Five University faculty members have been elected fellows to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a prestigious honor society and policy research center.

Dean of Education Deborah Ball, Pathology Prof. Arul Chinnaiyan, English Prof. Linda Gregerson, History Prof. Mary Kelley and Political Science Prof. James Morrow were all among the 204 new members in AAAS’s 2014 cohort announced Wednesday afternoon.

Morrow said he was surprised and honored when he learned about the selection on Tuesday.

“It’s one of those things that’s a possibility, but it wasn’t something I was expecting,” Morrow said. “I got in a little bit later then I usually do on Tuesday morning, and there was a Fed Ex envelope sitting on the chair in my office, and so I said ‘Well, what’s this? Is it a check?’ And then I opened it up and went ‘Oh, this is much better than a check.’ ”

Ball said she also wasn’t expecting to be elected.

“I was completely surprised,” Ball said. “I had no idea about any of this. I’m very, very honored to have been elected a fellow—it wasn’t something I expected or thought about. I’m still very surprised today.”

The AAAS recognizes individuals on the basis of their contributions to government, academia or business, and encourages them to come together in order to tackle the problems currently facing society.

Currently, AAAS has 4,600 elected members, including 250 Nobel Prize winners and over 60 Pulitzer Prize winners. 70 University professors are already active members.

In a press release Wednesday, Don Randal, chair of the AAAS board of directors, said it was a privilege to be able to honor each new fellow. He also lauded the accomplishments and potential of the newly elected class.

“The knowledge and expertise of our members give the academy a unique capacity — and responsibility — to provide practical policy solutions to the pressing challenges of the day,” Randal said. “We look forward to engaging our new members in this work.”

Morrow said for him, the fellowship is meaningful in several different ways.

“It’s a recognition of prominence, of decades of work, of an entire career,” he said. “It’s hard to express.”

The five University faculty members in the 2014 cohort represent a variety of different fields. Ball’s area of specialty is teacher education development, specifically in mathematics. Chinnaiyan studies functional genomics and bioinformatic approaches to studying cancer. Gregerson is a noted poet and author. Kelley studies 19th-century women writers and American intellectual history, and has published several books on the subject. Morrow’s focus is on the application of theories in international politics.

Ball said as a fellow, she’s looking forward to engaging more with AAAS.

“I’m very interested in learning more about the range of people, meeting other people and learning more about the range of work,” Ball said. “I think it’ll be very interesting to meet people and to learn more about how the organization functions to try to advance creative work, scholarly work, and the like.”

Other notable members of the 2014 class from non-research sectors include Robert Reich, former United States secretary of labor, actor Al Pacino, and University alum Ann Marie Lipinski, former editor of the Chicago Tribune.

The induction ceremony for the 2014 cohort will be held Oct. 11 at AAAS’s headquarters in Cambridge.

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