Medallion makeover: MFA alum gives the Regents Professor medal a new look

Medallion makeover: MFA alum gives the Regents Professor medal a new look

By Andy OberUniversity Communications
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With a saguaro, sun and mountains, the new medallion reflects the University's sense of place.
With a saguaro, sun and mountains, the new medallion reflects the University's sense of place.
Manuel's handwritten notes on an early design describe some of the medallion's visual elements.
Manuel's handwritten notes on an early design describe some of the medallion's visual elements.
Dwayne Manuel describes the medallion's imagery as "stylized, simple and very clean-cut."
Dwayne Manuel describes the medallion's imagery as "stylized, simple and very clean-cut."

The 2020 Regents Professor, Distinguished Professor and Distinguished Outreach Faculty appointees won't have the in-person celebration their predecessors enjoyed. But they will have something that no one else has: a redesigned medallion commemorating their accomplishments.

Designed by an alumnus, the new medallions "reflect our institution's unique sense of place and our connection with communities throughout the Southwest," said Liesl Folks, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.

"It is so important that we honor and celebrate the accomplishments of these outstanding faculty members, who are internationally recognized for their scholarship, teaching and service," said Folks, who initiated the medallion makeover. "When we began preparing for the celebration of the 2020 honorees, we saw an opportunity to redesign the medallions in a way that reflected the gravitas that these titles bring to their bearers."

In the search for an artist to take on the project, Misha Harrison, executive director of experience with Marketing and Brand Management, came across the "Landslice" exhibit at the Tucson Museum of Art. The artist, Dwayne Manuel, is an alumnus, having graduated from the University with a Master of Fine Arts.

As Manuel began sketching designs, he drew inspiration from land, place and location – specifically, the state of Arizona, the city of Tucson and the University of Arizona.

"In a very simple definition, a university is a place where people come together to indulge, embrace and participate in the ritual of learning," said Manuel, who belongs to the On'K Akimel O'odham and Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian communities. "It is the mixture of 'place of learning' and the location of the University of Arizona where the symbolism in the medallion is derived."

On one side of the new medallion – which is 3 1/2 inches in diameter and has an antique gold finish – there is the Tucson sky surrounding a five-pointed star – a nod to the Arizona state flag. A cactus, representing the natural life in Southern Arizona, stands in front of a stylized take on the Santa Catalina Mountains. The "Block A" represents the University. A curl pattern at the bottom, which is an ancient Hohokam/O'odham symbol representing water, is a nod to the University's acknowledgement that it is located on the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples. The opposite side features the seal of the University of Arizona.

"It was a challenging, yet very fun project for me, as I had to step outside my own comfort zone as an artist," Manuel said. "Although the imagery is stylized, simple and very clean-cut, getting to those points was a task in itself as we went through many versions and iterations of the design to get to the final composition and aesthetic."

Manuel, who attended the University from 2011-14, teaches painting and drawing at Tohono O'odham Community College.


The 2020 honorees, listed below, will be celebrated through a social media campaign highlighting their careers and accomplishments. The campaign, which begins Friday, will happen on the University's Twitter feed, the provost's Twitter feed and the University's Facebook page. Learn more about the designations on the Faculty Affairs website.

Regents Professors

  • Roberta Díaz Brinton
    Professor of Pharmacology
    Director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science
    Member of the BIO5 Institute
  • Judith K. Brown
    Professor in the School of Plant Sciences
    Member of the BIO5 Institute
  • Peter Chesson
    Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Jeff Greenberg
    Professor in the Department of Psychology
  • Connie A. Woodhouse
    Professor in the School of Geography, Development and Environment

University Distinguished Professor

  • Jeff Stone
    Professor in the Department of Psychology

University Distinguished Outreach Faculty

  • Marta Civil
    Professor in the Department of Mathematics
    Roy F. Graesser Endowed Chair in Mathematics
  • Ricardo Valerdi
    Professor in the Department of Systems and Industrial Engineering

The 2021 Regents Professors will be named in April.

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