Years of our lives

Mizzou alumni share stories of how their education transformed them.

Mizzou alumni have more in common than just the university they chose to attend. The more alumni you meet, the more you come to realize that their experiences at Mizzou, though profoundly unique, still share a common theme. Mizzou alumni seem to agree that the university is the place where they grew toward the person they are today, where they discovered a support system that would follow them through college and beyond.

Two Mizzou Grads hug facing Jesse Hall

Coming back

Leslie Palmer, a Mizzou alumna, says the University of Missouri gave her an education that she wouldn’t have received in her small hometown of Ashland, Missouri.

“I came to MU from a rural town in Missouri as a recent high school graduate,” Palmer says. “Mizzou changed the trajectory of my educational, career and personal outcomes throughout my life.”

Palmer was originally hired as a clerk-typist for the MU Law School as she pursued her degree in education. After graduation, Palmer returned to Mizzou to complete her master’s and Ph.D. in education while supporting the department by serving as a testing service administrator and adjunct instructor. Now retired, Palmer and her husband, a fellow MU retiree, serve on the board for the MU Retirees Association and frequently volunteer on campus.

“We are giving back to the university where we received an education, career advancement and personal development,” Palmer said. “If I had not come to Mizzou, I would have lived and worked in a rural community with no opportunities for higher education.”

She says she liked having an environment that offered personal growth and development and encouraged her to work with people with similar interests. Palmer says she would love for every student in the state to receive the same quality education that she has had.

“I remember the help and support that the faculty on this campus freely gave to help others learn, grow and change,” Palmer said. “We all come to Mizzou because we believe that education is important and we want to support each other as we grow.”

Laying the foundation

Matt Hayes graduated from Mizzou in 2010 with a degree in chemical engineering and now works as a process engineer. Hayes says the courses he took at Mizzou gave him the foundation needed to become a chemical engineer and that campus life gave him the people skills needed to successfully network in the industry.

“This unique mix of work and play better prepared me for life in the working world than anything else could have,” Hayes said.

Hayes says his favorite Mizzou memories are of the 2007 football season because campus was full of life and excitement and that game days were the most magical days in town.

A brotherhood

Bill Williams graduated in 1966 from Mizzou with a bachelor of science in both agriculture and agricultural engineering. He is now a retired Caterpillar employee and resides in Peoria, Illinois.

Raised in Fulton, Missouri, Williams says Mizzou was the logical place to go to school and that his interest in farm equipment led him to enroll in dual programs.

Williams’ first year at Mizzou proved tough, as his father passed away and he was forced to balance school obligations with farming and raising livestock at home. Williams says during this time he pledged to join Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, whose members encouraged him to continue through school despite the challenges. His senior year, Williams’ hard work payed off when he was offered a sales position with Caterpillar.

“Thirty-seven years later, after a great career, I retired from Caterpillar,” Williams said. “It is a life that Mizzou and Alpha Gamma Rho made possible!”

Williams continues to support Mizzou as a donor because he says he wants to make a difference for students who also hail from Callaway County.

Making his mark

Lynn Wilson also believes Mizzou directly led to his success as a marketing communication manager. After Wilson graduated with a master’s in journalism in 1965, he was given an opportunity that would take him all the way to Chicago.

“I interviewed with Leo Burnett Advertising at Mizzou, was hired, and started my career in advertising and communications, all thanks to Mizzou,” Wilson said.

A lasting impact

For many Tigers, Mizzou is not only just the place where they grew into adulthood but where they were given a chance to improve the lives of themselves and their families. Marv Jackson, who graduated from Mizzou in 1973, says because of financial reasons, he was forced to leave home and become semi-independent at only 15 years of age. Jackson moved to Missouri and worked his way through high school as a dishwasher at a local college in a small central Missouri town. During his last year of high school, Jackson took a leap and applied to Mizzou. He was accepted.

Jackson says his mother, the head of the household, wasn’t fully literate but that she always said how important education is. As a first generation college student, Jackson worked very hard to get his education and make his family proud, often taking graveyard shifts at UPS and laboring at a brick plant in order to pay for school. Jackson says the education he received at Mizzou transformed his life.

“It enabled me to go from working on a cotton plantation under a broiling Arkansas sun for less than a dollar per hour to working at the headquarters of some of the largest and most prestigious companies in America pulling in a six-figure salary,” Jackson said. “I’m retired now, but the positive effect of my Mizzou education has rippled forward in my family for three generations, and I’m still counting.”

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