Kemper awards go to Paul Miceli, Thomas Phillips and Joan Hermsen

Tuesday, April 4, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:03 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Physics professor Paul Miceli was surprised to see MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, Provost Brian Foster and Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank walk into one of Miceli’s advanced graduate-level classes on Monday morning.

Miceli was the first MU professor to receive the $10,000 William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence this year. Three of the five recipients were surprised with the news in front of their students Monday.

“I’m excited and slightly embarrassed,” Miceli said. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

Miceli has taught physics for nearly 14 years at MU. He said he enjoys working with students who want to be physicists as well as those who are just taking physics as a required class.

“He’s very clear and concise,” said Michael Gramlich, a graduate student. “He expresses a lot of information on the board. It’s very fast, but it’s all there, everything that you need.”

Thomas Phillips, a professor of biological sciences at MU and the day’s second fellowship winner, said he thought he might have had an unfair advantage.

“I feel like I’m cheating — I think the reason I look like a good teacher is because I designed the class to get the top students together in the program,” he said. “It’s really easy and fun to teach students who are as sharp as the students I get.”

Phillips said receiving the fellowship was an overwhelming honor. “I’m just thrilled,” said his wife, Terry Phillips. “His boss called me last week and it was really hard to keep it a secret.”

Phillips joined the MU faculty in 1986. Aside from teaching histology, Phillips focuses on researching relationships in mammal and plant cells using microscopy techniques. He is also the director of the campuswide light microscopic imaging facility, Molecular Cytology Core.

Joan Hermsen, an associate professor of sociology, was in the middle of her sexual inequalities class in Keller Auditorium when the chancellor walked in, followed as before by a line of journalists.

“I’m really shocked. I never expected this,” Hermsen said. “I feel very honored. I know that it’s a big deal. There are a lot of fabulous teachers that deserve to be recognized, I just didn’t think that I would be one of them.”

Hermsen was so happy that she let her students leave early.

“I don’t know if I should have canceled class or not in front of the provost,” she said.

Hermsen began teaching sociology at MU in 1997. She is also a facilitator for freshmen interest groups and an adviser for sociology students.

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