Emeritus chemical engineering professor Duncan Mellichamp and his wife Suzanne recently donated $2 million in order to establish a new cluster of four endowed chairs at UCSB, making a total of 12 clustered Mellichamp Academic Initiative Professorships and 13 Mellichamp chairs since their first contribution of a single chair in 2001.

The Mellichamps have given a total of $6 million to establish outstanding Academic Initiative Professorships since 2003 — the largest sum of contributions ever given by a UCSB faculty member. The Mellichamps plan to move the clusters of professorships into a new area every 15 years with one of the three being given a refreshed and reallocated key emphasis area every five years, as determined by campus needs.

According to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, the funding has been channeled into unique and extremely beneficial routes within the campus community.

“For a professor to be moved to make this kind of gigantic and unbelievably generous financial investment in the campus where he has already given so much is truly unprecedented and historic,” Yang said in an email. “He is a wonder in the academic community.”

Although Duncan Mellichamp retired in 2003 after almost 40 years of teaching, he continues to co-teach one chemical engineering course and conduct research in plant design. As one of the founding fathers of UCSB’s chemical engineering department, Mellichamp said he remembers the campus when the department was still new.

“I was here during the start of the chemical engineering program, when engineering then was just barely out of the egg,” Mellichamp said.

The professor was also a former chair of the campus Academic Senate, a former chair of the UC’s systemwide Academic Senate as the Faculty Representative to the Board of Regents and is now a UCSB Foundation Trustee. According to Mellichamp, his time spent in academia has given him a well-rounded perspective on the UC.

“I have a tremendous amount of experience in academics, and [UCSB] is the best campus of all other campuses in the system,” Mellichamp said. “This campus has done more with state resources than any other campus in the system.”

The first cluster of Mellichamp chairs was established in systems biology as a combination of molecular biology and systems engineering geared toward understanding biological processes as a whole, rather than as separate parts.

The second cluster focuses on globalization with an emphasis on global society, history and culture. According to UCSB Mellichamp Professor of Global Studies and Sociology Jan Nederveen Pieterse, it is a tremendously important development that strengthens social sciences and humanities at UCSB, helping our campus rank among the top global studies university degree programs in the world.

“UCSB is a leading force in global studies. In the 1990s, it established the global studies undergrad major, the global studies M.A. program and thereafter has built the program with outstanding faculty,” Pieterse said. “In recent years, global studies has been mushrooming in the world with centers, programs, conferences, journals and more — all engaged with the growing momentum of globalization. This trend will only grow and UCSB is very well placed in this momentum.”

The recently established third cluster will be determined after a call for proposals from the campus. According to Yang, the Mellichamps’ contribution provides UCSB a window of opportunity to progress in different directions as a center for academic research.

“This gives our campus unusual flexibility to take on unique, new and innovative fields that are on the horizon,” Yang said. “We are able to recruit and retain top-notch faculty to build clusters of research excellence that are highly interdisciplinary, highly collaborative and the best in the world.”