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Professorships awarded to two exceptional W&M faculty members

By University Advancement September 2, 2015

To help kick off the 2015-16 academic year, Dawn Mansfield Arnall ’80, M.B.A. ’82, has donated more than $1 million to William & Mary to establish the Mansfield Professorship in honor of her family. Arnall’s gift will fund faculty positions in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business and Arts & Sciences. 

Faculty members Patricia L. Vahle and H. Katherine Guthrie were honored with the named professorships and will be recognized for two years as the Mansfield Associate Professor of Physics and the Mansfield Associate Professor of Business, respectively. The university awards named professorships to exceptional faculty members with a deep commitment to engaged learning, collaboration and research. Emphasis is placed on those faculty members who are advancing an enriching academic experience for students both in and out of the classroom. 

The driving force behind Arnall’s decision to establish the Mansfield Professorship was the unique opportunity provided to her as a student to closely interact and collaborate with world-class professors.

“William & Mary is one of the few universities in the U.S. with small class sizes and professors who actually teach the class, not a teacher's assistant. We are unique in this way and we should be very proud of this fact,” said Arnall. “I have great fondness for my years at William & Mary because professors took interest in me as a student — this made classes more interesting and I made more of an effort because of this interaction.”

"In today’s academic environment, recruiting and retaining the best and brightest professors is highly competitive. For this reason, William & Mary is poised to build on efforts to better attract and retain top-notch faculty," said Matthew T. Lambert, vice president for university advancement. "Private support is an important vehicle for helping the university accomplish this and a critical means for William & Mary to provide an education of the highest caliber."

William & Mary currently has the lowest student-faculty ratio — 12-to-1 — of any public university in the country. The university is also ranked first among public institutions and second among all universities for best undergraduate teaching, according to a 2015 U.S. News & World Report study. 

“The success of William & Mary is driven first and foremost by the excellence of our faculty, who are the lifeblood of any great university,” said William & Mary Provost Michael R. Halleran. “Professors such as Katherine and Trish expand our understanding of the social and physical worlds, and through their innovation and dedication deeply enrich the intellectual community for our faculty and students alike.”

“William & Mary professors were mentors to me and they helped me realize my full potential. I credit many of my personal and professional successes to the interactions I had with faculty who helped me during my most formative years at the university,” added Arnall. "The successes many alumni have achieved in life can be attributed to the educational foundation that William & Mary provided. For this reason, it is important to provide others with the same opportunities we had as students." 

Arnall’s parents – Welton and Beata Mansfield — both grew up in the same town in Illinois but met each other while attending William & Mary in the 1950s. They were the reasons why she decided to study at the university. 

Arnall is currently chair of the SBP Capital Corporation and has more than two decades of professional experience in the financial services and real estate industries. She is a member of the board of Directors of Conservation International and former Chair of National Geographic’s International Council of Advisors. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and is a member of the George W. Bush Women’s Advisory Board. Dawn also supports other causes such as cancer research and non-profits that help underprivileged children. She will be joining the College of William & Mary Foundation as a trustee in October. 

“Private gifts supporting named professorships signal to faculty across campus that they are mission critical and we are thrilled with Dawn’s contribution in this area,” said Lambert. "Investment in human talent and intellectual capital is fundamental to William & Mary and the success of its students and faculty. For this reason, philanthropic support for both scholarships and professorships are top fundraising priorities for the university.”

Patricia L. Vahle

Patricia Vahle’s research is centered around understanding the behavior of the neutrino, one of the fundamental sub-atomic particles. Neutrinos are a particle produced in the weak decay of other particles. Neutrinos are electrically neutral, have only a small mass and interact only via the weak interaction. The interactions of neutrinos in matter are so weak, on average a neutrino from the sun can travel through a light-year long brick of lead without being absorbed.

Before joining William & Mary’s physics department in 2007, Vahle held an academic position at the University College London. She earned her Ph.D. in physics at the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 on “The Calibration of Electromagnetic Interactions in the MINOS Detectors.”

Vahle has secured seven fellowships, grants and contracts combined from outside agencies, four of which coming from the National Science Foundation. As of 2012, there are 41 publications featuring Vahle.

H. Katherine Guthrie

California native Katherine Guthrie brings a wealth of research and teaching experience to the Mason School of Business. She earned her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan, and received a dual B.A. in economics and international relations from UC Davis.

Guthrie is an expert on current issues in corporate governance and household finance. She has published her research in peer-reviewed finance, accounting and economics journals, including the Journal of Finance, the flagship journal for academic research in finance. Using theory and cutting-edge empirical methods, she has studied the effectiveness of board independence, CEO incentive pay, ownership by sophisticated institutional investors and blockholders, as well as regulatory reforms in corporate governance. In ongoing research, she is exploring household financial decision-making and the role of obesity in financial markets.

Since joining William & Mary, Guthrie has taught corporate finance and debt markets & securitization in both our Undergraduate Business Program and the Master of Accounting Program (MAcc). She is one of the pillars of the undergraduate finance program and has made many noteworthy contributions in and out of the classroom to promote undergraduate learning and career development. Most recently, she spearheaded efforts to design and implement a distinguished finance track for undergraduate finance majors. Guthrie is the recipient of several prestigious honors and awards, among them the Faculty Excellence Award, the Alfred N. Page Undergraduate Teaching Award and the Geary Faculty Fellowship.

She is married and the mother to four children. Guthrie enjoys spending time with her family and competing in triathlons and marathons.