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The inaugural designation at RIT is given to faculty who have exhibited a record of singular excellence sustained over the course of their careers.


2019 Recipients

John Klofas, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Criminal Justice

Founder and Director Emeritus, Center for Public Safety Initiatives

College of Liberal Arts

  • Joined RIT in 1989

  • Under Dr. Klofas’ leadership, the Center for Public Safety Initiatives received more than

  • $20 million in external funding and managed research projects at the local, state, and national levels

  • Enhanced crime analysis at Rochester Police Department and helped develop the NY State Crime Analysis Centers

  • Developed research instruments and databases to analyze gun crime patterns and interventions

  • As the chair of RIT’s Department of Criminal Justice, Dr. Klofas developed a minor and master’s program in criminal justice

  • Recipient of more than 15 awards, including RIT’s Four Presidents Distinguished Public Service Award

  • Member of numerous task forces and councils, including the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium and NY Municipal Police Training Council, appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo

  • Author or co-author of 30 articles, 14 chapters, five books, and 24 reports/publications

  • Ph.D., MA, criminal justice, State University of New York at Albany; BA, sociology, College of the Holy Cross


Josh Owen, MFA

Professor, School of Design

Director, Industrial Design Program

College of Art and Design

  • Previous professional experience includes serving an associate professor and Craig R. Benson Chair for Innovation at Philadelphia University and as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design
  • In addition to his teaching and leadership roles at RIT, he maintains his eponymous design studio based in Rochester, N.Y.
  • Owen’s professional projects are included in 43 books and have been featured in numerous international and national media platforms, including Abitare, Intramuros, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and Fast Company
  • Author of books called Big Ideas / Small Packages, Lenses for Design and the forthcoming Design for Study
  • Designer of 50 products that were put into mass production
  • Recipient of multiple awards, including the International Design Award
  • His works are included in the permanent design collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Chicago Athenaeum, The Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal, the Nation Museum of Jewish History, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Taiwan Design Museum in Taipei
  • MFA, furniture design, Rhode Island School of Design; BA, visual studies BFA, sculpture, Cornell University

Bruce Smith, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Microsystems Engineering

Director, Microsystems Engineering Ph.D. program

Kate Gleason College of Engineering

  • Joined RIT in 1988
  • Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, of the Optical Society of America, and of SPIE, the International Society for Optical Engineering
  • Holds 27 U.S. and foreign patents in semiconductor technology
  • PI on numerous research grants from agencies including DARPA, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, SEMATECH, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Air Force Research Laboratories, Intel, IBM, and several other semiconductor companies
  • Research advisor to more than 20 Ph.D. students and 25 master’s level students throughout his career
  • Author of more than 200 publications, several book chapters, and one textbook
  • Recipient of more than 15 research and leadership awards, including Inventor of the Year from the Rochester Intellectual Property Law Association and RIT’s Trustee’s Scholarship Award
  • Member of RIT’s Innovation Hall of Fame
  • Founded Amphibian Systems Inc., a semiconductor R&D company supported in startup by RIT
  • Ph.D., MS, BS, photographic and imaging science, Rochester Institute of Technology

At RIT, the Distinguished Professor designation constitutes as the highest title that the university can accord a member of the professoriate. 

Eligibility Requirements

Distinguished Professors shall be Professors holding tenure (or granted tenure under expedited review, see Policy E06.1) and have exhibited a record of singular excellence sustained over the course of their careers, as demonstrated by extraordinary scholarly contributions manifested in leading journal publications, books, or creative accomplishments; and at least one of the following:

  1. Preeminent teaching ability that creates significant and lasting contributions to the practice of teaching that go beyond the university; or, 
  2. Exemplary service that impacts one’s professional field or the lives of others in extraordinary ways.

Nomination Procedure

Nomination for the Distinguished Professor title is initiated by the nominee’s dean or by an RIT Professor.  Self-nominations are prohibited.

Selecting a Distinguished Professor

Each college forms a Distinguished Professor Committee and selects one nominee to continue in the process. College nominations are then forwarded to the University Distinguished Professor Committee, which reviews each nominee. 

Terms for Distinguished Professors

The designation of Distinguished Professor is a title with a renewable five-year term. The provost shall notify Distinguished Professors by September 1 of the fifth year of the current term that continuation will be evaluated, and request a written self-evaluation. The Distinguished Professor seeking renewal shall submit a self-evaluation to the provost by November 1 of the fifth year of the current term.  The self-evaluation shall address how the Distinguished Professor has sustained a level of accomplishment and impact consistent with the criteria above.  After reviewing the self-evaluation of the Distinguished Professor, the provost, in consultation with the chair of the University Distinguished Professor Committee and the dean of the Distinguished Professor’s home college, may choose not to renew the title of Distinguished Professor.  Failure to submit a self-evaluation by November 1 shall result in non-renewal.

For more information about this designation, please click here