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Professors earn Distinguished rank among SUNY colleagues

Two SUNY Cortland faculty members were recently appointed to the rank of Distinguished faculty by the SUNY Board of Trustees, giving them the SUNY system’s highest academic tribute. The Distinguished rank elevates full professors who excel in professionalism, scholarship, instruction and the breadth and significance of service.

The honored faculty and their new titles are:  

  • Distinguished Professor Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo, of the Geography Department. This title is given to individuals who’ve achieved national or international prominence within their chosen field and serve as role models for students and other faculty. 

  • Distinguished Service Professor Beth Klein of the Childhood/Early Childhood Education Department. The title honors a distinguished reputation for service to the university, community, state and country by applying the candidate’s scholarly interests to issues of public concern.  

All active Distinguished faculty are part of the SUNY Distinguished Academy, which builds and supports academic excellence by leveraging their skills, expertise and talents.


Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo 

Johnston-Anumonwo has a Bachelor of Education in Teacher Education from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a Master of Education with a concentration in international development from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was awarded a Ph.D. from Clark University, where her dissertation study focused on “A Geographic Perspective on Occupational Segregation.” 

Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo

Since then, she’s become an innovative scholar in academic areas that include urban geography, feminist geography and other topics related to equity and social justice — becoming recognized for her work at the statewide, national and international levels.  

Her service to local groups, including the Cortland YWCA, is also of note. The organization nominated her for the 2017 Woman of Achievement Award through Zonta International. 

Denise Knight, a SUNY distinguished teaching professor emerita from the English Department, wrote in support of Johnston-Anumonwo's nomination that her: “... impact, and the respect she has earned for her work, evidenced by the numerous invitations, citations, and awards she has received, make her an outstanding nominee for Distinguished Professor. Indeed, her record — broad in its scope, sustained in its length, and multifaceted in its impact — meets the criteria for which this rank was created.” 

For almost 20 years, Johnston-Anumonwo has served as a leader for The College Board’s AP Human Geography exam evaluation, including a position on the seven-member Test Development Committee from 2003 to 2007. In 2016, she was recognized nationally by the Association of American Geographers (AAG) with the organization’s Distinguished Teaching Honors. At the time, she was one of only seven people to receive the award. 

She’s also earned a fellowship as part of the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, which recognizes exemplary projects at African higher education institutions. Through that work she was able to collaborate with faculty at African universities on sustainable urban transportation. 

Johnston-Anumonwo's published works includes five books of combined authorship, 17 book chapters, 16 journal articles and four book reviews. This recognized expertise has led to 26 invited presentations across the globe since 1988, bringing her to countries including Germany, Kenya, India, Argentina, Morocco, Ghana, Canada, Ecuador and Peru. In the U.S., she’s had speaking engagements at Clark University and Cornell University. She’s also been an invited “Spotlight Speaker” for the American Geographical Society.  

In a letter of recommendation, Lisa Benton-Short, professor of geography at George Washington University, wrote, “Not surprisingly, Dr. Johnston-Anumonwo is a highly sought-after speaker and presenter, and she has been invited to give keynotes, talks and participate in panels at universities around the U.S. and internationally, particularly at West African universities in Ghana and Nigeria.” 

Credited as one of the originators of analyses of gender, work, space and occupation, Johnston-Anumonwo is considered a founding scholar in her area of research, and is cited in major publications like Habitat International, Sustainability and the Journal of Health Economics. Her 1985 published paper “Gender Differences in Work-Trip Length” remains a key academic resource after almost four decades.  

Before her current honor, Johnston-Anumonwo had already been recognized with the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities and the New York African Studies Association’s Ali Mazrui Outstanding Publication, Book and Educational Activities Award. While at SUNY Cortland, Johnston-Anumonwo received the university’s 2005 Outstanding Achievement in Research Award.  

Now with this new honor, Johnston-Anumonwo's “brilliance” and “attitude of inclusivity” were cited by President Erik J. Bitterbaum as pillars of her ongoing successful career. 

She becomes the 11th SUNY Cortland faculty member to achieve the Distinguished Professor rank. 



Beth Klein 

Klein began teaching in the Childhood/Early Childhood Education Department at Cortland in 1999, and also serves as the university’s sustainability coordinator.  

In 2016, she received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Service, and has earned additional awards for scholarship, teaching and civic engagement.  

Beth Klein

Klein has a Doctor of Education in Science Education from the University of Virginia, a Master of Science in Education in Reading from East Stroudsburg University and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental and Elementary Education from Slippery Rock University. 

In a letter supporting her nomination, Bitterbaum described Klein as a “champion of sustainability at all levels.” 

Her environmental work is a major cause of SUNY Cortland's recognition by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, being listed by the Princeton Review in its “Guide to Green Colleges” and being ranked by Sierra magazine among the top 100 universities in the nation for sustainability for six consecutive years. 

Andrea Lachance, dean of SUNY Cortland’s School of Education, wrote of Klein that, “Over the past decade, in her role as campus sustainability coordinator, Dr. Klein has quite literally transformed how our campus engages with issues of sustainability.” 

An active member of New York State Teacher Environmental Education Preparation program since 1999, she has served the New York State Outdoor Education Association (NYSOEA) as a member from 2007 to 2011 of the Environmental Education Non-Formal Certification Ad Hoc Committee, which developed a plan to implement non-formal environmental education certification. 

Throughout her career, Klein has taught students, faculty and staff how to create and discuss solutions to sustainability in their lives, and for more than decade has been an active member of the New York State Consortium for Sustainability in Higher Education. 

She also co-chaired the Environmental Literacy Committee from 2008 to 2009 and 2012 to 2020. In 2010, she received the NYSOEA Leadership Award in recognition of her innovative efforts to promote outdoor and environmental education. 

Bruce Mattingly, dean of SUNY Cortland’s School of Arts and Sciences, wrote of Klein that she “... purposefully found ways to apply her disciplinary knowledge and expertise to address issues that are of fundamental importance to our society and in fact, the health and well-being of our planet.” 

Among many roles Klein has taken on are faculty coordinator of the Center for Outdoor and Environmental Education, co-chair of the AASHE Sustainability Tracking and Assessment Rating System (STARS) Campus Working Group and being a part of the SUNY Cortland Sustainability Coalition. She’s also spent four years as the graduate coordinator for the university’s graduate program in childhood education and has twice been the interim chair of the Childhood/Early Childhood Department. 

SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Steven Broyles noted that “Dr. Klein’s service at SUNY Cortland represents a continuous and career-long endeavor across the breadth of the university’s structure.” 

The list of committees she’s served on speaks to Klein’s dedication to the university: Campus Garden Advisory, Bee Campus USA, Sustainability Curriculum, Green Days, Climate Action Plan and additional advisory committees. She has also been a part of 21 search committees for faculty colleagues and professional staff members, the school personnel committee, her department personnel committee and the university’s Long-Range Planning Committee, including one year as its chair. 

“At heart, Dr. Beth Klein is an educator in every sense of the word — of people, of students, of colleagues. Her passion for education and the environment threads through all of her teaching, scholarship and service,” Bitterbaum said. “She integrates her educational training and research into her service outlets, using her expertise to create memorable experiences for children, pre-service teachers and many others outside of Cortland.” 

She becomes the 12th SUNY Cortland faculty member to achieve the Distinguished Service Professor rank.