The Office of Academic Affairs and Office of HSC Academic Affairs recently announced the promotion of seven University of New Mexico faculty to the rank of Distinguished Professor.

The 2014-15 list includes: Bill Gilbert, Hua Guo, Zachary Sharp, Arthur Bankhorst, Robert Sapien, Daniel Savage and Cheryl Willman.

The rank of Distinguished Professor is the highest faculty title that UNM bestows, and it is awarded to only a few of the most prominent faculty. Individuals who have demonstrated outstanding achievements, and are nationally and internationally renowned as scholars may be considered for this faculty rank.

Bios for 2014-15 recipients
Bill Gilbert
joined the UNM Department of Art and Art History in 1988. He was a Professor of Ceramics until 2007, when he developed and became the director of the widely acclaimed Land Arts of the Southwest program. This groundbreaking program builds upon the distinctive history and landscape of the region, combining visual arts with anthropology, geography and science in an experiential learning environment. The program was endowed by the Lannan Foundation and is further supported by funding from the Mellon Foundation. Gilbert also created the Art and Ecology program at UNM, and has exhibited his own work and curated exhibitions across the U.S. and in Australia, Japan and Greece.


Hua Guo, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, is an internationally renowned theoretical and computational chemist who has made prolific contributions to the fields of quantum mechanics, mode selectivity, transition state dynamics in reactions, heterogeneous catalysis and biochemistry. He has brought millions of dollars of funding to the University, and is as dedicated to teaching as he is to research. He was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2013, and in 2014 won the UNM College of Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award.

Zachary Sharp, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, is an internationally recognized expert on stable isotopes. Using tools that enable him to examine both the presence of water on the moon, and climate change on the earth, his research has attracted millions of dollars in funding from NSF, NASA, NIH and the U.S. Department of Energy. He is also author of the leading textbook on the study of stable isotopes, and a mentor to numerous Ph.D. students.

Dr. Arthur Bankhurst is Chief of Rheumatology and Professor of Medicine at UNM. He began his academic career after training in Internal Medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio.  Dr. Bankhurst began his research training at the Walter and Eliza Hall Research Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia, one of the world’s foremost laboratories in immunology research. He continued his training at the World Health Organization Research Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland and joined the UNM faculty in 1973 as assistant professor with support as Senior Fellow in Rheumatology of the American Arthritis Society. In addition to numerous scholarly activities and national advisory committees, Dr. Bankhurst has trained a large percentage of the rheumatologists in New Mexico and has been the major force in rheumatology training and education in the state for 40 years. He initiated the New Mexico Rheumatic Disease Society and has been president of the organization continuously since inception. Dr. Bankhurst is currently the director of the innovative project ECHO Program in Rheumatology.

Dr. Robert Sapien, Department of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics, serves on several national committees, community boards and has twice been appointed by the governor to committees serving the State of New Mexico, as well as  the Presidential Cabinet Secretary of Health to serve on the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality. He is a committed researcher and scholar, with extraordinary work in the areas of pediatric asthma, emergency medicine services for children and development of improved school nurse programs. The influences of his publications in these areas are highly regarded nationally and internationally. Dr. Sapien also developed the first and only pediatric emergency department in New Mexico. His commitment to the health of the children in New Mexico is inspiring as shown through his work with the emergency preparedness of school nurses in the area of asthma. This work ultimately gave data support for the passage of the Emergency Medications in School legislation which passed in 2014. 

Dr. Daniel Savage is currently a Regents’ Professor & Chair of Neurosciences at UNM School of Medicine. He continues to provide his expertise in the field of biomedical research. He has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, and is an internationally known scholar in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) research.

Dr. Savage has been elected by his peers to the Advisory Board for the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Study Group of the Research Society on Alcoholism, as well as the Board of Directors of the Research Society on Alcoholism. His studies of FASD have provided the most compelling evidence of the impact on a developing brain by moderate ethanol consumption, as well as identifying potential therapeutic interventions that could ameliorate the learning disabilities associated with FASD. He continues to publish original research articles, and is asked to speak nationally and internationally at other prestigious institutions and international meetings such as the International Research Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism. 

Dr. Cheryl Willman received her medical degree from the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn. and she completed an Anatomic Pathology Residency at UNM School of Medicine. She is an internationally recognized leukemia researcher; a founder of the first NCI TARGET Project to discover new therapeutic targets in high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children and adults. As a result of this research, new therapeutic targets and diagnostics have come from this program. She has been the director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center and has led the development of the clinical, research, education and community outreach programs at the center. This work aided in the formal designation of the center as a National Cancer Institute Designated Center in 2005. Dr. Willman has served on numerous committees such as Chair of the Leukemia Translational Medicine Subcommittee, Southwest Oncology Group, American Board of Pathology, Molecular Pathology Test Committee and Board of Directors, American Association of Cancer Institutes as well as many others.