Five faculty members have been selected as University Distinguished Professors in recognition of their outstanding contributions to teaching, research and service in science, veterinary medicine and the performing arts. The title of University Distinguished Professor is a lifetime title that represents the highest honor Kansas State University can bestow on its faculty. Each recipient will receive a $10,000 salary supplement.
Provost James R. Coffman said the newly named University Distinguished Professors include Frank Blecha, professor of immunophysiology and head of anatomy and physiology; David Littrell, cellist/conductor and professor of music; Talat Rahman, professor of physics; Larry J. Takemoto, professor of biology; and Dean Zollman, professor and head of physics. "All are internationally recognized for their sustained scholarly achievements," said Provost James R. Coffman. "Each will be recognized at commencement ceremonies May 11-12. These outstanding faculty represent the heart and soul of the work that moves K-State forward."
Frank Blecha's research program focuses on keeping domestic food animals such as cattle and pigs healthy. For more than 20 years he has been evaluating livestock management and disease prevention. He is a recognized pioneer in studying the immune response of domestic animals. He has focused his studies on ways to control the animal immune response so health and performance are maximized. His research looks at the interrelationship of immunology and physiology and evaluates the regulatory mechanisms involved in immunity. In studies of the porcine immune system, Dr. Blecha and his colleagues discovered a natural antibiotic in the epithelial cells of the porcine tongue. This peptide, porcine beta-defensin-1, kills multi-resistant bacteria such as Salmonella DT104, and is even more potent when used in conjunction with another porcine natural antibiotic, PR-39. He and his colleagues are working to understand the regulation and expression of these natural antibiotics with the goal of adding these new antibiotics to the arsenal of weapons used against microbes. In addition, some of these host defense molecules, such as PR-39, decrease inflammation and are being evaluated as adjunctive therapy in heart disease. Blecha has chaired the immunology section of the Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease annual meetings since 1998. Dr. Blecha joined the faculty in 1981.
He is a past president of the American Association of Veterinary Immunologists, who recognized him in 1997 with the Presidential Award for Service and Leadership. He received the faculty scholar award from Phi Kappa Phi in 1997. He also was recognized with the University Distinguished Graduate Faculty Member Award in 1998.