MU astronomy professor Angela Speck receives Kemper Fellowship award

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 | 4:55 p.m. CDT; updated 10:53 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 10, 2013
MU astronomy professor Angela Speck reacts as she listens to the details of the 2013 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence on Wednesday. Speck was teaching Introduction to Modern Astrophysics in the Physics Building when she was surprised by the announcement of her selection for the award.

 COLUMBIA — Angela Speck felt “sheer terror” when MU administrators, professors and staff entered her classroom to award her the William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

She knew she was going to blush.


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"It doesn’t go with the outfit or the hair,” said Speck, whose hair is black with purple and green streaks.

Speck, a professor in the MU Department of Physics and Astronomy, received the fifth and final 2013 Kemper Fellowship on Wednesday morning. She joined associate professor of toxicology Tim Evans, who won the first award, and three other professors who also won awards.

MU Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton made the announcement to eight students in Speck’s Introduction to Modern Astrophysics course before Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz presented her with a check for $10,000.

The Kemper Fellowship program was established in 1991. It was named for William T. Kemper, a 1926 graduate of MU. Commerce Bank controls a trust that provides $10,000 awards to five outstanding MU professors each year.

In his presentation of the award, Middleton recalled a conversation he had with Speck when they both traveled to South Africa. 

"She said she wanted to be an astronomer since she was a little girl," Middleton said. "Her passion for the field is obvious."

Twenty minutes later, Speck was back to teaching her class, which focused on techniques for measuring distance in space.

A student walked in late and missed the announcement. "You missed all the fun," Speck told him.

Speck said she is in her 11th year teaching at MU. She has been a professor in the department since 2011, according to a release from the MU News Bureau.

She completed her undergraduate studies in astrophysics at Queen Mary, University of London. She received her Ph.D. in astronomy from University College London and did postdoctoral work at both University College London and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"She’s very passionate about her teaching, and she clearly does a very good job," said Stephen Garton, a junior chemical engineering major in the class. "She’s good at explaining concepts in simple ways."

Although Speck knew she had been nominated for the award, she was surprised by the visit.

“I’m speechless, which is really unusual,” Speck said when she accepted the award.

She said she appreciates the university for recognizing people who put effort into their teaching.

“I don’t see my research and my teaching as being distinct things,” she said. “They feed into each other.”

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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