Tigers in uniform: A military family's Mizzou bond

Alumnus and veteran Scott Van Genderen attended MU on an ROTC scholarship in the ’80s. Today, two of his children are able to call themselves Tigers while working overseas.

  • The Van Genderen family.
    The Van Genderen family. Scott Van Genderen (third from left), Meridith Howard (fifth from left) and Michael Van Genderen (right) are all Tigers.

Nov. 29, 2023
Contact: Deidra Ashley,

Scott Van Genderen grew up on a dairy farm in Cabool, Missouri. As a child, he spent many fall days doing chores, picking up walnuts and listening to Mizzou Football on the radio. One weekend, Van Genderen’s best friend’s grandparents took the two boys three hours to Columbia for VanGenderen’s first in-person Mizzou Football game.

“I’ll never forget those first moments on campus,” Van Genderen said. “I was instantly hooked.”

The Tigers went on to win that day, and Van Genderen was determined that wouldn’t be his last day on campus.

He was right. After receiving a United States Air Force ROTC Scholarship, Van Genderen earned his undergraduate degree at Mizzou and then an M.B.A. while serving on active duty as an officer. And that was just the beginning of his family’s Mizzou legacy.

Unexpected Tigers

“My dad has been a Mizzou fan for as long as I can remember,” Van Genderen’s daughter Meridith Howard said. “The flag on our driveway was Mizzou, and we had Mizzou stuff all around the house. My parents have six kids, and we always thought it was funny none of us ended up at Mizzou. Little did we know, the story wasn’t over yet.”

While searching for jobs in early 2020, Howard’s dad sent her a listing: strategic communications associate at the Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business. The job looked interesting, and Howard applied. Just a few weeks later, she became a Tiger.

“I didn’t do my undergrad at Mizzou, and I never imagined myself here, but I found a job that allows me to be creative and make a difference for our faculty, staff, students and alumni,” Howard said. “I have a very supportive team, and my work is even more special knowing that my dad is an alumnus of the college.”

In late 2021, Howard’s husband, a member of the U.S. Air Force, learned he would be stationed in Japan. Howard worried her time as a Tiger might be coming to an abrupt end, but her supervisor leaped into action to arrange a remote work option.

“Being deployed to Japan was a big surprise, but Mizzou has continued to support us in so many ways,” Howard said. “It can be really challenging being a military spouse overseas, and MU’s flexibility for me to continue working has made me even prouder to be a Tiger.” 

Howard isn’t the only Van Genderen sibling with military ties who became a Tiger later in life.  Her brother Michael Van Genderen is currently working as a math teacher in South Korea and is pursuing an online economics graduate degree from Mizzou. “It’s incredible how technology has allowed my brother and me to pursue our goals academically and professionally through Mizzou,” Howard said. “I know my dad is proud of me, and I love that we all share a connection to the place that holds so many great memories for him. “

A legacy continued

Today, Scott Van Genderen is a financial advisor with Edward Jones — where he’s worked for more than 33 years. He said he’s still using foundational lessons he learned at Mizzou, especially those that emphasized the importance of lifelong learning.

“The University of Missouri is all about lifelong learning,” he said. “Mizzou teaches you how to think — not what to think. And if we’re going to make a difference in the lives of our families and communities, we’ve got to learn to listen and be a part of the change.”

As for converting more family members to become Tigers, Van Genderen said he hasn’t given up yet.

“I’m proud of all of my kids, and I’m even more grateful to Mizzou for making it possible for my children overseas to be Tigers,” he said. “My oldest grandchild is only two-and-a-half. Both he and his sister were born at the MU Women’s Hospital, so we already have a good start on another generation of Tigers.”

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