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Aug. 17, 2006
Contact: Jackie Hosey, University Relations, (785) 864-8858.

Seven KU professors surprised this morning with Kemper fellowships

LAWRENCE — Seven University of Kansas professors were pleasantly interrupted this morning when the “Surprise Patrol,” led by Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere presented them with $5,000 W.T. Kemper Fellowships in recognition of their teaching and advising excellence.

In all, 20 professors will be honored and $100,000 distributed as part of the Kemper awards tradition this year. The patrol will hand out awards to additional unsuspecting professors Friday, Aug. 18, and Monday, Aug. 21.

The W.T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence recognize outstanding teachers and advisers at KU as determined by a seven-member selection committee. Now in their 11th year, the awards have been supported by a $650,000 in gifts from the William T. Kemper Foundation (Commerce Bank, trustee) and $650,000 in matching funds from KU Endowment.

The William T. Kemper Foundation was established in 1989 after Kemper’s death. The foundation is dedicated to continuing Kemper’s lifelong interest in improving the human condition and quality of life. The foundation supports Midwest communities and concentrates on initiatives in education, health and human services, civic improvements and the arts.

Today’s winners are:

J. Christopher Brown, assistant professor of geography and environmental studies
David Frayer, professor of anthropology
Lisa Friis, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
Bernard A. “Bud” Hirsch, professor of English (Hirsch received his award at an earlier date)
Shane J. Lopez, associate professor in the counseling psychology program
Ric G. Steele, associate professor of psychology and applied behavioral sciences
William E. Westerbeke, professor of law

Recipient bios:

J. Christopher Brown, assistant professor of geography and environmental studies
Brown has been teaching KU students for the past five years. “Learning is a social activity,” Brown says, and he works hard to make students realize that they are part of a larger community, with the common goal of learning about the world and making it a better place. Brown aims to learn every student’s name each semester, even in classes as large as 200. Brown’s interest and energy for his courses are contagious to his students, one who comments, “(He is) by far the best instructor I have come across during my time at KU. His obvious passion and excitement radiates and is infectious to his students.”

David Frayer, professor of anthropology
Frayer has been an instructor of courses involving human biological and behavioral evolution for 31 years. Frayer is recognized internationally as a leading researcher in Neanderthal studies. He has been called “selfless” as an instructor and an adviser, and consistently receives evaluations from students that recognize his commitment to instruction and caring. Says one student, “I am glad there are professors like Dr. Frayer in the world. They are rare, and we need more of them … someone who excels at teaching and advising and goes far beyond what is expected.”

Lisa Friis, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
In her five years at KU, Friis has taught an array of courses and has worked diligently to improve her teaching techniques. Friis implements fresh approaches to her classes while showing students how to incorporate learned skills in their profession. Friis cites national teaching conferences as being enlightening and inspiring her to engage students in more active learning activities. As an adviser, Friis says she enjoys working with the student as a professional and teaching by example.

Bernard A. “Bud” Hirsch, professor of English
Hirsch has been an adviser and professor at KU for 30 years and is stepping down from his role as adviser this summer. Hirsch says his goal as a teacher is to provide means, occasion and encouragement for students to realize their own power of imagination and intellect and techniques with which to explore and express them effectively. Hirsch teaches American Indian literature as well as British Romantic poetry and advises English undergraduates. He says his job is not only to provide students with a good KU experience but also to help them live a fulfilling and productive life. As a student says, “He showed that in many ways every poem can be and is about life.”

Shane J. Lopez, associate professor of the counseling psychology program, department of psychology and research in education
Lopez says the greatest compliment he has received from a student was simply that his class made her think. Lopez, who has taught at KU since 1998, says he wants his teaching philosophy and techniques to set the stage to teach critical thinking about human behavior. Lopez is also a mentor for graduates and new professionals, his most valued role, he says, because he is able to instill students' confidence in their abilities in research and practice.

Ric G. Steele, associate professor of psychology and applied behavioral sciences
Steele is involved in almost all areas of the child psychology department at KU. An instructor for six years, Steele uses his interactive personality to maximize learning potential for students. He instructs classes from the undergraduate level to individual supervision and instruction of clinical graduate students. Overall, he has the hope of teaching each student to be an informed consumer and co-creator of psychological science. “He always seems interested in students' specific interests and in helping them achieve their professional goals,” says one student.

William E. Westerbeke, professor of law
Westerbeke is likely to be seen visiting, joking and laughing with students in the hallways of Green Hall between classes. As one student says, “He has a first-class presence.” He is said to bring a feeling of warmth to KU, where he has taught for 32 years. Westerbeke says he finds that he uses teaching methods that impressed him as a student: the use of a smile and a sense of humor rather than intimidation. His role does not end on graduation day but extends to the training of judges, lawyers and legislators.

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