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Henri Grissino-Mayer, professor in the Department of Geography and an expert in using tree rings to reconstruct past climates, has been named a James R. Cox Professor.

The three-year award provides him with a stipend of $25,500 to support his research.

Grissino-Mayer, who came to UT in 2000, is the director of the department’s internationally known Laboratory of Tree-Ring Science.

He has studied forest fires for 30 years and had long predicted a catastrophic blaze in the Gatlinburg area. After last fall’s wildfires, he was highly sought by local and national media for his expertise.

“Henri is conducting groundbreaking research on topics that have impact in our backyard as well as around the world,” said John Zomchick, interim provost and senior vice chancellor. “He is also well known for his teaching and service to citizens of Tennessee. We are delighted to have him as a member of our faculty. We wish him continued success in teaching, research, and service endeavors.”

Grissino-Mayer splits his time between being a climatologist and a biogeographer, as well as a primary researcher. He was introduced to tree-ring research in 1985—when he was a graduate student at the University of Georgia.

His accomplishments include developing a 2,200-year reconstruction of annual precipitation for the American Southwest, the development of numerous reconstructions of fire regimes, and using dendrochronology (tree-ring dating) to help historical archaeologists more accurately chronicle cultural history.

Previous recipients of the Cox Professorship include Suzanne Lenhart, professor of mathematics; Tricia Stuth, associate professor of architecture; and Paul Armsworth, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

The award is named for Knoxville native James. R. Cox, whose gifts to the university through his sister and nephew, Charlotte and Jim Musgraves, helped establish the professorships in 2002 for faculty in the arts, theater, biological and physical sciences, architecture, and forestry and wildlife studies. Recipients are chosen by a committee for their excellence in teaching, scholarship, and service.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,