College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

University Creates Distinguished Professor Honor

Three faculty named inaugural honorees based on research, teaching excellence and reputation

MAY 11, 2018 BY SHEA STEWART

Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of Russian and linguistics, has been named a Distinguished Professor. Photo by Kevin Bain/

Donald Dyer, associate dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts, and professor of Russian and linguistics, was named a Distinguished Professor at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Three University of Mississippi faculty members were appointed as Distinguished Professors during the spring faculty meeting Friday (May 11) in Fulton Chapel.

The honorees are Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of Russian and linguistics; John Daigle, director of the Center for Wireless Communications and professor of electrical engineering; and Ikhlas A. Khan, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research and professor of pharmacognosy.

The Distinguished Professor is a new designation that recognizes the best faculty with sustained excellence at UM. The award was created in response to the university’s strategic initiative to develop a post-professorial recognition.

“I am thrilled that we now have a way to further recognize our most outstanding faculty members,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “The accomplishments of the university are really the accomplishments of its people.

“This is an outstanding way for us to properly acknowledge the value of excellence and the contributions made by these faculty members to their disciplines and our community of scholars.”

Dyer earned his undergraduate degree in Russian from the University of North Carolina in 1980, and his master’s and doctorate in Slavic linguistics from the University of Chicago, in 1982 and 1990, respectively. He joined the Ole Miss faculty in 1988.

He served as chair of the Department of Modern Languages from 2005 to 2017 and was awarded the 2017 Thomas F. Frist Sr. Student Service Award, which recognizes a faculty member for going the extra mile in unwavering dedication and service to students. He is the editor of Balkanistica, a peer-reviewed journal of Balkan studies.

He has served as co-director of the Chinese Language Flagship Program since 2005 and has taught classes such as Freshman Honors II in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and topics in linguistics. His teaching and research interests include Slavic and Balkan linguistics and language in contact.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Dr. Dyer embodies what we in the College of Liberal Arts have determined (via our guidelines) to merit this award,” wrote Lee M. Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of psychology, in his recommendation letter.

“Dr. Dyer has made a significant positive impact at the University of Mississippi over the past three decades, all the while making a name for himself as one of the most distinguished scholars in his field. His work is creative, impactful and has a wide range of influence.”

“Effusive praise of his work comes from the Department of Modern Languages and across the nation, and it rings loudly throughout the international scholarly community,” wrote Daniel O’Sullivan, UM chair and professor of modern languages, in his letter of support.

John Daigle, director of the Center for Wireless Communications and professor of electrical engineering, is one of three University of Mississippi faculty members appointed as a Distinguished Professor. Photo by Robert Jordan/

John Daigle, director of the Center for Wireless Communications and professor of electrical engineering, is one of three University of Mississippi faculty members appointed as a Distinguished Professor. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Daigle joined the faculty in 1994 after earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Louisiana Tech University in 1968, his master’s in electrical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1969 and his doctorate of engineering science in operations research from Columbia University in 1977.

He was named as an Erskine fellow by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 2009, was the 2004 recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Communications Society Technical Committee on Computer Communications Outstanding Service Award and was named an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow in 1993.

Daigle also is a member of Eta Kappa Nu, the honor society of the IEEE; Omega Rho, the international honor society for operations research and management science; and Sigma Xi, an international honor society of science and engineering.

A professor who has recently taught undergraduate and graduate classes such as local area networks and applied probability modeling, Daigle conducts research into the analysis and design of communication networks and systems.

“Professor John Daigle has an illustrious career that spans more than 46 years, primarily in academia, but also some years in military and high-tech companies,” wrote Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, in his letter of support to Daigle’s appointment. “Professor Daigle has an exemplary research record and has contributed strongly in teaching, student mentorship and service to (his) profession and the university.

“John holds (a) cherished conviction that a student should graduate from the school with sound fundamentals. He also believes that a strong learning ability need not necessarily be gifted at birth or developed in early childhood, but can be acquired through hard work and perseverance. Hence, he advocates greater access to college education and at the same time upholding rigorous requirements for graduation.”

Ikhlas A. Khan, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research and professor of pharmacognosy, has been appointed as a Distinguished Professor at UM. Photo by Kevin Bain/O

Ikhlas A. Khan, director of the National Center for Natural Products Research and professor of pharmacognosy, has been appointed as a Distinguished Professor at UM. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Khan earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University in India in 1980, a master’s in organic chemistry from Aligarh Muslim University in India in 1982 and his doctorate in pharmacy from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Biology in Germany in 1987.

He has been at Ole Miss since 1992, but worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the university in 1988 and 1989. From 1989 to 1992, Khan worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

He also serves as coordinator for Natural Products Research in the Center for Water and Wetland Resources, among other academic and research appointments.

In 2016 Khan received the UM Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award, and in 2002 he was awarded the UM School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award. He is a fellow in the American Institute of Chemists and the Royal Society of Chemistry, and is a member of the American Chemical Society.

Earlier this year he received the AOAC International’s 2018 Harvey W. Wiley Award, which recognizes lifetime scientific achievement.

His research interests include efforts related to medicinal plants, drug discovery and applications of analytical tools in evaluation of quality and safety of dietary supplements.

“Dr. Khan’s career at UM is consistent with the expectations of a Distinguished Professor appointment,” wrote Kristie Willett, chair of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences and professor of pharmacology and environmental toxicology. “He in fact has ‘exemplary accomplishments in research’ and potentially unprecedented amongst UM faculty ‘international recognition in his field.’

“His research productivity and service to the field of pharmacognosy as measured by publications, invited presentations, editorial and advisory boards and international awards are outstanding. Furthermore, he has provided mentorship to nearly 40 graduate students in our department over his career.”

The three professors were officially recognized during the spring faculty meeting.

No more than 5 percent of eligible faculty can be appointed as a Distinguished Professor. Each school and college has their own guidelines for nominating their faculty, but the university requires that nominated faculty have at least six years of service at the highest rank of professor, along with exemplary accomplishments in research and creative achievement, teaching and service.

Also, it is expected that awardees will have achieved a significant degree of national or international recognition.

The recommended appointments are made by a committee of faculty chosen by the Faculty Senate and the provost, and the committee has representatives from across campus.