August 13, 1999


LAWRENCE -- An engineer, a pharmacologist and a social psychologist at the University of Kansas are the first recipients of an award created by Kansas former first lady Meredith Docking to honor and keep exceptional teachers and scholars at KU.

Docking, of Arkansas City, made a commitment to give $1 million to the Kansas University Endowment Association to finance the awards for assistant or associate-level faculty members. Individuals selected as Docking Faculty Scholars will receive a salary stipend for the duration of their fellowships. The first Docking Scholars, who will hold the titles for three years, are:

"With this gift, the Docking legacy will continue to make a deep and lasting impact on the quality of education at the university," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said in thanking Docking for her gift. "The Docking Faculty Scholar Fund will give us greater ability to encourage assistant and associate professors to develop their careers at KU and invest their futures in Kansas."

Docking's husband, Robert, served four terms as Kansas governor from 1967 to 1975. She has given an initial $510,000 to establish the Docking Faculty Scholar Fund. She has also committed annual additions to build the fund to $1 million. The gift was created with the support of her sons, former Kansas Lt. Gov. Thomas R. Docking and Kansas Board of Regents chair William R. Docking.

"I wanted to make a gift because our family feels a lot of loyalty and gratitude for everything KU has done for us," Meredith Docking said. "The chancellor told me how difficult it is today to compete for the best and brightest faculty. It's not good when KU professors are lured away by better salaries from other institutions. I hope this fund will help keep outstanding professors at KU."

KU Provost David Shulenburger said, "Meredith Docking's support will encourage our younger faculty to reach their potential as distinguished teachers and researchers. The Docking Faculty Scholar program ultimately benefits our students by helping us retain the brightest and best among our faculty. Monica Biernat, Rick Dobrowsky and Kim Roddis represent the high quality of teaching and scholarship typical of younger faculty at KU."

Shulenburger noted that each of the first Docking Faculty Scholars has received top evaluations from his or her students. Each works closely with graduate students, often providing jobs through research grants, and each has maintained an impressive level of research activity at KU.

Biographical information on the Dockings and the Faculty Scholar recipients follows:


MEREDITH DOCKING graduated from KU with a business degree in 1947. She was a member of Chi Omega at KU, where she met her husband, Robert Docking.

Robert Docking graduated from KU in 1948, also with a business degree. The couple married in Kansas City in 1950 and lived in Arkansas City, Kan., where Robert Docking was president of Union State Bank and also served as city commissioner and mayor. During that time, the Dockings had their two sons.

In 1966, Robert Docking was elected governor of Kansas and Meredith Docking became the state's first lady. It was the first of four consecutive two-year terms for the Dockings in Topeka. As first lady, Meredith Docking held honorary positions on many boards and traveled throughout the state to meet with citizens and support her husband's campaigns.

When the Dockings left Topeka in 1975, they returned to Arkansas City. Robert Docking maintained interests in banking, oil, insurance and politics. He served on the KU Endowment Board of Trustees from 1977 until his death in 1983.

Meredith Docking has served on the board of Union State Bank and on many civic boards, including the boards of the Arkansas City Library, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the Tree Board of Arkansas City. She has also volunteered at Memorial Hospital, now named South Central Kansas Regional Medical Center. Today, Meredith Docking enjoys traveling, playing bridge, reading, and gardening.

A longtime supporter of KU, Meredith Docking is a member of the KU Alumni Association and the Outlook Society, which honors donors of $500,000 or more through the Chancellors Club, KU Endowment's major-donor organization.

WILLIAM R. DOCKING graduated from KU in 1973 with a bachelor of arts degree in political science and in 1977 with a master's degree in business and a law degree. He is a member of the KU Endowment Board of Trustees and chairman of the Kansas Board of Regents. He is married to Judy O. Docking, and he has one child, Mary Ruth.

THOMAS R. DOCKING graduated from KU in 1976 with a bachelor of arts degree in economics and political science and in 1980 with a law degree. He is married to Jill Docking. Both have been active in politics. Thomas served as lieutenant governor of Kansas from 1983 to 1987. The couple has two children, Margery Meredith and Brian T. Docking, who is a KU business student in the class of 2001.


Since coming to KU in 1992, Biernat has received research grants exceeding $1.1 million from the National Institute of Mental Health. Her research focuses on Stereotyping and prejudice, including sexism and racism, and gender and anti-homosexual bias. One series of studies by Biernat examined how negative stereotypes of blacks and of women may affect their employment or admissions opportunities.

This year Biernat received the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology. She received the 1992 teacher of the year award by the University of Florida chapter of Psi Chi, a national honor society.

Biernat came to KU from the University of Florida at Gainesville where she began her teaching career in 1989. She earned a Ph.D. in social psychology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1989. Biernat also completed a bachelor's degree in psychology and communication in 1984 and a master's degree in 1986 at Michigan.


Dobrowsky came to KU in 1995 from Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., where he had been a postdoctoral research associate and an assistant research professor.

Dobrowsky studies cell signaling pathways involved in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis and in neuro-inflammatory diseases such as diabetic neuropathy. He currently has grants from the National Science Foundation, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International and the National Institutes of Health.

He received the 1997 Mayo Graduate School distinguished faculty award in neuroscience from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. In addition, Dobrowsky was the 1993-94 Harry Hutchinson Gibson Fellow in Cancer at Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center and received a three-year National Research Service Award, 1990-93, from the National Institute on Aging.

Dobrowsky earned a Ph.D. in pharmacology in 1990 from North Carolina State University, Raleigh. His 1985 master's degree in biochemistry and bachelor's degree in psychology are also from North Carolina State.


Within the next five years, Roddis, a structural engineer, hopes to see some of today's problems in the design and construction of steel bridges eliminated with computer programs she is designing.

Roddis' teaching philosophy: "Outstanding structural engineers leave a legacy of buildings and bridges. As an educator, I hope to leave a legacy of engineering students I have inspired." Since joining the KU faculty in 1988, she has worked extensively with the Kansas Department of Transportation on solving problems related to steel bridge construction and maintenance.

Ultimately Roddis' research will help both in construction of new and in maintenance of aging steel structures.

Roddis received the 1997 KU School of Engineering Miller Award for Research. She earned a Ph.D. in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, in 1989. As a Ph.D. student, she received fellowships from the John and Fannie Hertz Foundation, the American Institute of Steel Construction and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She also has master's and bachelor's degrees in civil engineering from MIT. She has worked as a structural engineer for firms in Boston and other cities.

Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853 or


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