Richard “Buzz” Herman, an award-winning University of Central Missouri professor whom colleagues praise for helping students and faculty members to grow as artists and scholars, will receive the 2013 Byler Distinguished Faculty Award.

Having taught at UCM since 1987, the longtime chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance will be honored during an  award reception set for 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in the Art Center Gallery. He also will be recognized during morning and afternoon Spring Commencement exercises Saturday, May 11 in the Multipurpose Building. All of these events are open to the public.

The Byler Award is considered the most prestigious recognition for UCM faculty members. It 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.

Individuals who work with Herman describe him as a resourceful and creative teacher, an outstanding scholar/artist  and critic, and an accomplished actor and director who has garnered many  professional accolades. Such honors include more than 20 Meritorious  Achievement awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the  Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Wayne Brown Award  for Outstanding Teaching from the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri.

In a letter of support for Herman, 12 of his colleagues lauded him as a superlative role model and “one of our  greatest teachers” at UCM. They noted, “He works to inspire the imagination, encourage inquiry and critical thought, and help students realize their own  creative vision.”

Herman joined UCM in 1987 as an assistant professor, and climbed the faculty ranks over the next 14 years to become a full professor and department chair. In 2010, he became the first person to be  awarded the title of Meridith Harmon Sauer Endowed Professor of Theatre and  Dance, a distinguished professorship that honors significant teaching, scholarly and or creative achievement and academic/professional excellence. The  gift to establish this honor was given by donors, in part, for accomplishments that have been made in the department, many of them under Herman’s leadership, a quality prized by his colleagues.

“Since acquiring the helm in 2001, Buzz has, with managerial excellence and proficiency, coalesced every gift and talent of his faculty to forge together a Department of Theatre and Dance that  is the best undergraduate theatre program in Missouri and very highly  competitive and respected throughout the region,” wrote John Wilson, professor of theatre, in support of his colleague.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate theatre students for 26 years at UCM, Herman has served as producer and advisor for the BlackBox Experimental Theatre program and company manager on several occasions for the summer Central Missouri Repertory theatre company. His professional career includes directing more than 100 plays, in  addition to writing plays and sharing his acting skills with live audiences at UCM and elsewhere. Among recent efforts, he performed in the role of Prospero in William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” which was a 2012 mainstage production at UCM. He also directed a production of “Blue Window,” which was one of a  small number of plays invited for presentation in January 2013 at a seven-state regional festival in Lincoln, Neb. Not afraid to tackle challenging or unusual  themes, Herman’s own original work includes writing and directing a musical  based on the story of Dracula.

To advance the education of UCM students in recent years, Herman led his department in creating new faculty positions, developing a dance program, adding a new Bachelor of Fine Arts  degree in musical theatre, and re-vamping the Bachelor of Science in Education in Speech Communication and Theatre. Most recently, he helped university to obtain full institutional accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

In commenting on the Byler Award,  Herman said it is a humbling experience to be named among those he has worked with and who have helped him grow professionally.

“To be nominated by the theatre and dance faculty and staff is a tremendous compliment and I am proud to work with such a wonderful group of talented teachers, artists and dedicated professionals,” he said. “This award is also special because my former theatre  faculty mentors Dr. Ed See and David Peerbolte are also recipients of the Byler Award. It is a privilege to share this honor with them.”

Press Release Courtesy of UCM Public Relations