UMKC presents honorary doctorates to KC leaders

Honorary Degree recipients Jane Chu and Tom Bloch

Tom Bloch and Jane Chu recognized in early May

In recognition of their outstanding commitment to UMKC and to the community, UMKC recently presented Kansas City leaders Tom Bloch and Jane Chu with honorary doctoral degrees. Bloch received an honorary doctorate in business administration from UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration, while Chu received an honorary doctorate in music from the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance.

“These Kansas City leaders embody UMKC’s mission,” said Chancellor Leo Morton. “They are models of what is possible for today’s graduates as they work toward their place in the world. Their dedication to education, public service, entrepreneurship, the arts and UMKC illustrates what it means to become not just participants, but leaders in the community.”

An educational entrepreneur

As one of Kansas City’s most inspirational figures, Tom Bloch’s unwavering commitment to sound leadership principles in the business and educational arenas is making a difference in Kansas City.

Bloch ended a 19-year tenure at H&R Block in 1995, when he resigned as chief executive officer to pursue his true passion: being an educator in Kansas City’s urban core. After teaching middle school math for five years, he applied his expertise in business and leadership to create a school that would motivate and prepare inner-city children to learn, excel and succeed.

In 2000, Bloch co-founded University Academy, an innovative charter school that operates independently of the Kansas City, Mo. school district. The nationally-acclaimed Academy has grown from 200 students in grades seven through nine to serve more than 1,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Over the past five years, almost all Academy graduates have gone on to attend college.

“I can think of no one more deserving of this honor than Tom Bloch,” said Teng-Kee Tan, Dean of the Bloch School. “His very significant contributions to education in Kansas City are primarily evidenced by his work with the University Academy, which he co-founded and which has been overwhelmingly successful in preparing urban youth for academic success, including going on to college – an opportunity they may not have had if it weren’t for Tom’s vision.”

Bloch also is a founding board member of the UMKC Foundation and chair of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. He and his wife, Mary, founded the Youth Service Alliance of Greater Kansas City to recognize outstanding community service through school-based programs. He is actively engaged as a UMKC Trustee and with the UMKC School of Education’s Institute for Urban Education, as well.

“Tom Bloch has embodied social entrepreneurship by giving back immensely to the Bloch School,” Tan said. “He has shared his knowledge and mentorship by teaching at the Bloch School, serving as honorary co-chair for the upcoming 25th Anniversary Entrepreneur of the Year Awards Dinner, serving as a judge at the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s Venture Creation Challenge and lending himself overall as an integral leader for the School, serving on the Bloch Endowment Board as well as on the Bloch Advisory Council.”

A champion of the arts

Jane Chu serves as the president and chief executive officer of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2011, the new 285,000-square-foot, $400 million center will present a diverse range of performing arts groups to Kansas City audiences. It will house the Kansas City Symphony, Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City.

“Both humble and visionary, Jane resonates with UMKC’s mission of excellence in the visual and performing arts,” said Peter Witte, Dean of the Conservatory. “As a 21st-century artist, Jane recognizes that success rests not just upon excellence in one’s craft, but in the ability to make one’s art accessible to diverse communities in new and innovative ways. Indeed, these themes of excellence, access and innovation – pillars of UMKC’s mission in the visual and performing arts – describe Jane’s contributions in Kansas City.”

Chu combines her training in the arts and business with experience in the nonprofit sector. She has served as fund executive for the Kauffman Fund, vice president for external relations at Union Station Kansas City and vice president of community investment at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, where she led the five-year Community Arts Initiative to increase participation in the arts.

Chu holds bachelors and masters degrees in piano performance, music education and piano pedagogy from Ouachita Baptist University and Southern Methodist University, respectively. Additionally, Jane holds a master of business administration from Rockhurst University and is a Ph.D. candidate in philanthropic studies at Indiana University.

Honorary degrees are handled by each University of Missouri System campus, starting with a faculty committee that submits nominations to the chancellor. The following guidelines are considered in selecting honorary degree recipients:

  • People who have rendered distinctive service to the University
  • People who have rendered distinctive service to the State
  • Graduates or former students who have achieved distinction
  • A person of high distinction, from the U.S. or abroad, who is not necessarily associated with the University or the State

For more information about honorary degrees, visit

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