The Office of the Provost has announced that Cathy Pederson, professor of biology, is the first holder of newly established Elizabeth (Betty) E. Powelson Endowed Chair in Biology. Endowed chairs are permanently funded positions typically established through gifts from donors to support excellence in teaching and scholarship.
Powelson, professor of biology, was an important influence on hundreds of biology majors during her 44-year career at Wittenberg University. The position was created with an initial gift from Powelson and through donations from her students and friends to honor her legacy following her passing in May 2015 at the age of 91.
“I’m incredibly honored to have been named the first recipient of the Powelson Endowed Chair in Biology,” Pederson said. “Betty was a colleague and friend who always put her students first. Approximately 20 years ago, she singlehandedly kept me at Wittenberg. My first two years, I filled a visiting position and was applying to other schools when she sacrificed her salary to open a permanent slot for me in the department. Betty continued to teach full-time for several more years, earning just $1 so that she qualified for health insurance. Today, she is changing my life again. Thank you, Betty, for your incredible generosity to Wittenberg and to me!”
Pederson, Wittenberg class of 1991, completed her doctoral work at Rutgers University in New Jersey and then returned to Wittenberg as a faculty member where she has been dedicated to student success for 23 years. Teaching courses in human anatomy and physiology, neurobiology, and pharmacology, she has been recognized for her excellence in teaching with the Omicron Delta Kappa Excellence in Teaching Award in 1999. She was also named to the Project Kaleidoscope Faculty for the 21st Century by the class of 2000, and was named an Honorary Class Member in 2013.
“Cathy is committed to giving students opportunities to perform independent hypothesis-driven research projects, both as part of courses that she teaches and as outside-the-classroom experiences,” said Mary Jo Zembar, interim provost and professor of psychology. “Over her career, Dr. Pederson has published journal submissions or abstracts with more than 100 students. Her commitment to student success is deep and abiding. While Dr. Pederson is active in mentoring students in their own independent research projects, she has also recently carved a very distinctive research niche in the field of chronic illness - specifically Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), publishing eight articles on chronic illness and/or POTS the past two years.”
Pederson’s publications can be found in a broad range of journals including Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapeutics, Journal of Health Science and Education, Clinical Autonomic Research, Counseling Today, and Nature and Science of Sleep. The diversity of these recent publications indicates a broad impact to many disciplinary fields. She has served on both elected and appointed university committees and was instrumental in creating both the neuroscience and health science minors here at Wittenberg.
In 2014, she founded Standing Up to POTS®, a 501(c)(3) organization created to improve the quality of life for people with POTS. Since its founding, Standing Up to POTS® has raised more than $75,000, awarded over $60,000 in grant money to researchers who study POTS, and provided support for individuals and their families living with POTS.