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Still bringing his A game

Former Mizzou linebacker, four-time MU graduate and Board of Curators Chair Darryl Chatman brings hard work, resilience and innovation to the job of steering the University of Missouri System.

February 1, 2021
Contact: Sara Diedrich, diedrichs@missouri.edu, 573-882-3243

When Darryl Chatman took the helm last month as chair of the University of Missouri System Board of Curators, he paid tribute to his late father and grandfather — men who believed that good things come to those who work hard and stay true to themselves.

“I promise to give this institution 100% like I always have throughout my life,” said Chatman, who came to MU in 1992 on a football scholarship. “I only wish my father and grandfather were here to see this moment, but their spirit and optimism will live on in me.”

Although Chatman has a long history with Mizzou, from his four degrees earned at the university to his time as an athlete, he was surprised to be asked to join the Board of Curators in 2017 — and honored to be selected to lead the board throughout 2021. He will preside over his first board meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4.

“These are things I never thought possible for me,” he said. “I’ve had great mentors in the past who told me, ‘Darryl, you don’t dream big enough.’ This was something that wasn’t even on my radar, but here it is; it happened, another dream fulfilled.”

As a child, Chatman, who is now senior vice president of governance and compliance at the United Soybean Board in Chesterfield, Missouri, couldn’t comprehend the sacrifices his family had made.

His father, who grew up in the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects in downtown St. Louis, understood the power of education to change lives. His own father, Chatman’s grandfather — who never graduated from high school — had sent all eight of his children to private high school.

In turn, Chatman’s father sent him to private school in St. Louis. It wasn’t until he was much older that Chatman realized the scope of his family’s dedication.

“My father and grandfather never told me it would be an easy road,” Chatman said. “They were so proud that I was living the dreams that they had envisioned for me.”

chatman on a football field tossing a ball up, in a grey suit and dark pants

Chatman brought dogged determination and grit when he played football for Mizzou.

Chatman grew up in North St. Louis County, where his parents kept him busy and out of trouble by signing him up for Boy Scouts and every sport available. It would be his saving grace. By the time he reached Lutheran North High School, Chatman was an outstanding athlete, excelling in football, basketball and track.

Chatman was especially close with his father, who never missed a chance to see his son compete. He also shared with Chatman his love for space and technology and found ways on a tight budget to buy his son a telescope and a Commodore 64 computer.

“He was really interested in getting me on the cutting edge of technology and understood the importance it would play in my future,” Chatman said. “He really wanted me to be curious about the world.”

A heavily recruited football linebacker, Chatman chose Mizzou where he brought dogged determination and grit, earning him the nickname “Chopper” and a reputation as one of the most feared defenders in the Big 12 Conference.

Coming to MU was a big step for Chatman, and it didn’t take long for the new recruit to catch the eye of seasoned players who recognized his potential.

“They took me in and told me, ‘Hey man, you’re only doing what you’re required to do. You need to do more. What do you think you’re doing here? We didn’t come here to be average, we came here to be great,’” Chatman said. “That became the norm for me. Those guys did that for me, and they made it fun, too. You have to have that good core of people who will push you to be better.”

In 1994, Chatman took his first undergraduate course in animal science from Professor Jim Spain, now vice provost for undergraduate studies and eLearning at MU. It seemed an unlikely subject area for a student from the city, but Chatman was enamored with the topic and the people he met in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

“Darryl has this natural curiosity that I think has led to the trajectory of his significant success,” Spain said. “He brings that same commitment of lifelong learning that we talk about as an institution to everything he does.”

Chatman received multiple degrees from MU, including a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1997, a master’s degree in animal science in 2001, a master’s degree in agricultural economics in 2007 and a juris doctorate in 2008. He played football at MU from 1992 to 1996. He also earned a master’s degree in public administration from North Carolina State University in 2003.

While pursuing his graduate degrees, Chatman held down two, sometimes three jobs, to make ends meet. He worked as a janitor at University Place Apartments, a farm hand at the Mizzou dairy and a meat cutter at the Mizzou meat lab, all experiences he credits with keeping him right-sized.

“Those blue-collar jobs were the best things that ever happened to me,” Chatman said. “I learned the value of hard work. I built a lot of camaraderie with the people I worked with, and it was very humbling.”

Over the years, Chatman has served as general counsel for the Missouri Department of Agriculture and as an attorney with Armstrong Teasdale, LLP in St. Louis, where he led the firm’s agriculture and biotech practice group, working on legal disputes involving animal health, life sciences and agricultural issues as well as regulatory compliance, commercial litigation and employment litigation. From January 2015 to January 2016, he served as the deputy director for the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

After serving on the Board of Curators for three years — during a time of incredible challenges facing the university system — board member Maurice Graham nominated Chatman late last year for chair of the board.

“He understands the important balance between sharing his thoughts and ideas and listening respectfully to the thoughts and ideas of his fellow curators, university leaders and others,” Graham said during his nomination speech. “He has a strong passion for the mission of the university and its four campuses and will be firmly committed to being an effective and transparent leader.”

Chatman’s top priorities as chair of UM System Board of Curators

Drive research: “We need to continue supporting research and building our research enterprise across all four campuses. NextGen will be very important for us moving forward.”

Support student success: “I really believe that students are the core of what we do. So we have to do everything we can to help our students achieve success, whether that is providing different support networks, more outreach or educational opportunities.”

UM System Board of Curators
The University of Missouri System Board of Curators is a nine-member board that oversees all four campuses: MU, UMSL, UMKC and Missouri S&T. Members are appointed by the governor with advice and consent of the Senate. At least one, but no more than two board members, shall be appointed from each congressional district. Each member must be a citizen of the United States and have lived in the state of Missouri for at least two years prior to appointment. No more than five curators can belong to any one political party.

Curators serve six-year terms, and three are replaced every two years.

Today, the UM System is one of the nation’s largest higher education institutions, with nearly 70,000 students on its four campuses and an extension program with activities in every county of the state.

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