Terms of Reference

The John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professorship

The John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professorship, named for the first president of Memorial University College, recognizes faculty who embody the university's mission by demonstrating exceptional teaching, undertaking world-class research and sharing their knowledge and expertise widely. The award is comprised of the lifetime designation "Distinguished University Professor" and a one-time unrestricted grant ($20,000) to support future research, teaching and/or public engagement activities at Memorial University.

Terms of Reference and Conditions

(a) Memorial University of Newfoundland shall establish the John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professor award.

(b) This title will recognize faculty members who have demonstrated exceptional performance in the combined areas of teaching and learning, research and/or creative activity and public engagement. The individual selected for this award will have an exemplary record in all three areas having gone consistently beyond what is normally expected of a faculty member to ensure that Memorial accomplishes its overall mission:

Memorial University is an inclusive community dedicated to creativity, innovation and excellence in teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and to public engagement and service. We recognize our special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Memorial welcomes students and scholars from all over the world and contributes knowledge and shares expertise locally, nationally, and internationally.

(c) Designation of the title of Distinguished University Professor shall be limited to those academic staff members (ASMs) at the rank of full Professor. In considering possible nominations, care should be given to the time interval since promotion to full professor. It is essential that nominees have sufficient time to acquire a superior and sustained record of performance at that level. Vice-Presidents and Deans are not eligible for nomination or application during their administrative terms. Individuals are not eligible for this distinction if they are retired or are not an active faculty member when this honour is awarded (normally December of each year).

(d) Eligible individuals will be assessed on the merit of contributions made during the nominee’s employment at Memorial University. All nominees will be expected to have a sustained and consistent record of excellence in teaching, research and/or creative activity and public engagement.

(e) Only one award will be offered annually. There shall be no obligation to recommend an award in the absence of suitably qualified candidates.

(f) The award carries with it the lifetime designation of Distinguished University Professor and a one-time unrestricted grant. The latter is to be used at the discretion of the recipient to support future teaching, research, and/or public engagement activities at Memorial University.

(g) Nominations may be made by any full-time faculty or staff member of the University and shall be co-sponsored by four other persons (three (3) internal and one (1) external) who are fully knowledgeable of the candidate's qualifications. Applications will not be accepted.

(h) Nominations should be submitted to the Office of the Vice-President (Research) no later than March 1st. Unsuccessful nominees will be automatically reconsidered for one additional year. Nominators will be given the opportunity to update their nominations for those being reconsidered.

(i) A selection committee, normally composed of seven members with a fair gender representation, shall be established and chaired by the Vice-President (Research) or designate. The mandate of this committee is to review nominations and applications, and to make recommendations to the President for final approval.


In the context of this award, research refers to peer-reviewed, adjudicated or equivalent research/scholarly work, including creative activity and performance.

Nominees will be evaluated on the quality, innovation, and importance of their accomplishments within the areas of teaching, research and/or creative activity and public engagement.

Indicators of outstanding performance, reflective of international recognition, that may be considered include:

  1. Evidence of scholarly dissemination (e.g., publication in refereed journals or series or by publishers recognized as leaders in the field, performances of artistic works, leadership performances (conducting, directing), juried art shows, archival projects, etc.).
  2. High ratings of the publications and other research or creative work as attested (where appropriate) by citations indices, by references in published literature, or in letters from distinguished scholars or critics in the field.
  3. Favorable published reviews of the publications or creative works.
  4. Awards by professional associations for outstanding research or creative work.
  5. A strong reputation both nationally and internationally for contributions to the areas of teaching and learning, research and/or creative activity and public engagement.
  6. Research leadership, as evidenced by team achievements.
  7. Breadth of expertise.
  8. Exceptional teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level.
  9. The training of graduate students and other highly qualified personnel.
  10. Community engagement related to their disciplinary expertise including, but not limited to, contributions to national and international organizations.
  11. A strong record of mentorship to new faculty.


Nominations for a John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professorship should consist of the following documents:

(1) A completed nomination form 

(2)  A letter from the nominator detailing the exceptional nature of the nominee's contributions and the significance of those contributions to teaching and learning, research and public engagement. This letter should include specific examples regarding the quality and impact of the candidate’s work.

(3)  A one-page citation or appraisal of the nominee’s outstanding contributions to teaching and learning, research and public engagement. It must be written in a way that is easily understandable to those outside the discipline on the selection committee, and to those in the community (for public announcements about the successful candidate).

(4)  A maximum of five (5) selected works reflecting the nominee’s contributions to teaching, research and public engagement. These will be returned at the end of the adjudication process.

(5)  Letters of support for the candidate’s contributions to research from five (5) external referees, two (2) national and three (3) international, at the rank of full professor. References should be a maximum of three pages in length and should address the following:

  • the referee’s direct and personal knowledge of the candidate and his or her work;
  • the originality, significance and impact of the candidate’s career;
  • the national and international reputation of the candidate; and,
  • other relevant information that indicates the substantial contributions made by the candidate.

When requesting letters of reference from individuals please consider the following: 


It is your responsibility to ensure contact information for your referees is complete and up to date.


Do not recommend referees who:

  • Have collaborated with the candidate or any member of their research team within the last six years; 
  • Have published with the candidate in the last six years; 
  • Have had a personal relationship with the candidate or with any member of their research team; 
  • Are from the same institution – the five referees you suggest must be from five different institutions.


(6)  Two letters of support written by a current or former undergraduate student, graduate student and highly qualified personnel are required. The letters must provide concrete evidence of excellence in teaching, scholarship, and/or leadership from the perspective of the writer. This account should come from personal experience and provide a detailed description of the influence the candidate has had on learning and/or professional growth. (Please inform the writers that the letters of support may be read by the nominee and that quotes from the letters may be used in promotional material or in citations for the award recipient.)

(7)  Two letters of support which address the exceptionality and significance as well as the scope, time-commitment and impact of the nominee's contributions to public engagement related to their disciplinary expertise. Referees should indicate their first-hand knowledge of the sustained pattern of exceptional voluntary contributions made by the candidate to national and international organizations. These contributions must be beyond what might normally be considered academic or professional service, and must have had a significant impact upon those organizations or on the communities. It would be beneficial to the selection committee if relevant documentation in the public domain (including media reports) which offers additional evidence of the significance of the nominee's contributions be provided. These materials are not to exceed five pages.

(8)  A list of the most significant contributions that the candidate has made during their career in the areas of teaching and learning, research and public engagement and their significance. This should be no more than 2 pages in length.

(9)  A detailed curriculum vitae that indicates:

  • Academic background
  • Professional experience
  • Awards, honours and scholarships received
  • Publications
  • Conference organization and presentations
  • Research funding
  • Training and mentoring activities
  • Public Engagement including, but not limited to, regional, national or international media interviews, memberships on committees, boards, or policy-making bodies with government or private sector, voluntary work, work within or with community or not-for-profit organizations, or work in non-academic positions.
  • Other contributions not captured above such as patents or other intellectual property, editorial work, consulting, contributions to professional practice or public policy.

Access to Information and Protection of Privacy

The information on this form is collected under the authority of the Memorial University Act (RSNL 1990 Chapter M-7) and is needed for and will be used to assess the nomination or application for John Lewis Paton Distinguished University Professorships. If you have any questions about the collection and use of this information contact the office of Awards and Honours at 709-864-3104.

Updated October 2015