University of Iowa names Craig Kletzing as inaugural holder of the Donald A. and Marie B. Gurnett Chair

Monday, June 24, 2019

Donald Gurnett
Professor Emeritus Don Gurnett

During more than 60 years at the University of Iowa—beginning as an undergraduate in 1957 and ending with retirement in May 2019 as Professor Emeritus—Don Gurnett of the Department of Physics and Astronomy built a career that will be remembered as among the most influential in the history of American space exploration.

Now the university has announced that Gurnett’s scientific and UI legacy has become even more firmly cemented, with the establishment and appointment of the Donald A. and Marie B. Gurnett Chair.

Learn about Don Gurnett's career in experimental space physics at the UI.

Learn about Professor Craig Kletzing's research at Iowa.

Professor Craig Kletzing of the Department of Physics and Astronomy has been named the inaugural holder of the Donald A. and Marie B. Gurnett Chair.

Several years ago, Don Gurnett and his wife, Marie, donated the funds for the endowed faculty position to the UI Center for Advancement to provide salary support for a faculty member who has a distinguished program in areas of experimental space physics or space-based astronomy. A named, endowed chair is the most prestigious honor given by the university to a faculty member, and is considered an essential tool in recruiting and retaining world-class faculty.

Craig Kletzing
Professor Craig Kletzing, the inaugural
Donald A. and Marie B. Gurnett Chair

Kletzing, who joined the UI faculty in 1996, is an outstanding teacher who has focused much of his research on using rockets and satellites to learn about Earth’s auroras. In June 2019, NASA and the UI announced that a team of scientists led by Kletzing earned a $115 million NASA contract—the largest research award in the UI’s history—to study the connection between Earth and the sun’s magnetic fields.

Don Gurnett said he and Marie are excited about the chair and its appointment.

"Marie and I are pleased to have established the Gurnett Chair to support the future of experimental space physics at Iowa,” Gurnett said, “and we are delighted that Professor Kletzing has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the position.  We are excited about Craig's work, and look forward to learning of his accomplishments in the years to come."

Kletzing said he was humbled by the appointment.

“To be named the Gurnett Chair is an incredible honor,” Kletzing said. “In addition to being my friend and colleague throughout most of my career, Don is an absolute giant in our field. I intend to use the position to expand our knowledge of space with the vigor and diligence that Don has demonstrated for decades, and I’m extremely grateful for the privilege of doing it in his name.”

To learn about supporting the University of Iowa, contact Kate Metcalf of the UI Center for Advancement at or 319-335-3500. The UI Center for Advancement is the preferred channel for private contributions that benefit all areas of the UI, and its mission is to promote the UI’s commitment to excellence through engagement and philanthropy.

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.