Four Faculty Appointed to Named Professorships

Wesley Autio
Wesley Autio
Thomas J. McCarthy
Thomas J. McCarthy
D. Julian McClements
D. Julian McClements
Steven C. Tracy
Steven C. Tracy

Three faculty members from the College of Natural Sciences and another from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts have been appointed to named professorships in recognition of their scholarly and professional achievements.

Wesley Autio, director of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, was named the Alpha Tau Gamma Fred P. Jeffrey Professor, and Thomas J. McCarthy, polymer science and engineering, D. Julian McClements, food science, and Steven C. Tracy, Afro-American studies, were named distinguished professors. The appointments were recommended by Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and provost Katherine Newman and approved Sept. 21 by the university’s board of trustees.

Wesley Autio came to UMass Amherst as a graduate student after completing his B.S. in horticulture at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1979. He completed his doctorate at UMass in 1985 and immediately accepted a position as assistant professor and extension tree fruit specialist. He received promotion to associate professor in 1991 and to professor in 1997. In July 2012, he became director of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.  

“It has been in this last role that Professor Autio has made his greatest contributions to the institution itself,” wrote Subbaswamy and Newman. “The Stockbridge School, historically devoted to providing limited Associate of Science degrees, has diversified and extended its academic programs under his leadership, now offering four bachelor of science degrees, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. Recently, the Faculty Senate approved formation of the School of Earth and Sustainability. These changes have put Stockbridge on an entirely new and entirely appropriate footing within a research university.”

They also noted Autio’s international reputation for research in the area of fruit production and management with a focus on apple and peach rootstocks. His record includes more than 100 refereed articles and hundreds more research-based extension articles, fact sheets, abstracts and technical reports. He also teaches a broad range of courses, advises undergraduate and graduate students and is involved in outreach education programs for non-academic audiences. For 29 years, he has served as senior editor for Fruit Notes.

Thomas J. McCarthy began his career in the polymer science and engineering (PSE) department in 1982. He achieved early promotion to associate professor in 1986 and promotion to the rank of professor in 1991. He served as head of PSE from 2000-03. Over the last 34 years, he has published more than 160 articles, many of them with hundreds of citations, holds 10 patents and has received several national and international awards and honors, most recently the International Award from the Society of Polymer Science Japan.

According to his nomination, external reviewers cite his extraordinary contributions and impact on polymer science and surface chemistry. They describe his work as“disruptive” and “creative,” breaking new ground, often questioning what is conventional and “hot” in the field and bringing fresh insights to “mature” lines of inquiry.  

The chancellor and provost also cited McCarthy’s “demonstrated commitment to and achievement in mentoring successive generations of scientists.” He has advised some 60 doctoral students and 19 former postdoctoral fellows or visiting scientists. Of these,15 are themselves now in tenure-track academic positions at other universities. Others have gone on to hold important positions in industry or government, including NASA astronaut Cady Coleman.

D. Julian McClements is internationally recognized for his research in emulsion science, colloids and food-based structured delivery systemsfor bioactive components. A member of the food science faculty since 1994, he was promoted to associate professor in 2000 and professor in 2005.

“His 22 years at UMass plus his years before joining our faculty have witnessed stunningly prodigious output. He (along with his research group) has authored four books, edited seven books, published more than 700 scientific articles in refereed venues, published some 45 book chapters and 150 abstracts in conference proceedings. He holds a dozen patents. Despite this amazing record, his output is, if anything, continuing to increase. As his department head notes, he isaveraging publication of more than 40 papers per year and in 2015 published 88,” Subbaswamy and Newman said in their endorsement. “He is the most cited author in the entire field of agriculture.”

McClements has received numerous national and international awards and commendations and is frequently sought  as a keynote speaker and invited lecturer. He has secured almost $12 million in grants and contracts from federal and private sources. His largest grants have come from USDA, but his work regularly receives support from Pepsico, ConAgra, Proctor and Gamble, Kraft Foods and other titans of the food industry.

Steven C. Tracy is considered the leading authority on the intersection of African-American literature and blues music. He is the author of Langston Hughes and the Blues (plus subsequent editions, including a Chinese translation); Going to Cincinnati: A History of the Blues in the Queen City; A Brush with the Blues; and Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature. He has edited or co-edited seven additional books for top academic publishers and has published some 75 book chapters and articles. In recent years, he has responded to growing international interest in African-American literature with global outreach, especially to a burgeoning Chinese audience.

A performer as well as a scholar of the blues, Tracy has played with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, opened for B.B. King, T-Bone Walker and Muddy Waters, and has appeared on national radio and television. “It is very rare to find this combination of scholarly excellence and performance history, but this unique combination has ensured that Tracy is known and admired across many cultural boundaries,” said Subbaswamy and Newman.

Tracy joined the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies in 1995. He as promoted to associate professor in 1998 and to professor in 2002. In 2012, he was named a Fulbright senior specialist at the University of Konstanz in Germany. In 2011, Central China Normal University named him Hubei Province Chu Tian Scholar, beginning an affiliation with CCNU that has now been repeatedly renewed and extended through 2021, providing him opportunities and funding to lecture in Europe as well as in Asia. Tracy has twice been nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award.