KU News Release

Aug. 20, 2009
Contact: Jill Jess, University Relations, (785) 864-8858

'Surprise patrol' hands out first Kemper fellowship of 2009

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor got a special kickoff to the new school year today when a “surprise patrol” led by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little presented her with a $5,000 W.T. Kemper Fellowship in recognition of her teaching and advising excellence.

This morning’s honoree was Deborah Smith, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. In all, 20 professors will be honored and $100,000 distributed this year as part of the Kemper tradition. Three more will be honored this afternoon. The patrol will hand out awards to additional unsuspecting professors Aug. 20, 21, 24 and 26 and Sept. 1.

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 14th year, the awards have been supported by a $650,000 gift 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.

KU Endowment is the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management organization for KU. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university.

Smith joined KU in 1991 and teaches courses in organismal and evolutionary biology, the biology of insects and other areas. She is known for improving not only her students’ research skills and scientific knowledge but also their writing abilities. “In all aspects of her teaching, Dr. Smith is consistently innovative and thoughtful,” said Christopher Haufler, department chair. “She approaches her undergraduate teaching with the goal of instilling in her students the zest for learning that she clearly has.” In one course, Biology of Spiders, she requires students to keep a spider as a pet to make regular observations of their behavior. In addition to adding to a solid understanding of spiders, the course leads students on a voyage of discovery.

The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

kunews@ku.edu | (785) 864-3256 | 1314 Jayhawk Blvd., Lawrence, KS 66045

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