Sally C. Morton, professor of statistics and incoming dean of the Virginia Tech College of Science, has been named the Lay Nam Chang Dean’s Chair by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors.

The Lay Nam Chang Dean’s Chair in the College of Science was endowed through a generous donation by the college’s Roundtable, its longtime advisory board of alumni and friends that has helped guide the college since its founding in 2003. The college had been part of the College of Arts and Sciences before it was divided to become the College of Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

Morton begins her tenure July 1, replacing Chang, who served as dean for 13 years. As the founding dean, Chang led eight departments and helped develop interdisciplinary programs for the college, including the Academy of Integrated Science, which focuses on computational modeling and data analytics, nanoscience, and systems biology, as well as the new Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience. These interdisciplinary efforts tie directly to the Beyond Boundaries initiative under Virginia Tech President Tim Sands.

During its spring meeting, the college’s Roundtable announced that this endowed dean’s chair would be named in Chang’s honor, citing his professional achievements and contributions to the college and all of Virginia Tech. In establishing the chair, the group seeks to honor Chang’s legacy while also supporting the incoming dean by providing discretionary funds to enhance existing programs and develop new initiatives within the College of Science and help ensure its overall strong future.

Morton, who was appointed in March 2016, intends to use a portion of these funds to advance the college’s diversity and inclusion efforts. 

“The big thing is how much of visionary Lay Nam is,” said Leonard Harris, chairman of the Roundtable and a 1957 alumnus of Virginia Tech, graduating with a degree in geological sciences. “He has set the stage and he has started projects that still need to be implemented, and I look forward to helping Sally to do this. The School of Neuroscience is brand new and needs continued support, and I’m sure she will be a good booster for it in its infancy. I’m sure there are other programs she will become founder of, and the Roundtable looks forward to supporting her.”

Morton is the third dean at Virginia Tech to hold an endowed dean’s chair position. In the College of Engineering, the Paul and Dorothea Torgersen Dean’s Chair in Engineering was established in 2006 by Eric E. Schmidt, now executive chairman of Google. Paul Torgersen was dean of the College of Engineering from 1970 to 1990 and university president from 1993 to 2000. In the Pamplin College of Business, Dean Robert Sumichrast holds the Richard E. Sorensen Dean’s Chair, established in 2012 by Pamplin alumni and named after the previous dean, who headed the college from 1982 to 2013.

As with the above-mentioned chairs, the Lay Nam Chang Dean’s Chair will pass to Morton’s successors. 

A dean’s chaired position is considered the most prestigious position that can be held within a college.

Morton has served as chair of the Department of Biostatistics in the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. There, she has directed the Comparative Effectiveness Research Center in the Health Policy Institute and holds appointments in the university’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, Department of Statistics, and the Clinical and Translation Science Institute.

She has more than 30 years of experience in academic and research settings, focusing on patient-centered comparative effectiveness and evidence synthesis. Before joining the University of Pittsburgh, Morton served as vice president for statistics and epidemiology at RTI International and was head of the RAND Corporation Statistics Group. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematical sciences, a master’s degree in operations research, and a doctoral degree in statistics, all from Stanford University. Additionally, she holds a master’s degree in statistics from the London School of Economics.

Morton served as president of the American Statistical Association and chairwoman of Section U (Statistics) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and she is a Fellow of both organizations. She is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute and of the Society for Research Synthesis Methodology. Morton has won the ASA’s Founder’s Award and was the Lowell Reed Invited Lecturer for the American Public Health Association’s Applied Public Health Statistics Section.

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