MU School of Health Professions clinical professor awarded 2023 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

Lea Ann Lowery
Lea Ann Lowery

March 21, 2023
Contact: Brian Consiglio, 573-882-9144,

Latha Ramchand, University of Missouri provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and Steve Sowers, CEO, Missouri Community Markets, today awarded a 2023 William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence to Lea Ann Lowery. Lowery is a clinical professor of occupational therapy in the MU School of Health Professions.

Kristofer Hagglund, dean of the MU School of Health Professions, joined other administrators surprising Lowery by honoring her with the fellowship, which includes a $15,000 check. Kemper Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year.

The William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate, was a well-known civic leader in Kansas City until his death in 1989. His 52-year career in banking included top positions at banks in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Commerce Bank manages the trust fund.

Lea Ann Lowery biography

As a 1988 alumna of MU, Lowery graduated from the same occupational therapy training degree program where she is now a faculty member.

Ever since her arrival in 2004, Lowery has been striving for excellence as an educator — constantly modifying teaching methods, learning new strategies, attending training workshops, conferences, courses and even obtaining additional degrees to support her development as an educator.

“She has been the advisor for student groups on campus, volunteered to greet students at Summer Welcome, been a faculty mentor for freshmen interest groups, helped with move-in days and helped coordinate student awards ceremonies,” said Timothy Wolf, associate dean for research in the MU School of Health Professions. “Along the way, she has been a mentor for faculty, staff, students and a constant source of support for her students throughout their careers. She teaches with the intention and understanding that her students are training to be health care providers. After they leave us, they will enter the workforce helping to care for people at perhaps the lowest, most vulnerable point of their lives.”

One former student who Lowery has continued to mentor is Megan Blaufuss, now an occupational therapist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

“One of Lea Ann’s greatest gifts as a professor was her ability to connect with her students,” Blaufuss said. “Most of our classes involved sitting around a table discussing diagnoses and brainstorming treatment techniques together, the same way I do now as a clinician with my colleagues. She engaged with us rather than lectured at us. I will be forever indebted to Lea Ann for all the ways she instilled confidence in me as a student, as a clinician and as an individual.”

After graduating from MU in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, Lowery earned a master’s degree in special education from MU in 2003 and a doctoral degree in occupational therapy from the University of Kansas in 2016. She earned the ‘Excellence in Education’ Award from the MU Division of Student Affairs in 2012, the ‘Outstanding Occupational Therapy Educator’ Award from the Missouri Occupational Therapy Association in 2013 and the ‘Faculty Engagement’ Award from the MU School of Health Professions in 2021.

“Dr. Lowery is known for being a committed and innovative teacher whose clinical experience positively influences her approach to curricular and co-curricular activities for students,” said Kristofer Hagglund, dean of the MU School of Health Professions. “In collaboration with MizzouRec, Dr. Lowery facilitated the development of a student-facilitated swimming program for children with autism, and she remains the co-faculty director of this successful program. Her colleagues value her efforts.”

 As a clinical professor, Lowery developed the first clinic for the MU Department of Occupational Therapy, Tiger OT, which utilizes collaborative teaching approaches by pairing students with a client to learn essential clinical skills, such as assessment, theory-driven intervention planning and client-centered care. Supporting assignments include the use of instructional strategies such as video self-reflection, concept mapping to enhance clinical reasoning and weekly seminars to explore topics that advance students’ clinical knowledge.

In 2015, Lowery helped launch Swimming and Water Instruction Modified for Autism (SWIM) at MU. The program provides adaptive swimming lessons for children with autism, who are 160 times more likely to drown. Since 1998, Lowery has dedicated 300 hours annually and trained more than 350 students through the Missouri Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program. This program develops leaders who work with families and children with neurodevelopmental disabilities.

Meet all of the 2023 recipients

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