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MU Professor Awarded 2010 Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

April 6th, 2010

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

COLUMBIA, Mo. – University of Missouri Chancellor Brady Deaton and Commerce Bank Chairman Jim Schatz of Commerce Bank today awarded one of the 2010 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence to Michael Ugarte, professor of Spanish and Middlebush professor of romance languages in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the MU College of Arts and Science.

Deaton, Schatz and a group of professors, administrators and staff paid a surprise visit to Ugarte’s classroom to honor him with the Fellowship, which includes a $10,000 award. Fellowships are awarded to five outstanding teachers at the University of Missouri each year.

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.

EDITOR’S NOTE:                                              

Please see attached biography for details about Ugarte.

Michael Ugarte, Professor of Spanish

Michael Ugarte introduces students to the Spanish language, literature and culture by helping them experience a new view of the world. Ugarte specializes in eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth-century Spanish literature. He is the Catherine Paine Middlebush Professor of Romance Languages, which is a chaired professorship that recognizes teaching and scholarly achievements.

“Ugarte’s commitment to his students’ intellectual growth is readily apparent in the creative and innovative courses he has developed for their benefit and in the care he takes in mentoring those who elect to pursue individual programs of study under his direction,” said Flore Zephir, chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Ugarte blurs the line between research and the classroom as he teaches literature. He views the classroom as a crucible of ideas where students analyze heavy text in foreign languages for hidden meanings. Ugarte uses this approach to make students more comfortable with the language.

“Ugarte has served as a caring mentor to students from all economic and cultural backgrounds,” said Margaret Olsen, a former colleague. “He is happy to clear a seat in his office to share academic wisdom with any student who appears at his door in search of knowledge.”

In the classroom, Ugarte likes to ask his students who did not grow up speaking Spanish to “transform” themselves into someone else in order to better understand the feeling behind the text or poetry while contemplating the significance.

“Ugarte’s capacity to mediate between the text and the students’ attitudes comes not only from his talent for teaching literature, but from his trust in and respect for students,” said Carolina Ebeid, a former student.

Ugarte received his doctorate from Cornell University in 1978.