Professor Emeritus Hank Frankel Receives UM System President’s Award

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

University of Missouri System Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Steve Graham today awarded the ninth of ten UM System President’s Awards to be presented to faculty in 2015 to Henry R. Frankel, professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Graham — accompanied by UM System Chief of Staff Zora Mulligan and UMKC Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Cynthia Pemberton — surprised Frankel with the Thomas Jefferson Award, which includes 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.

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 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 physicist,” wrote nominator Bruce Bubacz, Curators’ Teaching Professor at UMKC.

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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