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MU Professor Awarded 2015 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 3rd, 2015

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2015 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Rachel Harper, the director of the MU Writing Center and a member of the Honors Humanities faculty in the MU Honors College.

Loftin, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff surprised Harper by honoring her with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 check. Kemper Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year. This year is the 25th anniversary of the first William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence.

The William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence were established in 1991 with a $500,000 gift. Kemper, a 1926 MU graduate, was a well-known civic leader in Kansas City until his death in 1989. His 52-year career in banking included top positions at banks in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Commerce Bank manages the trust fund.

ATTACHED : Harper Bio

Rachel Harper

Director of the MU Writing Center
Coordinator of the Honors Humanities Sequence
MU Honors College
MU Faculty Member Since 1995

Rachel Harper has called teaching at MU one of the great joys of her life. It is her passion for teaching that led Harper to her position as director of the MU Writing Center in 2007. Harper is not only a teacher and a tutor; she is also a leader, with exceptional energy and generosity, say her students and colleagues.

“Dr. Harper is one of the few professors who have made difficult works enjoyable, converting at least one staunch biology student to an avid reader of the classics,” says Azeem Khan, senior biology major and former student of Harper’s. “She also shows incredible generosity with her time and effort in helping us become better writers, and, perhaps most importantly, she has inspired us to continue learning on our own, making the humanities part of our daily lives and even our future careers.”

Harper says her obligation to feed her students’ acute hunger for learning has been a guiding force throughout her education career. In her 20 years of teaching at MU, Harper has been instrumental in the revitalization of the Honors Humanities Sequence, bringing together respected and distinguished faculty from across the campus to lecture in the Humanities Series. Harper also has worked to enhance the training of student tutors in the Writing Center, improving teaching techniques among student tutors from diverse departments.

“Rachel’s focus on students carries over to her work as the Honor Series coordinator,” says philosophy professor Peter Markie. “Rachel leads our planning for each semester’s offerings and recruits the faculty who teach in the series. She deftly guides us through our strongly held, but often conflicting, views on which works to teach, lecturers to invite and exams to give. She brings in new and talented teachers to lecture and leads discussion sections. Her efforts are always aimed at what is best for the students. What works can they gain the most from studying? What faculty can best teach them?”

In addition to serving as a teacher and mentor to more than 100 students, Harper is a member of the Honors College’s curriculum committee and the Honors Humanities Advisory Board.

“Rachel has done as much as anyone on campus to get students to appreciate the value of the humanities at a time when it couldn’t be more under siege,” says Nancy West, director of the MU Honors College. “Through her work, students and faculty have learned about the values of different cultures, about what goes into making works of art, about how history is made. She has helped preserve the great accomplishments of the past — and thus has helped those around her understand the world they live in and given them tools to imagine the future.”

Harper earned bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish from Illinois Wesleyan University, and she holds master’s and doctoral degrees in American literature from the University of Missouri.