Mizzou alumni have traveled far and wide, leaving their mark on communities across the globe. Among them are famous actors, artists, and musicians, to business leaders, politicians, inventors and more. Each of them has a different story of their time at Mizzou. Here are just a few.
James Patterson’s father died when his young. His mother dealt with the tragedy by moving the family somewhere new for a fresh start. That place happened to be Columbia, Missouri. Growing up in the shadow of the University of Missouri turned out to be a blessing for Patterson.
“In high school I attended lectures and saw distinguished physicists,” Patterson said. “It cemented my interest in physics.”
For years Patterson made money delivering copies of the Missourian every morning. His mother worked as the secretary for Geology Department. The department now offers a scholarship named in her honor.
Sylvester Terry, St. Louis, graduated in 1996. Many of his favorite memories of Mizzou involve coming back to visit as an alumni. Like in 2006, when he returned for homecoming weekend.
Jack Ladisnky of San Diego, is now a professor at the University of Wisconsin. His favorite memory of earning his undergraduate degree from Mizzou was living in the dorms.
“I received a marvelous undergraduate education,” Ladinsky said. “Mizzou was my passage to adulthood from a callowed youth.”
After graduating, Ladinsky served in the U.S. Army in Korea for two years. At the end of his service, he returned to Mizzou where he earned a master’s degree in sociology.
Three years after returning from Vietnam, Ted Fry of Tebbetts, Missouri, decided to attend Mizzou. The year was 1974 and he had only recently separated from his wife. It was a tumultuous time in his life.
“I was sad and confused but motivated to improve my situation,” Fry said.
Mizzou seemed like the best answer. Kenneth Larson, then a professor in the department of agronomy, was Fry’s advisor. Their relationship grew into a mentorship, one that Fry still is grateful for today.
“I was in need of a good person to help me plot a new course in my life,” Fry said. “Dr. Larson listened and seemed to understand what I needed to do. He was of tremendous help in guiding me toward a new path.”
Todd Kraft earned his doctorate in 2009 and is now the principal of an elementary school in O’Fallon, Missouri. He points to the educational programs he was involved in while at Mizzou as the main catalyst to his success.
“The rigor of the programs prepared me to look at issues from many different angles,” Kraft said. “Every aspect of the doctoral program has been applicable to what I do on a daily basis.”
Besides the classes, Kraft remembers the relationships he made while in school. His favorite memory is of graduation day and celebrating alongside his classmates.
“It was an amazing sense of pride and camaraderie with everyone involved,” Kraft said. “I am extremely proud to have earned my degrees from Mizzou!”
Originally from Houston, Richard Watson is now a software engineer in New York City working for JP Morgan Chase. He graduated from Mizzou in 2011 with a computer science degree.
“With my degree, I was able to achieve my dream of moving to New York and being a successful software engineer,” Watson said. “All of the discipline I learned while studying contributed to my confidence and success.”
He has several favorite memories from Mizzou, like studying in the library while watching the snowflakes fall during a winter storm. He recalls working in the bookstore before it was remodeled. Watson’s absolute favorite memory was the moment he received his student ID.
“It was an acknowledgement that this was really happening,” Watson said, “that I was really a Mizzou student.”
In 1968, students with disabilities had a difficult time getting around most of America’s college campuses. Accessibility was yet to be made a priority. But as James Cobb remembers it, Mizzou was different.
“What most people don’t realize is that Mizzou was decades ahead of the vast majority of universities in terms of access for students with disabilities,” Cobb said. “Transportation, living quarters and academic facilities all were very accessible.”
Unlike what he saw at other campuses, students with disabilities were not segregated at Mizzou. They were heavily involved in campus politics, academics and social events.
“We were conditioned to be as independent as possible,” Cobb said. “We even led the way to make downtown Columbia accessible.”
Cobb used the skills and confidence he’d gained at Mizzou to earn a doctorate degree from the University of Wisconsin and even a scholarship to study in Germany.
Nada Hakimi is a director at UnitedHealthcare in Chicago. Hakimi graduated from Mizzou in 1994.
“My degree in chemistry challenged me intellectually and the honors college kept me curious about the world around me,” Hakimi said.
Clinton Gorney was at the end of his active duty enlistment in the U.S. Navy when a dear friend encouraged him to come to Mizzou. It was 1972. The friend was a Columbia psychiatrist named Kennett Struessel. Gortney had worked as his assistant at Camp Pendleton in California for several years. In Columbia, Gortney was hired at the VA Hospital, which was brand new back then.
“My career plan was to become a clinical psychologist, working in Dr. Struessel’s practice,” Gortney said.
He enrolled as a first semester junior and stayed for seven years, finally graduating in 1979 with a doctorate degree in counseling and educational psychology.
“The university gave me the chance to teach right from the first day of graduate school,” Gortney said. “I love teaching, and my skills were taught and nurtured during my time at Mizzou.”
Gortney’s fond memories pf Mizzou aren’t limited to the classroom. During the football season of 1977 he volunteered as an usher and got to witness the Tigers play in the Big Eight Conference. In the icy Missouri winters Gortney recalls walking to class the morning after an ice storm “crunching in time with hundreds of other students.” Most of all he remembers what it was like signing up for classes in an age before the internet.
“I remember the days of registering with thousands of students, all of whom dutifully collected computer punch cards, and went to Jesse Hall and the second floor of the Arts and Science School for Dean’s approval,” Gortney said. “The student line ran down the second floor hallway, down the stairs, down the first floor hallway, out the front door, then down the sidewalk toward the engineering building. I will never forget the often frustrated clerk who joked ‘this would be a nice place to work if it weren’t for all these student’s.”
Growing up in Stoutland, Missouri, Margaret Cleveland would never have dreamed she’d end up living in South Korea right after college. Yet that’s exactly what she did.
“I come from a very small town in Missouri, so coming to Mizzou opened up my world to many new people and experiences,” Cleveland said. “It allowed me to learn about people and cultures from different parts of the world.”
While South Korea wasn’t even on her radar prior to Mizzou, the people she met on campus encouraged her to try something new. Cleveland decided to study abroad in South Korea and wound up falling in love with the people and their culture. After graduation, Cleveland accepted a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Fellowship and returned to teach English in South Korea.
“Mizzou provided me with a learning environment that encouraged diversity and exploration, which for me turned into living and teaching in Korea,” Cleveland said.
David Mettes of Columbus Ohio earned his bachelor of science degree from the university in 1957.
“Mizzou helped me identify and augment a spirit of authenticity and quality of purpose,” Mettes said. “My Mizzou experience was instrumental in the resolution of challenges which led to prominent domestic and international engineering positions.”
Mohammad Tarique is from New Delhi. He earned his master’s from the MU Trulaske College of Business in the winter of 2009. It was an experience that made Tarique into the person he is today.
“The MBA program at Trulaske College shaped me into an individual who was ready to take on this world,” Tarique said. “The place provided skills to interact and connect with people from different communities and cultures.”
Tarique also remembers tailgating before games at Stankowski Field and studying late into the night with friends at Ellis Library. As for why Tarique wishes to support Mizzou? The answer is simple. Mizzou has always supported him.
No matter where in the world a student goes after graduation, they’ll always have a home to return to at Mizzou.
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