refereed articles. His inquisitiveness has led him to the discovery of the forgotten notes, notebooks, letters and manuscripts of eminent 19th century writers, including George Eliot, George Henry Lewes, Wilkie Collins and Sir Walter Scott.
He is considered the foremost biographer and a leading scholar on the works of George Eliot, the pen name for Victorian writer Mary Ann Evans. She was among the most important British novelists of the 19th century. His book, “George Eliot: A Bibliographical History,” culminated 35 years of research and was praised by none other than the London Times Literary Supplement.
Baker co-authored a bibliographical history on Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet Harold Pinter that was selected as an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice magazine, the premier source for reviews of academic books. No author had previously consolidated Pinter’s body of work.
He also won a Choice award for “The Letters of Wilkie Collins,” a four-volume set of more than 2,000 letters of the 19th century British writer who helped invent the detective novel. More recently, Baker published “A Critical Companion to Jane Austen,” and he has monographs on Shakespeare and on forgotten Edwardian writer Leonard Merrick in press. He is working on a bibliographical history of contemporary British writer Tom Stoppard.
Baker holds a Ph.D. in English Studies from London University and a master’s in library science from Loughborough University. The veteran NIU professor teaches a range of courses, seminars and independent studies, and has directed eight dissertations with three in progress. He frequently provides students with opportunities to publish their own research.
“I have never come across a professor of such wide-reaching connections, especially internationally, and a professor who gifts his students through those connections to meaningful and impressive work,” says NIU Ph.D. candidate Linda Reinert, an English teacher at Wheaton North High School who has co-authored scholarly work with Baker.
Says Baker, “I hope my students gain a love for the written word, a healthy skepticism and a desire to learn and read more. I want them, for instance, to realize Shakespeare is fun and to appreciate the beauty of his poetry and his magnificent insights into humanity. Literature can enrich our lives, stimulate investigation and be a source of strength, wisdom and pleasure.”
To watch Ronald Carter lead a jazz ensemble is to see music in motion.
Carter, director of jazz studies in the School of Music and conductor of the famed NIU Jazz Ensemble and the NIU Liberace Jazztet, dances. He scats. He grunts. And even though the sounds energize him to a state of near nirvana, a clever improvised solo seems to excite him even more.
Jazz students of all ages absorb Carter’s enthusiasm through his busy schedule as a guest clinician as well as his prestigious appointment as program director for New York City’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Band Director Academy—“a forum for me not only to influence how jazz is taught in America,” he says, “but all around the world.”
“He is a one-of-a-kind individual. It is teachers like Mr. Carter who will keep our musical heritage alive,” says tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, a retired professor from Queens College and a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master.
“His dedication, control and compassion for the students are phenomenal. As a performer, I have never felt as connected to a student band as I did under the direction of Mr. Carter. His demand for excellence and spiritual connection to the music is limitless.”
Naturally, music has be-bopped through Carter’s blood since his Naylor, Ga., childhood.
He began singing in church as a young boy and took up the clarinet, eventually reaching all-state honors. His jazz studies began with the invitation to join a rhythm ’n’ blues band on saxophone, prompting Carter to borrow his cousin's alto.
Carter went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music from Bethune-Cookman College in 1975.
As he completed his master’s degree in music education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he heard of an opportunity in East St. Louis: He could start a jazz program at Lincoln High School, the alma mater of Miles Davis, and help rebuild the entire band program.
When Carter arrived in 1977, the music program had dwindled to 15 students. Within two years, more than 100 were enrolled in music programs, touring Europe, making records and playing to international acclaim alongside legends including Wynton Marsalis.
Carter also quickly put his stamp on NIU’s jazz program when he came to DeKalb in 1994, recruiting new faculty and renovating the curriculum to create a culture-centered philosophy.
Some of the new teachers came directly from the Chicago jazz scene. He also squired his band members on bus trips to the South Side, where they listened to and participated in jam sessions at nightclubs. “There is no way to effectively create that in the classroom,” Carter says.
“Jazz is a true American art form, a synthesis of Western European harmony and African rhythm born in the songs of American slave workers,” says alum Anthony Kidonakis, grade school band director in Downers Grove. “Professor Carter teaches that anyone of any race, religion or creed can play jazz, but to play it accurately, one must ‘deal with the culture.’ ”
Carter holds precious the love and admiration of his graduates, who are “great players” and “some of the most creative jazz educators in the world.”
“Former students from all over the United States call me to present workshops and clinics for their students,” Carter says. “This makes my job a most rewarding one.”
# # #