Alumni to the rescue

The birth of the Mizzou Flagship Council advocacy organization

man standing by university hospital construction
Dean Roscoe Pullen in front of the rising University Hospital in 1954. University Archives C 0-3-8

Published on Show Me Mizzou Jan. 10, 2024
Story by Dale Smith, BJ ’88 

Mizzou was in crisis mode in 2005. A move afoot to relocate the School of Medicine to the University of Missouri System’s Kansas City campus could have done far-reaching damage to MU’s educational offerings, finances and tradition of caring for Missourians across much of the state. So, board curator Tom Atkins, BS Acc ’59, convened a group of local alumni leaders to brainstorm ways of countering the threat. Among the attendees was Richard Mendenhall, BS Ed ’70, M Ed ’72, who told the group what he’d learned about the business of cultivating governmental support while serving as president of the National Association of REALTORS©. In so doing, Mendenhall, winner of Mizzou Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2022, outlined a political path toward safeguarding the university’s future. 

There was just one catch. The Hatch Act prohibits university employees from politicking. It would be up to alumni to make it happen.

Within weeks, the group of loyal Mizzou graduates formed the University of Missouri Flagship Council advocacy organization and its affiliated Flagship Council Political Action Committee (PAC). 

“It’s amazing how many people from every corner of the state have stepped forward since 2005 to join this group and advocate for Mizzou,” says Ed Turner, BS Ag ’62, current chair of Flagship Council’s board. He outlines a three-pronged strategy by which the council and PAC highlight Mizzou’s annual budget request and other priorities at the state Capitol.

For starters, the council has employed lobbyist Tom Rackers, former mayor of Jefferson City, since its inception. 

Second, Flagship Council members constitute a small army of advocates who “develop relationships with members of the executive and legislative branches so they can make Mizzou’s case one on one,” Turner says. 

Finally, the PAC raises money and donates it to carefully selected legislative candidates. “We’re not a red party or a blue party; we’re a black-and-gold party,” Turner says. “Flagship Council can’t endorse anyone, so this is how we support candidates on both sides of the aisle who are sympathetic to the University of Missouri.”

Such contributions have risen dramatically since 2016, says the council’s executive director, Mary Anne McCollum, BA ’72, BS Ed ’76. During the 2016 election cycle, the PAC donated $15,750 to candidates in amounts ranging from $500 to $1,000, rarely reaching the legal limit. In 2022, the PAC donated $55,000 to candidates, with many receiving the maximum amount. All but one was elected.

The School of Medicine, needless to say, remains securely ensconced on the Mizzou campus.

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