Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Lisa Friis had just begun the first day of her Materials Science class in the Spahr Engineering Classroom when she was forced to stop. University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway commandeered the packed lecture hall and announced to all the students that Friis was one of the Kemper Award winners for 2006. The Kemper Award winners each receive $5,000 in recognition of their excellence.
Hemenway led a large "Surprise Patrol" contingent of university representatives, media and several of Friis' co-workers in congratulating Friis for her outstanding teaching skills. The patrol also included representatives from Commerce Bank of Lawrence and the KU Endowment Association.
"This is such a surprise," Friis said. "Thank you. ... I'm very pleased and honored. Thank you."
The Surprise Patrol made a repeat appearance in the Engineering School the following morning, this time to recognize the teaching talents of Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Sara Wilson. KU Provost Richard Lariviere interrupted the Control Systems class to inform students of Wilson's latest achievement — Kemper Award winner.
In all 20 KU professors will be honored with Kemper Awards and $100,000 will be distributed during the first weeks of the semester.
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 it's 11th year, the awards were originally established by a $500,000 fund from the William T. Kemper Foundation-Commerce Bank, Trustee, and $500,000 in matching funds from the KU Endowment Association. In 2005, university and endowment representatives announced the program would continue for another 10 years.
The William T. Kemper Foundation was established in 1989 after Kemper's death. It supports Midwest communities and concentrates on initiatives in education, health and human services, civic improvements and the arts.