Honorary appointments are made by the president of the university in recognition of outstanding contributions in education, research, public service or any other endeavor of importance to UVM. Appointees engage with the UVM community and with the benefit of their experience provide special insight and perspective for students, faculty and staff.

Patrick J. Leahy, President’s Distinguished Fellow

Appointed 2023

As President’s Distinguished Fellow, Leahy will contribute to UVM’s mission by participating in the launch of research, academic and engagement projects initiated through his efforts while in Congress. He will be available as an advisor to students and faculty members, a guest lecturer in classes and at public events, and a conduit between the university and organizations and communities in all corners of the state.

Sen. Leahy retired in January 2023 following eight terms in the U.S. Senate, where he represented Vermont for 48 years. He served as President Pro Tempore of the Senate twice, from 2012-2015 and from 2021-2023. He chaired three major committees—Appropriations, Judiciary, and Agriculture—during a tenure that began in 1975. He retired as the third-longest-serving senator in the nation’s history.

Sen. Leahy brings to UVM a long record of exemplary service to Vermont and support for its flagship land grant university. A native of Montpelier, he served multiple terms as State’s Attorney beginning in 1966. He went on to become the state’s longest-serving U.S. senator.

Patrick Leahy press release >>

Julia Phillips, President’s Distinguished Scholar

Appointed 2019

Julia Phillips is a highly accomplished and renowned physicist who has held top leadership positions at national laboratories and scientific organizations. As the University of Vermont’s first President’s Distinguished Scholar, Phillips has lent her expertise with the campus community. During the Fall 2022 semester she delivered a seminar on “The State of U.S. Engineering.” Phillips also mentors UVM students and faculty members, participates in faculty colloquia, and provides advice and counsel to administrative and academic leadership.

Since 2016 Phillips has served on the National Science Board, which sets National Science Foundation policy. Phillips is director emeritus and retired vice president and chief technology officer at Sandia National Laboratories, where she held various top leadership positions over two decades. Her work there included leadership of Sandia’s $165-million Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, research strategy development and implementation, and intellectual property protection and deployment. Phillips began her scientific career at AT&T Bell Laboratories, where she was the technical manager of its thin film research group.

The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Phillips has published extensively in major scientific journals, has written several essays on science and society, and authored book chapters on materials science topics. She has served on multiple editorial boards, and holds five patents. Phillips was recognized with the first Horizon Award from the US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau for her significant contributions to the acceptance and advancement of women in science, engineering, math, or technology. In 2008, the American Physical Society awarded her the George E. Pake Prize for her leadership and pioneering research in materials physics for industrial and national security applications.

Julia Phillips press release >>