2014 DISTINGUISHED FACULTY
The ETSU Distinguished Faculty Award in Research was presented to Dr. Richard Kortum, an associate professor in ETSU’s Department of Philosophy and Humanities, within the College of Arts and Sciences.
The main focus of Kortum’s research is the Biluut Petroglyph Complex in western Mongolia, which he discovered in 2004 while exploring with a local guide.
Kortum found lively images, along with 3,000-year-old Bronze Age burial mounds, stone circles and squares, enormous standing stones, and carved stone men from the Turkic era, some 1,400 years ago. The site is recognized as one of the largest, densest and most important concentrations of rock art and ritual stone structures in Inner Asia.
After completing documentation of the rock art, Kortum will begin writing two scholarly books about his findings.
A graduate of Duke University with a B.A. degree in philosophy, Kortum spent a year at Queen’s College in Cambridge, England, later returning to Oxford University to study for his doctorate with Sir Michael Dummett, the school’s Wykeham Professor of Logic.
Kortum, who joined the ETSU faculty in 1999, amassed $700,000 in research grants over the past 15 years, and produced significant work in fields as diverse as international education, sport literature, anthropology and archaeology. His recent book, “Varieties of Tone,” deals with the fine shades of linguistic meaning that have proven difficult to account for through the leading theories of meaning.
In addition, Kortum spent a year in Azerbaijan as a U.S. Fulbright Senior Scholar. The American ambassador to Azerbaijan writes, “In all my experience as a senior U.S. diplomat, I have not seen a Fulbright scholar take such an active and helpful role in the development of the country to which he or she was assigned.”
Letters of support for Kortum arrived from around the world and across the nation, from government officials, colleagues and former students. All praised his ability to bring together people of many backgrounds and specialties to conduct research productively together.
One letter of support notes, “Richard is an individual, with a capital ‘I.’ He is a true renaissance man with talents far and wide: his early basketball career, pioneering education reform in Azerbaijan, writing on the philosophy of sports, his music, pottery making, and many other enterprises, serious and esoteric.”
Another letter calls Kortum “a good role model to students of what an educated man really is,” and adds, “Richard’s prolific interdisciplinary career represents the value of a team effort, and the model for how university faculty should be collaborating. This is the future in higher education.”