UNCG today announced that Dr. JoAnne “Jo” Safrit (’57 BS, Physical Education) has made a $1 million gift to establish a distinguished professorship in the field of kinesiology. Kinesiology is the study of human movement and is one of the fastest-growing fields in the nation, and one of the most popular majors at UNCG.
Named for Safrit and her longtime partner Dr. Catherine Ennis (’77 MS, Physical Education), the Safrit-Ennis Distinguished Professorship is intended to enable the university to recruit or retain Department of Kinesiology faculty who are outstanding researchers, scholars and teachers.
“Quality faculty is the bedrock upon which all great universities are built,” said UNCG Chancellor Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr. “By establishing this named professorship, Dr. Safrit is helping to ensure that UNCG’s kinesiology program continues to strengthen its position among the very best in the nation. We are forever grateful for her continued generous support, and I am personally grateful to call her a dear friend.”
For Safrit, the gift enables her to honor Ennis, who passed away in April of 2017, and to provide funds for faculty to conduct important research in the field of kinesiology, to which she has dedicated her life. The new professorship also allows her to “pay it forward” to professors who rely on donations like hers to fund forward-thinking research in the field.
One such faculty member is Dr. Laurie Wideman, professor of kinesiology. She is the first recipient of the Safrit-Ennis Distinguished Professorship. Wideman has been with UNCG since 2000, and is the primary investigator for a large National Institutes of Health grant, among many others. A clear leader, Wideman’s scholarship has made an indelible impact on how we think about exercise throughout the lifespan.
“I received a $1 million gift from a couple when I was a young professor, and it was life-changing for me,” said Safrit. “With that gift, I was able to conduct important, meaningful research because of the generosity of others who had the means to do so. Now I’m in a position to help. To give an outstanding professor like Dr. Wideman the opportunity to make the next discovery, to advance knowledge in the field that I have dedicated my life to, at the school I love so much, means the world to me.”
A Salisbury, North Carolina, native, Safrit was a physical education major at Woman’s College (now UNCG) who went on to teach at the University of Texas, and subsequently spent many years as a researcher and teacher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a focus on quantitative measurement. She currently lives in Greensboro and serves on the boards of the UNCG Alumni Association and the Excellence Foundation.
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications