COLUMBIA — When MU Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton entered the lecture with a cadre of TV cameras and photographers, Associate Professor Stephen Ball thought he was in trouble.
Quite the opposite.
Middleton interrupted Ball during his lecture on physiology of exercise to award Ball with the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence on Wednesday morning, the first of five to be awarded for 2012.
"Did you guys know this was happening?" Ball asked his students.
Commerce Bank Regional Chairman Jim Schatz, as trustee of the fellowship award, presented Ball with the monetary prize.
"While my thanks are very important to you, I'm sure, I am also very pleased to present you with an award of $10,000," Schatz said.
The Kemper Fellowship is awarded five times each year to outstanding educators at MU along with a $10,000 check in recognition of the teachers' work. The family of William T. Kemper, who graduated from MU in 1926, established the fellowship in 1991 with a $500,000 gift.
Ball has taught undergraduate courses in exercise and fitness in the College of Human Environmental Sciences since 2002. Ball is also a specialist in fitness for MU Extension, which provides outreach to Missouri residents.
"He travels across the state of Missouri, imparting his knowledge to citizens on a regular basis, improving the health and knowledge of all of us in Missouri," Middleton said. "The University of Missouri is very proud of Professor Ball, and we think he is most deserving of the award."
He also trains other Missouri educators on how to promote physical activity with programs such as "Jump Into Action" and "Smart Moves," according to a release from the MU News Bureau.
Ball said he thought he would just be filling in for Jill Kanaley's physiology of fitness class.
"I thought I was just filling in for Dr. Kanaley. I am as surprised as you are. Thank you very much. I am very honored and surprised," Ball said. "You're only as good as the people around you. I see Dr. (Chris) Hardin came in today, and he has given me tremendous support over the years. All the way down to my TAs.
"Alright, back to work," Ball announced to giggles of mixed enthusiasm from students as Middleton and Schatz left the classroom.
The university has yet to announce the recipients of the remaining four Kemper Fellowship awards for 2012.