Philosophy Professor, Founder of Honors Program, Celebrated

UMKC recognizes Bruce Bubacz with Spotlight Award
Bruce Bubacz

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. The Spotlight Award is a little different, as it can recognize the excellence of almost anyone in the UMKC community whose accomplishments, leadership and public service have caused regional and national attention to be focused on the university and the metropolitan area. This year, the Alumni Association is honoring Bruce Bubacz, Ph.D., with its Class of 2023 Alumni Spotlight Award.

Bubacz is celebrating 50 years of teaching at UMKC this year. Currently serving as the chair of the department of philosophy, he has also served as a professor in the School of Law, as dean in College of Arts and Sciences (now the School of Humanities and Social Sciences) and even as provost of the university. He was also the driving force behind the university’s Honors Program.

“The positive impact Bruce has had on UMKC and, through UMKC, the greater KC community, cannot be overestimated,” said Bubacz’s colleague, Clancy Martin, Ph.D. “Every year he helps other colleagues get tenure, or win awards, or coaches them through work-life balance struggles, or advises others in the upper administration who rightly recognize his matchless experience, care and expertise.”

Bubacz had much to say on receiving this award.

As a non-alum, what drives you to be so dedicated to UMKC?

I have learned as much during the past 50 years as have my students. UMKC has become my home. There is not a place on the Volker Campus that does not hold a memory; there are memories of all kinds.

You have touched the lives of over 5,000 students during your tenure. How have your students inspired you?

About a year after joining the faculty, I was attending a professional conference. One of my graduate professors asked me what UMKC was like. You must realize that faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle considered Kansas City to be rather exotic. I answered, “I teach at a very serious place. The students are serious as are my colleagues.” Nearly all of our students are here for a reason, they are not just “going to college.” They deserved to be taken seriously, and I take that to be an important commitment.

What inspired you to start the Honors Program?

The Honors Program was in fact the brainchild of several people on the faculty. It was thought that students could benefit from an accelerated program of study. I agreed to manage it through the early years. After six years it was secure, and I decided that fresh eyes could take it in a new direction.

In addition to teaching, you also donate to the university. What drives you to give?

Two main reasons. Many of our students have limited means and must work in order to make ends meet. I like to think that I can give some help to them. And I have wanted to memorialize two people who were important influences: my mother (through the Graduate Assistance Fund) and my dear friend Hank Frankel, through a scholarship named for him.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

On several occasions I was asked to serve in a leadership role in a situation that badly needed calm stability. I think I succeeded.

Where can you be found on the weekends? What are your hobbies?

When you get to be my age you are expected to downsize. So, we bought 116 acres in Benton County, Missouri. Maintaining the property takes some effort. For example, about 65% of the property is forest, with many trails cut through the trees, some easy, some demanding. The trails need to be groomed, so Joan and I drive through towing a large mower. We also have a 6-acre stocked pond, and a very nice house. This has been a great place for photography, which has been my favorite hobby since I was 10. I also enjoy wood working of all sorts.

About Alumni Awards

Join us in honoring Bruce Bubacz and the other Class of 2023 awardees at an in-person event on the evening of March 10 at Plexpod Westport Commons. For more details, visit UMKC's Alumni Association website. If you are unable to attend the event but would like to donate to student scholarships, contributions can be made online.

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