Three MU professors awarded Kemper Fellowships

Monday, April 6, 2009 | 7:03 p.m. CDT; updated 9:19 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 6, 2009
Robert Torres, left, is congratulated by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton as he awards one of the five 2009 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to him during a surprise visit in Torres' classroom Monday. Torres is a professor of agriculture education and director of graduate studies in the Department of Agricultural Education in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "It's a tremendous honor to receive the the Kemper award," Torres said after he was presented a check for $10,000 by Commerce Bank chairman Jim Schatz. "But it's the students who make it all worthwhile." The students of his Data Collection, Analysis and Interpretation class, who were just writing their second exam when the award presenters entered the room, applauded and cheered for their teacher when his fellowship was announced. "He's one of the best," Stacy Vincent, one of the students, said. "He makes a topic that sounds very intimidating and boring ... fun and interesting." This year is the 18th time that the office of the MU Chancellor awards the William T. Kemper fellowship.

COLUMBIA — Professors Robert Torres, Kyle Gibson and Mitchell McKinney were awarded the first of five 2009 Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence on Monday. The two additional recipients will be announced Tuesday.

The annual fellowships, each with a $10,000 grant, were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift from the family that founded Commerce and United Missouri banks.


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Following tradition, Chancellor Brady Deaton and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz surprised the professors by announcing the awards during their classes.

Robert Torres, director of graduate studies and professor in the department of agricultural education, joined MU in 2002. According to an MU News Bureau release, he has worked to educate and train the next generation of K-12 teachers.

“He inspires students as an educator with the enthusiasm, creativity and passion he exhibits on a daily basis,” Rebecca Lawyer, MU graduate student, said in the news release.

“Whether he is teaching a lesson on leadership theory, teaching methods or correlation research, Dr. Torres does all he can to engage students, motivate them to learn and inspire them to do more.”

Torres received his bachelor’s and his master’s degrees at New Mexico State University and his doctorate from Ohio State University.

Kyle Gibson, clinical assistant professor in the department of physical therapy, joined MU in 1997. He teaches orthopedic physical therapy in the MU School of Health Professions, was co-author of a doctor of physical therapy class and developed a new approach in the admissions interview process for the physical therapy program.

“As an instructor, Dr. Gibson is always concerned with his students’ learning,” said a former student, Molly Winkelmeyer, in the news release.

“He often asks, ‘Did that make sense?’ and follows up with another way to explain the topic. He appreciates the spectrum of learning styles and abilities of the students he instructs and is always ready with a visual example, a different explanation, hand motions or a reference in a textbook.”

Gibson received his bachelor’s degree at Northern Illinois University and his master’s degree and doctorate at MU.

Mitchell McKinney, associate professor in the department of communication, joined the MU staff in 2002 and is known as an authority on political communications.

“Dr. McKinney’s passion for knowledge and communication motivates him to continue to grow and learn, which further enhances his teaching effectiveness and ability to disseminate knowledge,” said Loreen Olson, associate professor of communication, in a news release. “This motivation translates into his ability as a teacher by continuing to develop knowledge of the subject matter, familiarity with current events that impact classroom content, and skill as a teacher.”

McKinney received his bachelor’s degree at Western Kentucky University, his master’s at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and his doctorate at the University of Kansas.

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