Former UM System Curator Mary L. James dies at 59

Saturday, January 3, 2009 | 6:34 p.m. CST; updated 8:56 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 3, 2009
Mary L. James, who died Friday, was appointed in 1999 to the UM System Board of Curators by Gov. Mel Carnahan. She served as president in 2005. But she was active in many other organizations as well.

Mary L. James dedicated her life to public service in the fields of education and health care.

In 1999, Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed her to the UM System Board of Curators. She became board president in 2005. Mrs. James also was active in the Chancellor’s Fund for Excellence, the Advisory and Development Committee within the College of Education, the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women and the Jefferson Club.

“Mary loved the university, the whole system and, in particular, the Columbia campus. It was a big part of her life for a number of years,” her husband, William James, said. “When our last son, Doug, graduated from high school, she noted that the top 10 graduates were all attending MU and called Gov. Mel Carnahan and asked if there was something she could do. That’s when he appointed her to the Board of Curators.”

Mrs. James of Harrisonville died Friday, Jan. 2, 2009, at Kansas City Hospice House in Kansas City of pancreatic cancer. She was 59.

She was born May 6, 1949, in West Plains to James W. and Wanda A. (Alston) Brown Jr.  She graduated from Harrisonville High School in 1967 and received a bachelor's degree in education from MU and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Kansas.

She married William E. James on Feb. 6, 1971, at the United Methodist Church in Harrisonville.

She served an active role in the Harrisonville community.

From 1972 to 1975 she was a teacher for Cass R-IX School District in Harrisonville. From 2006 to 2008, she was the adult and community education coordinator for the Cass Career Center.

Mrs. James served as a trustee for the Harrisonville Public School Foundation. In 2004, she was one of the first to be inducted into the Harrisonville High School Distinguished Alumni Wall of Fame.

In 2005, the UM system Alumni Alliance recognized her for outstanding alumni service. And in 2006, MU recognized her as a Distinguished Friend to the School of Nursing.

In health care, she worked as the executive director of the Cass Regional Medical Center Foundation for two years and as a foundation board member, including serving as vice chairwoman. Mrs. James also served as a member of the board of the Healthcare Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

Mrs. James also helped others by serving 12 years on the Harrisonville Park Board, including serving as chair. While on the board, she advocated for a community sales tax that led to building a pool and maintenance facility for the city, wrote the grant and raised funds to build an outdoor theater and helped in preliminary planning for a community center.

Mrs. James was also active in the newspaper business. She was first lady of the Missouri Press Association in 1998 while her husband was president and was human resources manager at the family-owned Cass County Publishing Co. from 1975 to 2000.

She was a member of the Harrisonville United Methodist Church, the Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce, Chapter G.R. PEO, Delta Gamma Fraternity and the MU Alumni Association.

She is survived by her husband and mother of Harrisonville; two sons, Alex James of Overland Park, Kan., and Doug James of Memphis; one sister, Jean Snider of Harrisonville; and one granddaughter.

Visitation will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Monday at the United Methodist Church, 2600 E. Mechanic St., in Harrisonville. Services will follow at 11:30 a.m. at the church.

Memorials may be made to the Mary L. James Endowed Scholarship, MU College of Education, 114 Hill Hall Columbia, MO 65211; or Kansas City Hospice House, 12000 Wornall Road, Kansas City, MO 64145.

Online tributes may be posted at

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