Publisher's note: The author of this post, Rich Klindworth, is a contributor to ECU News Services.
Dr. Joe Houmard and Dr. Paul DeVita in East Carolina University's College of Health and Human Performance have been named the first two LeRoy T. Walker Distinguished Professors.
The endowed professorships were named in honor of the late Dr. LeRoy T. Walker. DeVita and Houmard worked with Walker during his time at ECU in an effort to bring better science to athletes and coaches in order to maximize performance. Dr. Walker was also a former U.S. Olympic track and field coach, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee and chancellor of North Carolina Central University. The professorship is a three-year term and provides each professor with a $10,000 salary enhancement and at least $10,000 for expenses.
Houmard said it was "amazing"
to receive this honor. "Dr. Walker was quite a person in terms of trying to promote the Olympic movement and help athletes learn more and he loved the science of sport. It's quite an honor to have something with his name on it."
Houmard is the director of the Human Performance Laboratory and the Houmard Lab. Those working in the Houmard Lab study muscles at the molecular level to better understand obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
"The goal is to figure out in muscle what the metabolic problem is because we can't do anything about it until we know the problem and then to find out how things like weight loss through gastric bypass surgery and exercise can correct those problems,"
DeVita is the director of the Biomechanics Laboratory and works with people who have osteoarthritis, older adults and those who are obese.
"The main goal of all of that work is to enhance human health and to improve the health status and the quality of life of all of these individuals."
DeVita said. "One of our big contributions has been the discovery that older adults selectively adapt to their health state by changing the way they use their lower extremity muscles."
DeVita said the endowed professorship will allow them to fund more research and attend scientific meetings to present their findings.
"The work of these accomplished scientists exemplifies the great research that defines our college and university,"
said Dr. Glen Gilbert, dean of the College of Health and Human Performance. "I am confident with this pair of professorships there will be additional significant contributions to science."
The LeRoy T. Walker Distinguished Professorship can be renewed for an additional three years.
The endowed professorships were made possible by Walker's donation of patents to ECU, which were converted to stock, and matching state funds. A third endowed professorship in the College of Health and Human Performance is planned within the next couple of years.