Two Pomona Faculty Get Named Professorships

Two Pomona College faculty members were appointed to prestigious professorship positions Feb. 28. The Board of Trustees approved recommendations for the appointments of Zayn Kassam to the John Knox McLean Religion Professorship and Stephen V. Marks to the Elden Smith Economics Professorship.   

The John Knox McLean Religion Professorship was previously occupied by Jerry Irish, who retired last spring.  

“I feel deeply humbled because the Professorship has hitherto been held by my cherished colleague, friend, mentor, and former Dean of the College, Jerry Irish,” Kassam said in an e-mail to TSL. “I feel awed to be carrying on the tradition of the professorship he has held all these years, and still have difficulty believing that the Board of Trustees and Pomona College’s administration bestowed this honor on me.”

Kassam said that theologist John Knox McLean shared many of her interests, including the study of religion as a force for positive social change, environmental stewardship and the challenges faced by women.

Kassam, whose focus is Islamic and Indian philosophy, began teaching at Pomona in 1995. Her favorite course is her first-year seminar, Muslim Literary Landscapes.

Marks came to Pomona in 1997. His areas of interests include law and economics and the Indonesian economy.

“I’m thrilled,” Marks wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “It has felt really good to be congratulated by students and members of the faculty and staff.”

“The past few years have been productive for me. I’ve gotten into print for some research projects that I’ve been working on for a long time, longer than one would care to admit in some cases!” Marks wrote.

Marks said he has enjoyed the research. For example, finding out the distance by sea from Finland to Bangkok in order to calculate Lao trade.

The Elden Smith Economics Professorship was previous held by Frank Wykoff, who came to Pomona in 1968 and retired in 2008.

Both Kassam and Marks expressed appreciation for Pomona.  

“If I put it all together, I count myself as incredibly fortunate to be working at a place like Pomona College,” Marks said.

Kassam said that engaging with the students at Pomona has been the most rewarding experience for her.  

“Sometimes I think, ‘Really? They’re paying me to do what I love?’” she said.

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