Educator, Pioneering Scientist and Visionary Owen Lovejoy Receives Kent State’s Highest Honor
Kent State University Distinguished Professor of Human Evolutionary Studies C. Owen Lovejoy, Ph.D., received the President’s Medal from President Beverly Warren during the One University Commencement Ceremony on May 13 in Dix Stadium. The President’s Medal is the highest honor conferred by Kent State. It recognizes faculty and administrative staff who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of Kent State through extraordinary and unique service. In a stellar academic career spanning nearly 50 years, Lovejoy has advanced the education of students and global understanding of human evolution, bringing great distinction to Kent State.
Lovejoy joined the faculty of Kent State in 1968 as a temporary instructor, the lowest possible rank for a faculty member, and advanced steadily through the academic ranks. Lovejoy achieved the rank of Professor in 1989, and he was accorded his current designation of Distinguished Professor of Human Evolutionary Studies in 2013.
Lovejoy’s research interests include human origins modeling, developmental biology, biomechanics, paleontology and forensic medicine. Although his interests are diverse, he has made important and transformative contributions to each of these fields.
Lovejoy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) in 2007. He is the only National Academy of Sciences member at Kent State and in the Mid-American Conference. He served as the elected chair of Section 51 (Anthropology) for the academy from 2013-2016 and as an editorial board member of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences since 2009. Lovejoy also was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014 and is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He has received international, national and university recognitions, all reflecting his extraordinary commitment to exceptional teaching, mentorship and scholarship. He is one of the Institute for Scientific Information’s (ISI) “Most Highly Cited” authors in the general social sciences. He has more than 160 publications in peer-reviewed journals, one textbook and numerous abstracts. He was an author on eight of 11 articles (first author on five, sole author of one) in a special issue of Science dedicated to Ardipithecus ramidus, or Ardi, in 2009, which led to incredible new insights into human evolution. A special issue of Science was unprecedented at that time. The lead article in that issue is now identified as “Highly Cited” by ISI and has received enough citations to place it in the top 1 percent of its academic field. Ardipithecus was declared the Breakthrough of the Year by the editors of Science (Dec. 18, 2009), beating out the discovery of water on the moon and “ranks first in top 10 Science Breakthroughs of the Year” by Time magazine. In addition, there have been numerous television shows and documentaries, including Discovery Channel’s special on Ardipithecus and several other shows that covered topics including Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis) and forensic anthropology. In the 1970s, Lovejoy conducted a complete restoration of Lucy in National Geographic and was the first to realize that her bipedality was sophisticated and advanced.
Lovejoy has served as a forensic anthropologist across the United States. He and his colleagues discovered that the auricular surface of the hip bone is the best single indicator of adult age in the skeleton. This is now the gold standard for aging skeletons and was even featured on the television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.”
“In addition to being a world-renowned scientist, Owen Lovejoy is a valued colleague, a generous university citizen who serves cheerfully in any capacity asked of him, and a master lecturer and teacher,” said Mary Ann Raghanti, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair of Kent State’s Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences. “His service on committees on all levels – university, departmental, honors thesis, master’s thesis and doctoral dissertation – is astounding. He also has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching and mentorship, from being awarded Outstanding Teacher in 1972 to Outstanding Mentor Award in 2008. He was primary advisor for many of the 30-plus graduates of the Biological Anthropology Ph.D. program through the School of Biomedical Sciences and was instrumental to the success of each one.”
Lovejoy will enter his 50th year of service to Kent State in 2018. His contributions on all levels – teaching, advising, citizenship, scholarship and research – continue to be at the highest level, and he is a leader in every capacity.
“His model for human origins that includes social monogamy with males provisioning females in order to decrease interbirth intervals has stood the test of time,” Raghanti said. “He was ahead of his time – and technology – when he initially proposed this hypothesis in 1981. Since that time, we have made significant advances in understanding the genetic, physiological and neuroanatomical underpinnings of the human condition. Every new line of evidence contributes to and supports Lovejoy’s unique vision.
“Visionaries that revolutionize our views of who we are and where we come from are rare, and the impacts of their contributions have lasting and tremendous impact,” she continued. “Lovejoy is one of these visionaries. He reshaped our understanding of human evolution with his contributions to Lucy in the 1970s, then again with his then-controversial model of human origins, then again with Ardi in 2009, and he continues to reshape our views of how our species evolved. Stay tuned. Dr. Lovejoy is nowhere near finished revolutionizing our understanding of what it means to be human.”
Lovejoy is the first person to receive the President’s Medal since 2008.