What is an Academic "Chair"

From the Spring 2000 issue of Nexus.

The concept of an academic chair originated with the medieval church. Teaching was said to take place ex cathedra (from the chair), because each bishop had a throne (cathedra) in his principal church. The model for later universities was the University of Paris, which developed directly out of the community of clerical scholars associated with Notre-Dame cathedral. The chancellor of the Bishop of Paris was responsible for appointing the masters (senior scholars), each of whom had a place from which to teach - by analogy, a chair. In the mid-13 century, when Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II created the University of Naples, he became the first secular ruler to endow a chair. Today, endowed chairs constitute one of the most significant ways in which alumni and friends can support a school. The creation of an endowed academic chair allows the Faculty to develop and enhance its scholarship in a priority area of study and to recruit faculty members from among the best scholars in the world.