Khan named first Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor in Liberal Arts

December 11, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Abraham Khan, assistant professor of African-American studies and communication arts and sciences, has been named the inaugural Laurence and Lynne Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor in the College of the Liberal Arts.

Khan is a rhetorical scholar who specializes in research on civic engagement and African-American politics and social life, with a particular emphasis on black athletes and the history of sports in the United States. He holds a doctorate in communication studies from the University of Minnesota. In his book, "Curt Flood in the Media: Baseball, Race, and the Demise of the Activist Athlete" (University Press of Mississippi, 2012), Khan exposes the complexities of what it means to be a prominent black American athlete — in 1969 and today — by exploring the historic case of Curt Flood, who filed an ultimately unsuccessful federal lawsuit when his request to become a free agent was denied.

Created through an estate commitment made by Penn State alumni Lynne and Laurence Brown, the Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professorship enriches the scholarly activity of a faculty member affiliated with the college’s McCourtney Institute for Democracy in the initial years of the faculty member’s career. The Browns took advantage of the college’s Tracy and Ted McCourtney Endowed Professorship Matching Gift Program, which doubled the size of their commitment and made possible the immediate activation of their endowment as an early career professorship.

Tracy and Ted McCourtney created the matching gift program with a $3 million gift in 2016. Previous gifts to Penn State by the couple have created several professorships and undergraduate and graduate scholarships in the college; they also provided the lead gift that led to the creation of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Penn State honored them with the Arthur Welsh Award for Outstanding Support of the Richards Civil War Era Center in 2008 and as Philanthropists of the Year in 2013.

Also longtime benefactors of the College of the Liberal Arts, the Browns established the Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal in 2014 and have made generous contributions supporting the Richards Civil War Era Center, outstanding graduate students and their dissertation research, and internships at national parks for undergraduate students.

“In only two years as a faculty member in the college, Dr. Khan has made tremendous contributions through his scholarship, his participation in our Sawyer Seminar Series, and his teaching. He is an ideal choice as the first Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor,” said Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts. “By creating this professorship in conjunction with Tracy and Ted McCourtney’s matching program, the Browns have given us a meaningful way to further our mission through Dr. Khan’s important work. I know they are thrilled by his appointment.” 

Since joining the liberal arts faculty in 2016, Khan has worked closely with the McCourtney Institute, recording its inaugural podcast, giving presentations, and helping select the Brown Medal Award recipient in 2017. Touting support from Cynthia Young, head of the Department of African American Studies; Denise Solomon, head of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences; and Michael Berkman and Christopher Beem, director and managing director, respectively, of the McCourtney Institute, Khan said he is “humbled as well as excited” by the opportunities the professorship presents. He also expressed gratitude for the generosity of the Browns and the McCourtneys, who made the honor possible.

Khan is working on a new book, whose working title is "The Renaissance of the Activist Athlete: Race, Labor, and Protest in American Sport." Among other things, he intends to use funds provided by the professorship to conduct archival research at San Jose State University, which houses the Dr. Harry Edwards Collection, a repository of historic photos, autographed books, correspondence, and Olympic Project for Human Rights memorabilia of Harry Edwards, whom Khan called “the mastermind of the 1968 Olympics protest movement.”

The Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professorship is an 18-month appointment, beginning in January 2019. Khan said he had no idea he was being considered for the honor.

“It literally came as a bolt out of the blue,” he said. “I feel affirmed that coming to Penn State two years ago was the right decision because Penn State is the kind of institution where opportunities like this are possible.”

  • AbeKhan

    Abraham Khan, assistant professor of African-American studies and communication arts and sciences, has been named the inaugural Laurence and Lynne Brown-McCourtney Early Career Professor in the College of the Liberal Arts.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 29, 2019