Professor Emeritus Hank Frankel Receives UM System President’s Award

Photo credit: John Carmody

Thomas Jefferson Award Recognizes Distinction in Teaching, Writing, Creativity and Service

Henry R. Frankel, professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City has been awarded the ninth of 10 UM System President’s Awards for his excellence in teaching, research, writing and service to the University of Missouri and larger community.

The award was presented by University of Missouri System Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Graham.

Graham – accompanied by Interim Provost Cynthia Pemberton and UM System Chief of Staff Zora Mulligan – surprised Frankel with the Thomas Jefferson Award, which included a $10,000 award funded through a grant from the Robert Earll McConnell Foundation. The award recognizes faculty who rise above excellence and demonstrate clear distinction in teaching, research, writing, creative activities and service to the University of Missouri and humankind.

“The award is for the best of the best,” said Graham. “It’s for a teacher’s scholar and that is Henry Frankel.”

Frankel believed he was attending a surprise award presentation for Bruce Bubacz, a UMKC Curators’ Teaching Professor, who actually nominated Frankel for the Thomas Jefferson Award.

“Thanks to Ray Coveney, and those who read some of my manuscript, including professor emeritus George Gale and former UMKC professor Dr. Dana Tulodziecki. And, thanks to Bruce Bubacz, who nominated me several times for this award,” said Frankel.

Frankel has taught at UMKC since 1971, where his research synthesizes elements of geology, physics, history and philosophy, and has garnered support from the National Science Foundation, American Philosophical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

His decades-long research on the scientific controversy over continental drift and its evolution into plate tectonics culminated in a four volume history of drift published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press. The books won awards including the journal Choice’s designation as an outstanding academic title, the Friedman award of the Geological Society of London, and the Geoscience Information Society’s 2013 Best Reference Book Award for his first volume.

Through this career-long research, Frankel has become recognized as the world’s leading expert on the controversies associated with continental drift and the development of plate tectonics.

“His four-volume work is the culmination of a distinguished forty-year research career that has brought recognition to our university among philosophers and historians of science as well as Earth scientists and physicists,” wrote Bubacz.

In 2014, Frankel received the Mary Rabbitt Award, the life achievement award of the history and philosophy division of the Geological Society of America. In addition, Frankel was recognized for his contributions to the history and philosophy of the Earth sciences with the 2013 Sue Tyler Friedman Medal of The Geological Society of London, the oldest and most prestigious geological society in the world.

“Hank’s work has an importance that goes far beyond the subject with which it is concerned, and should influence the teaching of the history of science everywhere,” wrote nominator Dan McKenzie, foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences and co-inventor of the theory of plate tectonics.

The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Frankel will be formally recognized by UM System President Tim Wolfe during an awards celebration to be held June 25.


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