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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


ABOR names two regents’ professors from UA

Robert J. Glennon and Thomas W. Swetnam, two internationally known environmental specialists, were recently named regents’ professors. The title, approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, is given to someone who’s internationally or nationally recognized in their field.

Selected professors must have contributed both to the university through teaching and advising and to a scholarly professional service. The title is awarded to those with the highest merit and unusual contributions to the university. Glennon and Swetnam’s title as regents’ professors will become effective July 1 and the professors will receive a permanent $5,000 salary increase.

Robert J. Glennon

Glennon, the Morris K. Udall professor in the James E. Rogers College of Law, was in Australia when he heard the news almost three weeks ago. His assistant, Barbara Lopez, told him that President Eugene Sander had called to say he’d been appointed.

“I felt like jumping in the air and clicking my heels,” Glennon said. “To think that I would join this very illustrious group was a thrill and an honor and it was also very humbling.”

Glennon teaches constitutional law and water law and has written books on water law: “Water Follies: Ground Water Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters” and “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It.” That book earned him a guest spot on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

He has been a visiting scholar for universities worldwide and a consultant to law firms in the Southwest and in Saudi Arabia, where he assisted in drafting water law. Glennon has served on committees including the faculty hiring committee. He is on sabbatical in Australia this semester on a speaking tour.

“I thought that a career in academics with the freedom to research what I wanted to research … would be very satisfying, and it has been,” Glennon said.

Glennon’s commitment is to teaching and he is proud of his role as a teacher and mentor, he said.
“Professor Glennon’s teaching style is incredibly knowledgeable and he’s a great storyteller,” said Andrew Reeves, a 2011 James E. Rogers College of Law graduate and Glennon’s former student. “He devotes a lot of time to helping his students.”

Glennon also advised Reeves, a Sol Resnick Water Resources fellow, and co-authored a paper with Reeves titled “Solar Energy’s Cloudy Future.”

“I think he really created a conversation that … started on the problems that this country and other countries around the world are facing in the future with water scarcity,” Reeves said.

When he’s not teaching about water law, Glennon loves to fly fish and go white water rafting. He has rafted the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon twice. Glennon also takes white water rafting trips with his wife and two stepchildren.

“I think the regents recognized … how important his work is and how much he’s done at the university over the years,” Reeves said.

Thomas W. Swetnam

Swetnam, dendrochronology professor and director of the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, teaches and analyzes the uses of tree rings to understand forest ecosystems, climate changes, human land uses and insect outbreaks.

“He is absolutely one of the leaders in the field of ecosystem, science and forest ecology,” said Donald Falk, an associate professor of natural resources and Swetnam’s former student. “He’s not simply generating scientific results, but he’s thinking explicitly about how to apply those to managing national forests and national parks and public lands, not only in the Western U.S. but around the world.”

These applications have allowed Swetnam to sit on advisory panels for the governor of Arizona. Former President Bill Clinton also appointed him to serve on a board of trustess and help oversee the creation of a national preserve in New Mexico.

Not only has Swetnam re-shaped scientists’ understanding of forest ecosystems but he has also mentored graduate students who are now leaders in ecology and climatology.

“He doesn’t let his students settle for easy,” Falk said. “He pushes his students.”

As a director in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, Swetnam helped secure funding for the new $9 million Tree-Ring Lab facility that is currently under construction.

“In the field of forest ecology, Tom is such an obvious choice,” Falk said. “He’s been in this leadership position for so long.”

Malcolm K. Hughes, a regents’ professor in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, took part in nominating Swetnam for the title. Hughes considers Swetnam “one of the world’s leading authorities in forest fires.”

“He’s very, very, very smart but he wouldn’t let you know that,” Hughes said. “He’s a quiet guy … and very humble and helpful.”

Swetnam grew up in New Mexico and graduated from the University of New Mexico in Albequerque. When Swetnam isn’t doing tree-ring research or teaching, he likes taking hikes in the desert with his wife and two poodles. Swetnam said he was “very happy” to hear about his honor.

“I also felt humbled because I know a number of other regents’ professors at UA, ASU and NAU, and I admire them and their accomplishments, which seem greater than mine,” Swetnam said.

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