Giant panda to join Emory faculty

October 30, 2009
By Jackson Miller
Lun Lun at a recent press conference

Lun Lun at a recent press conference

In a press release issued this morn­ing, Emory University has announced that celebrity panda Lun Lun will become the lat­est addi­tion to its long list of esteemed fac­ulty.  She will join such emi­nent fig­ures as President Jimmy Carter, CNN’s Sanjay Gupta, and the Dalai Lama, all of whom are famous enough to be able to edu­cate stu­dents with­out ever set­ting foot inside a classroom.

“This is the begin­ning of what we hope will be a very long tenure for Lun Lun,” Emory spokes­woman Terri Bennett told Torch reporters.  “We’re excited for her to begin jok­ingly ask­ing her friends to call her ‘Professor’ while oth­er­wise con­tin­u­ing her life exactly as it is.”

Chinese-born Lun Lun is most famous for her 1999 immi­gra­tion to the United States, which made her the first panda to per­ma­nently reside on the East Coast.  Months of sub­se­quent media atten­tion cat­a­pulted the 235-lb. bear to the heights of super-stardom, result­ing in appear­ances on Jay Leno’s Tonight Show and sev­eral cameos in big-budget sum­mer com­edy films.  Her on-again, off-again rela­tion­ship with Jake Gyllenhaal has been the sub­ject of tabloid con­jec­ture for years.

“We’re not hir­ing Lun Lun because she’s famous,” Bennett told Torch, not­ing the pon­der­ous mammal’s cutting-edge research dur­ing the late 1990s, which included eat­ing bam­boo and unsuc­cess­fully attempt­ing to repro­duce.  Bennett also pointed out that Lun Lun has con­tributed to many pres­ti­gious pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing two stints on the cover of TIME, as well as the February page of PETA’s best-selling animal-themed cal­en­dar, We Aren’t Delicious.

Emory’s press release admits that Lun Lun’s busy sched­ule of sleep­ing and claw­ing off tree bark, as well as her cap­tiv­ity in Zoo Atlanta, will make it difficult—some say impossible—for her to teach classes.  Nonetheless, the school remains con­fi­dent that her all-but-fictitious employ­ment will some­how make stu­dents’ $160,000 edu­ca­tions more worth­while.  Added Ms. Bennett, “Lun Lun gets her ego stroked and we improve our rank­ings, but I still tell peo­ple that our stu­dents are the real win­ners here.”

A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Lun Lun could not be reached for comment.

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