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An short excerpt from the book Operating System Concepts with Java:

Abraham Silberschatz is the Sidney J. Weinberg Professor & Chair of Computer Science at Yale University. Prior to joining Yale, he was the Vice President of the Information Sciences Research Center at Bell Laboratories. Prior to that, he held a chaired professorship in the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

I'm a little bit confused as to how to interpret his fancy-sounding title. Why is it used with a definite article? Is it because there is only one professor with that kind of title at Yale University? I would have no problem understanding it if the article only applied to Chair since an organization usually has only one chair in their ranks.

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It looks like there are actually two titles here. Unfortunately, the common terminology for them makes things more confusing because the title 'Chair' can mean two different things.

First, many universities have endowed professorship positions within their various departments. In the United States, these positions are commonly called "Chairs" (or "Endowed Chairs.") These 'Chairs' are usually named after the person or group that endowed (permanently funded) the position. For example, my university department had a "Boeing-Stonecipher Chair of Computer Science," which was endowed by Boeing and its former CEO, Harry Stonecipher. The professor who currently occupies an endowed chair position is usually titled either as the name of the chair or as the name of the chair with the word 'Professor' replacing the word 'Chair.' To use the previous example from my university, the occupant of the position would be called the "Boeing-Stonecipher Professor of Computer Science" or the "Boeing-Stonecipher Chair of Computer Science." See this question from academia.se for more information on endowed chairs at universities.

Second, unfortunately, the "endowed chair" term can create some ambiguity because the head member of the faculty of an academic department is also usually called the "Department Chair." This title indicates the head administrative position within an academic department's faculty.

In the case of the citation given in the question, I would interpret "the Sidney J. Weinberg Professor & Chair of Computer Science" to mean that Dr. Silberschatz is both the Department Chair of the Computer Science Department and the current occupant of the Sidney J. Weinberg Chair of Computer Science at Yale.


However, I also must somewhat object to this professor's qualifications after seeing that he has written a book titled, Operating System Concepts with Java. :) Seriously, though, who uses Java to teach operating system concepts? That's what C and C++ (and sometimes assembly) are for.

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This is very confusing to me, too. It sounds like there's two titles here, one is that the most esteemed professor of the computer science department is named the Sidney J. Weinberg Professor after someone important in the field, and he's also the Chair of Computer Science. These titles are separate because the most esteemed professor is often a Professor Emeritus, which basically means he's retired and doesn't want to be Chair or do much of anything anymore, but they still wanted to give him the SJW Professor title for his past work.

  • This doesn't look like an answer to me. It looks like a comment effectively just saying you have the same problem parsing the text as OP. The best thing to do in that circumstance is simply to upvote the question. – FumbleFingers Jul 5 '15 at 14:53
  • I had meant that I had the same trouble at first glance, and I was sure now, but the other answer was far better than mine regardless. – modulusshift Jul 7 '15 at 4:24

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