A program that had become an uplifting annual tradition at Kansas University over the last 16 years has come to an end.
For the first time since 1996, the group that became known as the “surprise patrol” won’t be making its rounds on the KU campus this year to notify faculty members that they have been chosen to receive one of the William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence. The “patrol,” usually made up of the chancellor and other top administrators, sometimes joined by representatives of the Kemper Foundation, would swoop into classrooms to surprise teachers and their students with the award announcements.
Each award came with a $7,500 check, but, for many faculty members, the act of being formally recognized for their work was perhaps even more valuable than the money. Over the 16 years of the program, more than $1.55 million was distributed to more than 300 KU faculty members in almost every academic discipline. Funds for the program came from the Kemper Foundation and the KU Endowment Association.
KU plans to mark the end of the fellowship program and honor the contributions of the Kemper Foundation and all the recipients of the teaching fellowships at a reception on Sept. 12. The KU community certainly owes the Kemper Foundation a huge “thank you” for a program that was started at the University of Missouri in 1991 and expanded to KU in 1996. Special mention should be made of Jim Kemper, Jonathan Kemper, David Kemper and the late William T. Kemper for making this award possible.
Visits by the surprise patrol were a delightful way to start off the school year. The shock and gratitude of teachers receiving the award was heartwarming to see. KU has other high-profile teaching awards, but there was a special joy to interrupting teachers in the middle of doing what they do best and thanking them publicly and financially for the work they do.
All good things must come to an end, but what can KU and another generous donor do to continue to reward outstanding teachers at the university?