The Office of the Provost has recognized four new recipients of the Carolina Distinguished Professorship, which is one of the highest honors a faculty member can achieve. Honoring their excellence in scholarship, teaching and mentorship, the professorship is awarded to faculty members who are internationally acclaimed for outstanding work in their fields.
“These professors have been incredible leaders invested in the growth of their departments and outstanding contributors to the institution as a whole,” says Provost Donna Arnett. “The University of South Carolina is fortunate to be the academic home for faculty of such a high caliber.”
Chuanbing Tang, professor of chemistry and biochemistry
Chuanbing Tang is a University Eminent Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences. He researches bioplastics, biomedicines and energy with a focus on replacing plastics with renewable biobased polymers, addressing antibiotic resistance and exploring the potential of metal-containing polymers. Tang is one of the university’s foremost researchers, with over 160 publications and nearly $10 million in grants from the National Institute of Health, the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.
The United States government awarded him the highest honor for independent scientists, the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, and he is internationally known for several prestigious fellowships including the American Chemical Society. Beyond his professional accolades, Tang is a remarkable instructor, mentor and advisor who was given the Distinguished Undergraduate Research Mentor Award. He contributes to the Columbia community as creator of a summer program for high school students from impoverished backgrounds, which enabled 40 students to graduate and consider pursuing higher education.
Clifford Leaman, professor of saxophone
Clifford Leaman is a professor of saxophone as well as associate dean and director of graduate studies in the School of Music. He has performed internationally as a solo act and in chamber groups and large ensembles, spanning a wide variety of genres, venue types, and inviting organizations and societies. Leaman’s performances have been in demand since the 1990s, but in the early 2000s, he expanded his international reputation as an expert in saxophone research and pedagogy.
Leaman stands out among the music faculty at the School of Music as a particularly outstanding instructor and mentor. He has taught several students who went on to become nationally recognized in their own professional music careers. In addition to his work with the school, he created one of the country’s best classical saxophone programs of study at all three academic levels. In recognition for his contribution to the university, he was honored with the Michael J. Mungo Distinguished Professor Award in 2017.
Robert Ployhart, professor of business administration
Robert Ployhart is a professor of business administration in the Department of Management at the Darla Moore School of Business. He leads the fields of staffing and human capital internationally and is a prolific publisher who ranks among the most highly cited business and economics researchers. Ployhart’s work delves into basic science and applied research, allowing him to advance the fields of psychology and human resource management. As a result of the range of his work, he has been honored as a fellow of both basic and professional societies, including the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science, the Academy of Management and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Ployhart is an outstanding instructor and mentor to a significant number of undergraduate and graduate students. He serves as academic director for the Master of Human Resources program and, as a member of the Center of Executive Succession, he leads the Talent Leaders Network and facilitates the collaboration of industry leaders.
Holly Crocker, professor of English and literature
Holly Crocker is a professor in the Department of English Language and Literature in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is a well-known scholar of Middle English literature, widely considered one of the best of her generation, and is regarded as the leading voice of modern feminist medieval studies. Crocker has earned both national and international grants and fellowships from organizations such as the Mellon Foundation, Fulbright and the Institutes for Advanced Studies in Humanities at Goethe University and the University of Edinburgh. She has also held leadership roles in the Modern Literature Association and the New Chaucer Society.
Crocker is a remarkable instructor who consistently attracts students impressed by her ability to make medieval literature accessible and relevant. In addition, she founded and now directs the Humanities Collaborative at the university. In this role, Crocker develops programs and sponsors research to advance interdisciplinary humanities work. In the past, she served as graduate director of the English program and director of the First-Year English program.