KU chancellor surprises prof Jorge Pérez with $7,500 for excellence in teaching

Jorge Perez, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Kansas University, left, laughs with Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and other KU administrators and media members on Monday, Aug. 22, 2011 in his classroom at Wescoe Hall after being notified that he is a recipient of a 2011 Kemper Award for teaching excellence. Perez is among several faculty members receiving a Kemper Award, which is accompanied by a ,500 check.

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little doesn’t normally walk into a classroom and take over a lecture, but Jorge Pérez couldn’t have minded too much.

Pérez, an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese, accommodated an unexpected visit from the chancellor and her supporters as they presented him with a Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence.

The award came with a $7,500 check.

“Wow,” Pérez said, shocked into speaking English in his upper-level Spanish course, Advanced Composition and Grammar. “Thank you. … I’m overwhelmed. I’m used to speaking Spanish in my class, so I’m a little …”

Surprised? It wouldn’t be unusual.

This is the 16th year that representatives from KU, the Kansas University Endowment Association and the William T. Kemper Foundation have been walking into classrooms unannounced to honor KU educators for their outstanding teaching.

The award to Perez was the first of 10 to be distributed this semester. Six more are scheduled to be presented this week on the Lawrence campus, and three are slated to go to faculty at the KU Med Center.

The awards are supported by an annual gift of $37,500 from the foundation, with Commerce Bank as trustee, plus another $37,500 from the endowment association.

Pérez has been at KU since 2004. From 2006 to 2008 he received the Cramer Professorship for excellence in research and teaching; in 2009 he was recognized for excellence in graduate teaching by the Center for Teaching Excellence.