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University of Central Missouri
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (March 20, 2008) - Professor Kevin Prufer, a UCM faculty member who has gained national acclaim in the world of literature, has been named recipient of the top honor bestowed upon university faculty. He will receive the Byler Distinguished Faculty Award in a public ceremony planned for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 1, in the Elliott Union Charno Room.
Award Recognizes Scholarly and Creative Activity
The Byler Distinguished Faculty Award is named for William H. Byler, an inventor, author and teacher who graduated from UCM in 1927 with a major in chemistry and physics. He established an endowment fund to provide annual recognition for distinguished faculty performance, evidenced by teaching, scholarly or creative activity and professional related service.
Award-winning Poet, Editor of Pleiades
Prufer has taught courses in the Department of English and Philosophy since 1996 and currently serves as coordinator of the department’s Creative Writing Program. He is an award-winning poet and editor of the internationally known publication, Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing, in addition to serving as one of two faculty advisors on the student literary/art magazine, Arcade, and faculty advisor to the Creative Writing Club.
“It’s a real honor to receive the award,” Prufer said of his Byler recognition. “I’ve been working hard to promote Pleiades and literature in Warrensburg and beyond, and it’s great to be recognized.”
Colleagues Recognized Outstanding Achievements
Through their nomination and support letters, Prufer’s colleagues praise his efforts to nurture student writing and achievement, and his staunch support of other writers both on and off campus. They credit his leadership and skill as an editor in transforming Pleiades into one of the best literary magazines in the country. From a small distribution of about 250 copies, this collection of poetry, fiction, essays and reviews is now found in bookstores in every major city in the nation, now garnering submissions from Pulitzer Prize winners who hope to share their work with the journal’s growing international readership. Since 2000 five works in Pleiades have received the prestigious Pushcart/Best of American Small Press award and Prufer has won an additional three Pushcart awards for his own writing published in other magazines.
Putting UCM and Warrensburg on the Map
In her letter of support, Cheryl Eason, chair of the Department of English and Philosophy, notes that Prufer’s “tireless service to and promotion of our department and our university are not something money can buy.” In fact, she believes he has helped put Warrensburg and the university on the map.
“Other creative writers in our department have come back from national writers and book critics’ conferences and reported that others in attendance become very interested in talking with them when they learn they are from Warrensburg. ‘Warrensburg, that’s the little town with the writers. What’s going on there? What’s the draw? The draw has been and continues to be Kevin Prufer,” she insists.
Mentorship Inside and Outside the Classroom
An outstanding classroom teacher and mentor to students, Prufer has developed courses in poetry writing and literature for the department, and worked in cooperation with three other university professors to revamp the creative writing program. He and his colleagues developed a new genre-specific approach to literature which enables students to focus on fiction or poetry.
Outside the classroom, he supports students as an advisor for McNair Scholars, a program which encourages undergraduates who are underrepresented in higher education to pursue graduate study; advises at least one Honors student project each semester; and annually coordinates manuscripts and judging for the David Baker Creative Writing Awards, which are open to all students.
Extensive Committee Involvement
His committee involvement at the department, college and university levels is extensive, and has included areas such as professional development, promotion and tenure, personnel and curriculum. He is just as actively engaged in professional off-campus organizations and activities, mostly in the literary arena, including serving as the vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and an editor of American Book Review.
Recognized Nationally for Published Works
Prufer has gained national recognition for his scholarship, catching the attention of groupsand individuals including the Library of Congress and U.S. First Lady Laura Bush, hosts of the National Festival of the Book at the nation’s capital during the 2007 fall semester. Prufer was one of the authors invited to join the First Lady for breakfast and attend a black-tie dinner in the White House, as well as read his poetry on the National Mall.
Among his many other national and regional honors, Prufer’s 2002 book, The Finger Bone, received the William Rockhill Nelson Award for best book by a Missouri or Kansas author. Fallen from a Chariot, published in 2005, was named one of the best books of the last 25 years by The Bloomsbury Review, and also received the William Rockhill Nelson Award. Other commendations have come through books such as Dark Horses: Essays on Overlooked Poems, a 2007 publication named an Editor’s Pick book by The Chicago Tribune, and Best Books selection by The Kansas City Star, and The New Young American Poets, named one of the 10 best poetry books of 2000 by BookList and The American Library Association.
One of The Kansas City Star's 15 Midwestern Writers to Watch
In 2005, The Kansas City Star named Prufer one of 15 Midwestern Writers to Watch, and the Poetry Society of America honored him with the George Bogin Memorial Award in 2002, 2004, and 2006.
Commitment Has Lasting Impact on Students
More important than such awards is the impact Prufer has had on students. Rhiannon Dickerson is a former student of his who is now a creative writing teacher and candidate for a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Iowa. She said she appreciated his earnest commitment to students, and now emulates his pedagogical style in the classroom.
As Dickerson noted, “I’ve had many renowned poetry professors from all over the United States – professors who have taught at Harvard and Berkley. Kevin remains the most effective, passionate and motivational professor I have ever had.”