UND has recently named two faculty members as Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors.

Biology professor Vasyl Tkach and sociology professor Daphne Pedersen were given the highest honor for faculty in April.

The Chester Fritz Distinguished Professorship is UND’s highest academic honor. The award was established with an endowment gift from the late university benefactor Chester Fritz (1892-1983).

The criteria for selection include “demonstrated achievement across research, teaching and service,” with “significant national or regional recognition in any one of these missions;" “significant professional contributions” throughout the nominee’s career; and recognition by UND colleagues “as a faculty member who has made a valuable contribution to the quality of UND’s academic programs.”

Pedersen said she was overwhelmed, but humbled by the honor.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

“I am so thankful and so humbled, and I hold the title and the university in such high esteem,” she said during a virtual meeting announcing the distinction. “This has been a really good place – a wonderful place – to make a career, with very supportive faculty and staff.

Brad Rundquist, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at UND and who helped nominate Pedersen, said he finds it “very telling that incoming faculty repeatedly choose Dr. Pedersen’s career as one they would like to emulate.”

“She has made deeply valuable contributions toward student success, the understanding of family life and understanding the stresses that institutions place on individual life and success,” another nominator wrote of Pederson.

Vasyl Tkach was named as a UND Chester Fritz professor. (Submitted photo)
Vasyl Tkach was named as a UND Chester Fritz professor. (Submitted photo)

Tkach was also surprised during a recent UND biology department Zoom meeting.

“I tell everyone how great this department is,” Tkach said during the meeting. “Without this group of people here, I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing. I mean, you could just close your eyes and point your finger in any direction, and you’d be pointing at someone who deserves this award.”

Tkach, who has been with UND since 2003, graduated from Uzghorod State University in Ukraine and earned his doctoral degree at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. He has done fieldwork in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Kenya, Laos, Malawi, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and Vietnam, among other countries.

“He has done more international research than probably any faculty in the history of UND, including doing research on all continents and co-authoring papers with colleagues from 30 countries,” one of Tkach’s nominators wrote. “He has received multiple UND, regional, national and international awards for his research, including the 2017 Henry Baldwin Ward Medal, the most prestigious research award by the American Society of Parasitologists.”