A longtime faculty member’s $1 million gift to the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences will fund a physics professorship.
Endowment funding from physics professor John Risley, founder and CEO of Raleigh-based Advanced Instructional Systems, and his wife, Dellaine, will provide permanent salary and support money for a senior faculty member in physics.
The John S. Risley Distinguished Professorship in Physics is the the department’s first named professorship. It is the second professorship in physics, joining an endowment made possible by a planned gift from Risley’s colleague, Brand Fortner, in 2008.
“I think it says a lot that now a second faculty member, who has such intimate knowledge of the department, and his spouse, who probably knows more about it than she’d care to admit, have such confidence in the path of the department and such a strong commitment to its continued success,” said Dean Dan Solomon.
John Risley became a faculty member of the Department of Physics in 1976 after earning his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. Trained as an atomic physicist, he became interested in the application of computer technology to teach physics in the early 1980s. In 1997, Aaron Titus, a graduate student, and Larry Martin, a visiting professor from North Park University in Chicago working in Risley’s lab, created the first version of WebAssign, a unique online service that enabled students to complete their homework and have it automatically graded online.
WebAssign was spun off from the Department of Physics as part of Advanced Instructional Systems in 2003. Under Risley’s guidance, the software company has experienced continued growth. To date, more than five million students have used WebAssign to submit over a billion answers to homework assignments, tests and practice problems. During any one academic term, more than 500,000 students are using WebAssign at over 1,500 educational institutions worldwide.