2020 graduate named Mr. Bearcat

By Suzanne Buzek, University of Cincinnati News

Kemper, second from right, accepting the Smythe Award at the national Pi Kappa Alpha conference. As president, Kemper led the fraternity to be recognized as among the top five percent of chapters in the country.

Industrious student. Motivational leader. Role model. Caring and trusted friend. Lots of school spirit. These are some of the qualities one might use to describe that one classmate everyone looked up to and admired in school. They are also the very qualities of Pi Kappa Alpha brother Brian Kemper, BBA ‘20, who was named Mr. Bearcat for 2020 by University of Cincinnati honorary fraternity Sigma Sigma.

With a well-established legacy that dates back to 1949, the Mr. Bearcat Award recognizes a graduating senior man who has achieved academic success, demonstrated leadership in diverse settings and made a significant contribution to the University of Cincinnati, all while displaying Bearcat spirit.

“While this award certainly reflects leadership across the university, Mr. Bearcat sort of encapsulates the intangibles — the person who is always going to answer the call, who wears the red and black proudly,” said Rob Thornton, BBA ’02, president of Sigma Sigma Alumni Board and Lindner Alumni Council member.

This year’s finalists included Kemper along with two of his Lindner classmates, Benjamin Kuhlman, BBA ’20, and Rob Weidner, BBA ’20.

“When I look back at my time at UC, this school has given me so much — friendships, mentorships, co-ops,” said Kemper. “I feel like I’ve surrounded myself with very impressive and loyal Bearcats throughout my college experience. To be picked out of that group means a lot to me. It was a humbling experience.”

Nominated by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, Kemper was noted to “lead selflessly and by example … raising the bar for his peers in all that he does in service to our university.”

Raise the bar, indeed. Kemper’s involvement in student organizations was well-known and appreciated. As president of his fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha, Kemper led the chapter to earn the Smythe award, which is awarded to the top five percent of Pike chapters in the country. He was also active in Lindner Ambassadors, Finance Club, ROAR Tour Guides and the Interfraternity Council and Student Government. The Circle of Excellence Scholar also participated in UC’s signature experience, co-op, completing rotations with Delta Air Lines and Kroger Co.

“Brian is one of the best student workers I’ve had in 44 years,” said Julie Menchen, director, office of the dean, at Lindner. “Nice, smart, polite, eager to please, reliable, fun … just a genuine pleasure to be around. We clicked from day one.”

Typically, Mr. Bearcat candidates get to meet with past Mr. Bearcats and other distinguished alumni at a reception as part of the selection process. Even though those interactions had to be pivoted to virtual interviews due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection committee saw Kemper’s congenial personality and thoughtfulness shine through.

“All three of the finalists, Ben, Rob and Brian, were outstanding students,” said Thornton, who noted that more than half of the 71 Mr. Bearcat Awards have been won by Lindner students. “Being well-rounded in accomplishments and interests, a great Bearcat spirit. Brian stood out.”

When it came time to announce the decision over video conference call, Kemper was pleasantly surprised and elated.

“I was on that Zoom call with a lot of friends who helped me get to that spot,” said Kemper. “It reinforces that we can rarely do anything on our own. I am grateful for the support network I have had throughout college.”

Following his graduation, Kemper is starting his full-time career with Verdant Commercial Capital. Taking the phrase “Bearcat for Life” to heart, he is also planning on pursuing a master of science in finance starting this fall.

“I have come to the realization that being a loyal Bearcat means being one for life,” said Kemper. “I’ve only done a small part to repay that and to be recognized as Mr. Bearcat furthers my commitment to the university. I will definitely continue to give back the most that I can as an alumnus.”