This year, the 33-year-old tradition of a single Homecoming grand marshal presiding over the event gives way to the Mizzou Homecoming Hall of Fame, a trio of high-flying Tigers: astronaut Linda Godwin, businessman David Novak and former football star Kellen Winslow.
The Space Ace
A native of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, astronomy Professor Linda Godwin, MS ’76, PhD ’80, became an astronaut in 1986 and logged more than 900 hours in space — twice aboard Atlantis in 1991 and 1996 and twice on Endeavour in 1994 and 2001. “You wait and wait and wait to finally get there. You think, ‘Wow, we finally made it,’ ” she says of the experience. Godwin, who flew to the former Russian space station, Mir, in the 1990s, is the second Missourian to have flown to space and the fourth woman to have walked in space.
She retired from NASA in 2010. Her 30-year career included an Outstanding Performance Rating, the Sustained Superior Performance Award and the Distinguished Service Medal in 2001. She understands the important role that education has played for her, and she proudly returned to Mizzou in 2011 to teach. Godwin says returning to the university made her feel like she had come full circle.
The Business Prodigy
David Novak, BJ ’74, cofounder of Yum! Brands, had a successful 14-year run as chairman and CEO of one of the world’s largest restaurant companies (KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell). During Novak’s tenure, which ended with his retirement in 2015, he oversaw a nearly sixfold increase in the company’s market value since 1999 and had engineered annual double-digit revenue growth for a decade. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books, The Education of an Accidental CEO and the New York Times bestseller Taking People With You. In addition to his professional work, Novak is committed to philanthropy. He and his wife, Wendy, established the Lift a Life Foundation to help people in need reach their potential through grants and programming in the areas of hunger relief, education, juvenile diabetes, the military, and family and youth issues. Novak is also founder and CEO of OGO.
The Football Legend
Kellen Winslow, BES ’87, redefined the tight end position in both college and professional football. “The moment I learned I could catch the ball and run with it, not just catch it and fall down, I was like ‘Oh, wow, you can do this?’ It changed my style of play.” His career at Mizzou included Big Eight Player of the Year honors in 1978. He enjoyed a nine-year career playing tight end with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers, earning All-Pro honors five times and setting both team and league records that stand to this day. The Sporting News named him one of the 100 greatest players of all time. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He returned to school after his football career and earned a juris doctorate from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1993. Winslow’s career also has included roles in media, athletics and public speaking.