An indelible mark in animal sciences
By Rodney Johnson
June 13, 2018

It is a thrill for me to announce the Keith W. and Sara M. Kelley Professorship of Immunophysiology.  The endowed professorship established by a generous gift from the Kelleys is the first to be housed in the Department of Animal Sciences and will recognize and reward a talented and accomplished faculty member conducting research in the area of immunophysiology.  This gift to the Department of Animal Sciences will encourage interdisciplinary activity.  

The Department of Animal Sciences at Illinois, to my best knowledge, is the only animal science department in the world to maintain a concentration of faculty doing research in the immunology space. The emergence of immunophysiology as a discipline within animal sciences traces back to 1984 when Dr. Kelley was hired by department head D. E. Becker.  At the time, the immune system was considered only to protect against infectious disease and there was little to no consideration for how it might engage with other physiological systems.  Dr. Kelley did not accept this notion and ultimately created an entirely new field that has helped us understand important issues concerning stress and disease resistance, immune regulation of growth, infection and changes in behavior, and chronic inflammation and the emergence of affective disorders like depression.   

This professorship is especially meaningful to me, because I earned my M.S. with Dr. Stanley E. Curtis in 1989 and my Ph.D. with Dr. Kelley in 1992.  Incidentally, Keith Kelley earned his Ph.D. with Dr. Curtis and it was the strength of Dr. Curtis’ recommendation (or more likely an arm twist) that landed me a place in the Kelley lab.  Thus, I have been a mentee and friend of Keith’s for nearly 30 years. Sara, who had a long successful tenure as Assistant Dean for Advancement in the College of Applied Health Sciences, certainly played a key role in this exemplary gift!  Her perspective on philanthropy and how it impacts students and faculty made this professorship possible. 

This endowed professorship will help the Department of Animal Sciences attract the best and brightest scholars. The Kelleys have created an indelible mark.