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Top Faculty Award Reflects Docheff’s Outstanding Service to Students

By Jeff Murphy, April 13, 2018

WARRENSBURG, MO – After recently being honored by individuals in his professional field, Dennis Docheff is receiving new recognition from the University of Central Missouri.  He is the 2018 recipient of the Byler Distinguished Faculty Award, the top honor presented annually to a UCM faculty member.

Docheff, a professor in the Department of  Nutrition and Kinesiology, will be publicly recognized during the Byler Award  reception planned for 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 19 in Elliott Student Union 240.  This event is open to all members of the campus community and other interested individuals. He also will be honored publicly during 2018 Spring Commencement exercises the weekend of Friday and Saturday, May 4-5 in the Multipurpose Building.

The 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.

“It is such an honor to receive the Byler Distinguished Faculty Award.  It makes me feel great, but it humbles me knowing there are so many others qualified for the award.  Maybe that is one of the things that makes UCM a great institution—so many quality faculty,” Docheff said.

He added, “For me, there is real joy in teaching.  There is also a sense of accomplishment when scholarly work appears in print.  Of course, service creates a feeling of contribution to the betterment of an institution or organization.  These three professorial elements blend to make many of us potential Byler Award winners.”

The award committee considered letters of support for nominees, which contributed to Docheff’s selection. He joined UCM in 2001 as chair of the former Department of Health and Human Performance. He had served previously as an associate professor of physical education at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon, Wis., and at the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.

Individuals who contributed letters of support for his nomination used words and phrases such as “master teacher,” “gifted,” and “generous of his time” to describe Docheff’s work in the classroom and with students. They noted that he always arrives early to class and leaves late. This adds up to extra hours during the week to personally interact with students, which helps him develop strong connections that also enhance the overall student learning experience.

Robert Slana, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Kinesiology, noted about his colleague,“When I think of him, I think of a quote from Abraham Lincoln. He said, ‘Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing.’ I believe that Dennis exemplifies this. He has maintained a persistence and constant resolution to succeed at the University of Central Missouri over time.  He is not only a worthy recipient, but is an example of what other faculty should emulate as they attempt to achieve excellence in their profession.”

Colleagues also note his natural ability to understand what needs to be taught, and the most effective and interesting way to deliver the content to his students.  He has accomplished this with more than 25 different courses during his tenure at UCM ranging from Physical Education to General Education classes.

While he now devotes full time to teaching, Docheff served as interim chair of the Department of Nutrition and Kinesiology from 2015-2017. His climb up the faculty ranks included becoming an associate professor in 2001 and a professor in 2005.

In addition to teaching and serving students, Docheff has appreciated opportunities to advance his profession through scholarly research that includes contributions in more than 100 publications and 200 presentations. His leadership and service to professional organizations also has not gone unnoticed.

In March 2018, the Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) recognized Docheff’s distinguished service, dedication, and commitment to improving physical activity by presenting him the Joy of Effort Award. This award honors an individual who exemplifies the highest standards in accomplishment, innovation, and leadership. In announcing Docheff as a recipient, SHAPE America’s president noted that the UCM professor’s “joyful, happy, laid back, positive, encouraging attitude, places students at ease and thus, empowers students to believe in themselves.”

Docheff has been an educator since 1978. His experience includes being a fifth and sixth grade classroom teacher, teaching a variety of subjects such as physical education, social studies, math and art at the middle and high school levels, and teaching physical education at five different colleges and/or universities.  He also has filled the role of elementary principal, junior high athletic director, high school counselor, and college department chair. His coaching experience includes positions in football, basketball, track and field, volleyball, golf, and fencing.

Among some his career highlights, Docheff served on SHAPE America Board of Directors, president of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), president for SHAPE America - Central District, and received both the SHAPE America Honor and Central District Mark Harvey Legacy Recognition Awards.  A member of SHAPE America since 1985, he has been involved in a number of projects; one of his favorites was serving on the revision team for the National Standards for Sport Coaches.

Docheff received both his bachelor’s degree in physical education and his master’s degree in education in school administration from Whitworth College and his education doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado; Greeley, in physical education--curriculum and administration. For me, there is real joy in teaching.

A man of faith, Docheff is very positive about the value of working hard and always trying to do the right thing in educating students and in other aspects of life. As he notes, “Galatians 6:9 states, ‘Let’s not get tired of doing what is good, for at the right time we will reap a harvest—if we do not give up.’  Although taken out of context, I share this verse because it encourages us to work hard, to do our best; eventually our good work will pay off.  Effort matters!”


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