Teamwork at Its Finest

Through the Professorship Partnership Challenge, generous donors team up with Tufts to ensure the university attracts world-class talent for today and tomorrow.
Man and woman sitting on a wall outside with their two dogs

Anne and Travis Engen, pictured with their corgis, are supporting Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine with an endowed professorship.

When Tufts recently sharpened its focus on growing its number of endowed professors, it made what Sol Gittleman called a smart move. Whether endowed professors are rising stars or already at the top of their fields, they invigorate the academic and research community with fresh ideas, high energy, and world-class expertise. "At the heart of our success as a university," said Gittleman, H10, A85P, former provost, Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor Emeritus, and co-chair for Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts, "is our ability to recruit, reward, and retain the brightest minds in their fields." And because the gifts are endowed, they not only target the pressing needs of today, they also strengthen the university in perpetuity.

Tufts is making strides to ensure success with the Professorship Partnership Challenge, a Brighter World initiative. The minimum to endow a full professorship is $2 million, and to endow a junior professorship, Tufts requires a minimum of $1.25 million. Through this new challenge, Partnership donors contribute sixty percent of the total cost of endowing either a full or junior professorship—and Tufts provides the remaining forty percent. Four families have already teamed up with Tufts to answer the challenge, endowing professorships in Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Engineering, and more partnerships are in development.

At Cummings School, supporters Anne and Travis Engen have created the Anne Engen and Dusty Professorship in Comparative Oncology, inspired by their late corgi, Dusty.

Anne Engen and Dusty shared a deep and joyful connection. "I thought he was going to be a competition obedience dog, but he declined absolutely to participate in the required ‘out of sight’ stay," she recalled. That led her to try a canine freestyle workshop, and Dusty loved everything about the athletic competitions set to music.

They would go on to travel to competitions all over the Northeast, putting on performances so exceptional that they scored appearances on the Today show and other programs.

Then, when he was six, Dusty was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He ultimately lost his battle with the disease. "It was devastating," Engen said, "but it introduced me to the world of veterinary oncology research and to the concepts of comparative oncology that have continued to be a deep interest of mine."

In 2009, in gratitude for the exceptional care provided to Dusty and another corgi, Belle, the Engens made a gift formally establishing a program in comparative oncology. It’s a field that brings together researchers from Cummings School and Tufts University School of Medicine to advance understanding of cancer biology, as well as improve treatments of the disease in both animals and humans. 

Their new endowed oncology professorship builds on their 2009 gift, Engen said, and it is fitting that it will bear both her and Dusty’s names in perpetuity. "I want the day to come when cancer prevention and successful treatment are a reality for people and for our deeply loved animals," she said. "So Dusty’s name belongs with mine on this. He is the inspiration."

Eileen A. Aptman, J90, traces the inspiration for the Professorship Partnership gift she made with her husband, Lowell, to her undergraduate years. A double major in Asian studies and political science, she still remembers Teruko Craig’s Japanese class, which she took three times a week at 8:30 a.m. for four years. Craig was tough, but also went out of her way to explain to students the cultural nuances of the Japanese language. "What I learned with her has been incredibly valuable over the course of my career," said Aptman, who now co-chairs the School of Arts and Sciences Campaign Committee and is on the Tufts Financial Network Advisory Board.

Portrait of a man and woman sitting on a couch

Eileen A. Aptman, J90, and her husband, Lowell, have established an endowed junior professorship at the School of Arts and Sciences.

In recognition of that value, Aptman and her husband have established the Eileen Fox Aptman, J90, and Lowell Aptman Professorship, an endowed junior professorship in the School of Arts and Sciences to be assigned to any department at the discretion of Dean James Glaser. "What really impacts students is the enthusiasm of a gifted professor," Aptman said. "If you can get professors who are well matched with the students, thoughtful, and very high caliber, that’s really what will continue to distinguish Tufts."

She is particularly eager to help Tufts recruit and support young professors. "Junior faculty professorships open a pipeline of extraordinary talent—they can create a pathway to a tenured position," she said. She hopes that the junior faculty who join Tufts as a result of this gift will become long-term members of the community. That would be the most important gift she could give to Tufts, which she said gave her an incredible opportunity to attend.

"My parents had three kids in college in a very short period of time, so I attended Tufts with some parent help but also student loans," she said. "Thanks to Tufts, I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my profession. I think you have to pay that back with your time or your resources—hopefully with both."

Gifts and pledges made to the Professorship Partnership Challenge before or on June 30, 2019, are eligible. Please contact Eric Johnson at or 617-627-5484 for more information.