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Novelist T.C. Boyle (l) and Thomas Jordan, scientific director of the Southern California Earthquake Center, are two USC faculty members newly awarded the title of Distinguished or University Professor.

Four USC faculty have been awarded the title of “Distinguished” or “University” professor this year, bringing to 31 the total number of USC faculty so honored.

“The outstanding accomplishments of these individuals brings honor to their departments and the university,” said Provost Lloyd Armstrong, Jr. in announcing the designations.

The title of “Distinguished Professor” is granted to faculty members who have brought special renown to the university through their accomplishments. “University Professor” status is awarded to faculty members whose multidisciplinary interests and major accomplishments in several disciplines qualify for an appointment that transcends any single field of study.

Among this year’s honorees is the late Jean-Jacques Laffont, who died in May at the age of 57. Laffont, who joined USC in September 2001, held the John Elliott Distinguished Chair in Economics. One of the world’s most respected and productive economists, he was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and past president of the Econometric Society and the European Economic Association.

At USC, Laffont helped strengthen the economics department’s research efforts in areas of theoretical and applied economics.

“During the time that I was privileged to know and work with Jean-Jacques, I was impressed by his spirit, brilliance and high standards,” said Joseph Aoun, dean of USC College, at the time of Laffont’s death.

The other three honorees are:

• Thomas Jordan, appointed University Professor. Jordan, who arrived at USC from MIT in 2000, is the W.M. Peck Foundation Professor of Geophysics and Professor of Earth Sciences. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, he is also the scientific director of the Southern California Earthquake Center.

• T. Coraghessan Boyle, appointed Distinguished Professor of English. Boyle is the author of 16 works of fiction, including “The Inner Circle” and “Drop City,” which earned him the National Book Award in 2003.

A former University of Iowa English professor, he joined USC in 1978, where he later established the undergraduate creative writing program. Among his other honors are the Guggenheim Fellowship, the PEN/Faulkner Novel of the Year Award, four O. Henry Awards and the Bernard Malamud Prize, all for his short fiction.

• Vaughn A. Starnes, appointed the Hastings Distinguished Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Starnes is a world-recognized leader in heart and lung transplantation, cardiothoracic surgery, repair of congenital heart defects and heart surgery in children and newborns.

He pioneered the live-donor double-lobar lung transplant and has since performed more living-donor lung transplants than any other surgeon. Starnes also serves as chairman of the department of cardiothoraric surgery in the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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