F ive years ago, Theresa Mullineaux was a shy, nervous Missouri high school senior. She wanted to study business in college but thought she’d have to leave the state — maybe even the Midwest — to pursue her goals. Then she toured Cornell Hall, met Mary Beth Marrs and learned about the Cornell Leadership Program Marrs co-directs in the Trulaske College of Business.
A few months later, when Mullineaux got the phone call telling her she'd been accepted to the highly selective group, she didn’t hesitate to accept. “Mary Beth even knew before my parents where I was attending college.”
Five years later Mullineaux stood before a room of 200 people in the Reynolds Alumni Center and reflected on how far she had come — “You would not have seen me in front of this podium,” she said — and thanked the man who helped make it possible.
From Launch to Legacy
Harry Cornell, BS BA ’50, gave the gift that helped launch the Cornell Leadership Program in 2006, and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin announced at the May 1 ceremony that Cornell was giving a $6 million endowment to fund the program in perpetuity. Cornell’s lifetime giving to MU, which also includes support for the eponymous Cornell Hall, the business college's home, is $13 million.
“One hundred years from now, we’ll still celebrate the Cornell Leadership Program because of this endowment,” Loftin said. “That’s how special this gift is. It’s not just for the moment; it’s for eternity.”
Impact and Gratitude
The leadership program accepts only high-achieving freshman and junior students and offers them an enhanced, hands-on student experience, including national and international corporate field trips, mentorship, leadership seminars and luncheons with visiting executives. For Mullineaux, the program helped an intimidatingly large campus to feel small.
“Mr. Cornell, your generosity has changed my life, and all my classmates’ lives,” said Mullineaux, BS BA ’14, who is now a first-year law student at MU.
It’s that gratitude from students, says Cornell, the former longtime CEO of Leggett & Platt, a Fortune 500 manufacturing firm based in Carthage, Missouri, that keeps him involved with the school and makes him continue to give.
“Make the best of it,” he told the leadership students who crowded the room. “You’re capable of doing anything you make up your mind to do. But don’t forget the joy of sharing.”