Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence raised to $15,000 award in 30th year

William T. Kemper Foundation and Commerce Bank have awarded $10,000 to excellent MU teachers since 1991

  • This is a picture of Libby Cowgill.
    2020 Kemper Fellow Libby Cowgill is an associate professor of anthropology in the College of Arts and Science.

Oct. 13, 2020
Contact: Austin Fitzgerald, 573-882-6217,

On Tuesday, the University of Missouri honored the 2020 recipients of the William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence in a virtual ceremony, which came with a surprise for the honorees: The award money for the prestigious honor has been raised from $10,000 to $15,000 by the William T. Kemper Foundation and its trustee, Commerce Bank.

“The Kemper Fellowship is one of the most esteemed honors a teacher can receive at MU, and a 50% increase in award money is an even stronger statement about the importance of quality teaching for MU and the entire community,” said Latha Ramchand, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at MU. “I’m so happy for each of this year’s Kemper Fellows, and I’m thankful for the ongoing commitment to this award from the Kemper Foundation and Commerce Bank.”

2020 is the 30th year that MU teachers have been honored with Kemper Fellowships, with 225 teachers earning the award to date. Since the beginning, leadership from MU and Commerce Bank have carried

on the tradition of bursting into classrooms to surprise the winning teachers with the news in the middle of class.

“This award is highly prestigious and deserving of a monetary component that reflects its stature,” said Steve Sowers, president and CEO for Commerce Bank’s central region. “The increase marks 30 years of the Kemper Fellowships and signals an ongoing commitment to the award.”

The monetary increase came as a surprise not only to this year’s honorees — Miriam Barquero-Molina, Libby Cowgill, Craig Kluever, Daryl Smith and Angie Zapata — but also to David Wollersheim, a featured speaker at the ceremony and one of the original recipients of the Kemper Fellowship in 1991.

“This award has made the campus, community and state more aware of good teaching and good teachers,” said Wollersheim, now a professor emeritus in mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU.

“I am very grateful to the Kemper Foundation for their continued support, and I’m certainly proud of each recipient.”

Established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift, the Kemper Foundation — in partnership with Commerce

Bank and the University of Missouri — awards the Kemper Fellowship to five outstanding teachers at MU. From 1991-2005, the award was given to 10 teachers per year. This year’s $5,000 increase is the first time the award amount has changed since its inception.

The award’s namesake is William T. Kemper, who graduated from MU in 1926 and went on to become a well-known banker, civic leader and philanthropist in Missouri and elsewhere in the Midwest. After Kemper’s death in 1989, the Kemper Fellowship was created to continue his legacy of service to education and civic engagement.

For more information about the Kemper Fellowships or this year's honorees, click here.

Watch the ceremony

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