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BRISTOL, Tenn., April 15, 2014 – During King University’s annual Dogwood Weekend,
Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis was named the first recipient of the Dr. Edward W. Burke, Jr.
Professorship in the Natural Sciences.
The Dr. Edward W. Burke, Jr. Professorship in the Natural Sciences was developed in
memoriam of Dr. Burke’s years of dedicated service to the sciences and to King. One
of King’s most beloved professors, Dr. Burke spent more than 40 years mentoring students
at King and developed programming for the University that will have positive impacts
far into the future.
“His legacy included building strong science at King and a reputation to go along
with it,” said Dr. Ray Bloomer, emeritus professor of Physics and Astronomy for King
University. “[Dr. Burke] recruited the best talent to teach and gave them the tools
and direction to do so. His tenacity in building science programs is legend.”
“This was truly a special occasion at King University,” said John King, vice president
for Development and Enrollment Management. “Saturday marked the completion of the
initial funding of the Dr. Edward W. Burke, Jr. Professorship in the Natural Sciences
along with the announcement of the first professor who will hold that title. We were
pleased to name Dr. Vanessa Fitsanakis as the first recipient of the Dr. Edward W.
Burke, Jr. Professorship in the Natural Sciences.”
Fitsanakis graduated from Milligan College in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry
and minor in Mathematics. She earned her Master’s in Science and Technology in 1997
at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She then earned her Ph.D. in Neuroscience
at Vanderbilt University in 2003. Her post-doctoral fellowship was served at Wake
Forest University Medical School.
Fitsanakis joined King in 2006 and has served the Biology Department its chair as
well as acting as faculty advisor to the Pre-Med Club and the King Club for Neuroscience.
In 2007, she was awarded a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Fellowship
worth $300,000, which has strengthened her research program on the toxicity of certain
common chemicals to assess their possible damage to animal nervous systems.
She has published two dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals. She also has engaged
dozens of King undergraduate students in her research, so they could learn the excitement
and sometimes meticulous nature of doing research. Several of her students have worked
for the Biology Department upon graduation prior to entering graduate and professional
“Fitsanakis’ academic credentials, extensive research accomplishments including publishing
with her students, and support for her students before and after their graduation
is an extraordinary record and one worthy of holding the professorship established
in tribute to the legacy of Dr. Ed Burke,” said Dr. Bloomer.
King University is a Presbyterian, doctoral-level comprehensive university. Founded in 1867 as King
College, the University offers more than 90 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees
and concentrations in fields such as business, nursing, law, medical and health sciences,
pharmacy, education, and humanities. Graduate programs are offered in business administration,
education, and nursing. A number of research, off-campus learning opportunities, and
travel destinations are also available. King University is a NCAA Division II and
a Conference Carolinas member with 25 varsity sports. For more information about King
University, visit www.king.edu. King University does not discriminate against academically qualified students of
any race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, age, or disability. King University
is certified by SCHEV to operate locations in Virginia. For more information, contact
the King University office at Southwest Virginia Community College, 309 College Road,
Richlands, VA 24641.