‘Mentorship is a way of life’: Ribisl named as Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor

August 15, 2019

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Dr. Kurt Ribisl

Kurt Ribisl, PhD, has been named the inaugural Jo Anne Earp Distinguished Professor in Health Behavior. His appointment began June 1, 2019.

Ribisl is the current chair of the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health; he also is the program leader for cancer prevention and control at UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Dr. Jo Anne Earp

Dr. Jo Anne Earp

Jo Anne Earp, ScD, for whom the professorship is named, is a nationally recognized health behavior researcher and educator. She also is a former chair of health behavior and a professor emeritus in the department.

“Jo Anne is the archetype of the engaged, deeply knowledgeable, caring scholar/adviser, beloved by generations of students who now have attained their own professional maturity and recognition,” said Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH, dean and alumni distinguished professor at the Gillings School. “She was one of Gillings’ strongest faculty members and chairs, and she continues to be deeply involved in the life of the health behavior department and the School.”

Earp’s professorship has been in the works since 2013, when several hundred of her former students and friends celebrated her retirement at the “fun party” she requested (dubbed “EarpFest”) and immediately began to send donations to a tribute fund in her honor.

“This group effort shows what can happen when people admire and appreciate a faculty member and also recognize the value of a professorship for the entire department, not just the person who receives it,” Rimer said. “The Earp professorship, funded by alumni, staff and friends who wanted to honor Jo Anne’s legacy, will deliver value long into the future.”

Fully funded and established in 2019, the professorship creates new opportunities for exemplary mentors at the Gillings School. It is the first named professorship in the Department of Health Behavior.

“I am, of course, delighted to have my name associated with this professorship,” Earp said. “But even more importantly, I’m excited about what this funding can accomplish in the department I love. Health behavior research is at the heart of public health interventions. That this professorship will support in perpetuity the research of the department’s world-class faculty makes me very happy.”

Ribisl’s primary research interest is improving the reach of population-level efforts to reduce tobacco use, with emphasis on policy and information technology. He specializes in regulation of the sales and marketing of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, and he has researched tobacco pricing, promotions and youth access. His work has added, and continues to add, to policy decisions at the state and national level.

“Jo Anne is quite a dynamo!” Ribisl said. “She is the person who recruited me here 20 years ago and has nurtured my career every step of the way. I’m thrilled about receiving a professorship named for her and carrying on her legacy.”

That legacy includes outstanding work in guiding hundreds of master’s and doctoral students under five different University presidents, seven chancellors and four deans of the Gillings School. Amidst countless awards, nationally recognized research and progressing leadership responsibilities, one thing remained constant: Earp’s commitment to mentoring.

For her, and now for Ribisl, mentorship is a way of life.


Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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