A shaded spot beneath leafy trees on the south side of Jesse Hall has special meaning for Michael and Julie Middleton.
As MU undergraduate students in the 1960s, the young couple on many occasions walked by the spot holding hands. They sat cozily on a bench there, talking about what their future might hold. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1968, Michael attended and later became a professor at MU’s law school, which the pair could see from the bench. And he spent 18 years working in Jesse Hall, which filled the sky to the north.
If there was a focal point to Michael Middleton’s student, academic and administrative career at the University of Missouri, it would be that spot.
On Aug. 28, three days before his official retirement as MU’s deputy chancellor, a bench was dedicated to the administrator in a ceremony near the original bench site. About 70 people from the MU community and the Middleton family attended. The speakers were Julie Middleton; Payton Head, president of the Missouri Students Association; and Chancellor Emeritus Brady Deaton.
“You had a voice and expertise that you brought to bear in so many exciting ways,” said Deaton, who flew in from Washington, D.C., to attend. “We honor you today and thank you for all you have done.”
After earning his law degree at Mizzou, Middleton left for D.C., where he worked successively as a civil rights attorney, a deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Education and as an associate general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers and enforces civil rights laws in the workplace. In 1985, Middleton returned to Missouri to be a law professor. He was named deputy chancellor in 1998. He has worked tirelessly to create a campus environment that honors people of all races.
When Middleton was 18 years old, he chose a quote by the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus to run alongside his high school yearbook portrait. The quote has meant a lot to him throughout his life, and at the ceremony, Julie Middleton referenced it more than once.
“Only the educated are free.”