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Three UT Austin Faculty Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

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Literature scholar Geraldine Heng, classicist Thomas Palaima, and psychologist James Pennebaker

Three University of Texas at Austin faculty members are being inducted this weekend into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which was founded in 1780 to recognize “excellence … from every field of human endeavor.”

Literature scholar Geraldine Heng, classicist Thomas Palaima and psychologist James Pennebaker are among the 269 new members of the academy, which draws its members from academia, the arts, industry, policy, research and science. Election to membership marks a significant recognition of excellence and leadership in the career of an electee, and among its current members the academy includes 250 Nobel laureates and more than 60 Pulitzer Prize winners.

“UT Austin is incredibly proud of these faculty for their election to the academy,” said Vice President for Research Daniel Jaffe. “They’re being honored by an elite cohort of their peers, the people who know best what constitutes excellence over the arc of a career. I can think of no higher honor than that.”

Geraldine Heng, the Mildred Hajek Vacek and John Roman Vacek Chair in the Department of English, is a scholar of medieval literature and one of the pioneers of the study of the “global” middle ages. Her books include “Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy,” “The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages,” and “The Global Middle Ages: An Introduction,” the first title in the Cambridge Elements series in the Global Middle Ages. She is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy and Founder and Director of the Global Middle Ages Projects (G-MAP).

Thomas G. Palaima, the Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor and Director of the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (PASP), is a scholar of Aegean scripts and prehistory, Greek language, war and violence, and Bob Dylan. He received a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship in 1985, and is the author or editor of, among other books, “The Triple Invention of Writing in Cyprus and Written Sources for Cypriote History,” “Animal-Human Interactions in the Aegean Middle and Late Bronze Age,” and “TA-U-RO-QO-RO Studies in Mycenaean Texts, Language and Culture in Honor of José Luis Melena Jiménez.” Palaima is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London, and serves on the editorial advisory board of The Dylan Review and Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici.

James W. Pennebaker, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, is a social psychologist with interests in text analysis, health, and ways people, groups, and cultures cope with upheavals. His cross-disciplinary research is related to linguistics, clinical and cognitive psychology, communications, medicine, and computer science. His text analysis program, LIWC, is well known in psychology, business, and computer science. Pennebaker, who has received numerous research and teaching awards, is the author or editor of 12 books and over 300 articles.

“Professors Heng, Palaima and Pennebaker are all giants in their respective fields who have led and continue to lead their disciplinary dialogues,” said Ann Huff Stevens, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We are overjoyed that the AAAS has honored their contributions, and grateful for the impacts they have all made on liberal arts education at UT.”

When announcing this year’s new members, Academy President David W. Oxtoby said, “With the election of these members, the Academy is honoring excellence, innovation, and leadership and recognizing a broad array of stellar accomplishments. We hope every new member celebrates this achievement and joins our work advancing the common good.”

This year’s election of new members to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences maintains a commitment to honoring excellence that began more than 240 years ago when the Academy’s founders — including John Adams and John Hancock — envisioned an organization that would recognize accomplished individuals and engage them in addressing the greatest challenges facing the young nation. The first members elected to the Academy in 1781 included Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

The new class, which also includes UT System Chancellor James B. Milliken, will be inducted at a ceremony on Sept. 30 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The list of the class of new members can be viewed at amacad.org/directory.