COLUMBIA — MU's Carol Fleisher and Daniel Sewell were recognized Monday with the Outstanding Public Service Award, the second-highest honorary public service award given by the U.S. Department of Defense.
In accepting the award, Fleisher, the center's first director, warmly credited Sewell, former president of the Mizzou Student Veterans Association and national vice president of Student Veterans of America.
"When students think they can’t make it through because they are married, have a child, haven’t been to school in years, they can," she said. "Dan showed us all that was possible."
Sewell said the award could go to many people at the university as well as many people around the country.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," he said. "I think everyone here at the university would be proud of what we have done."
The afternoon ceremony in Stotler Lounge in the Memorial Union was standing-room-only. In opening remarks, Dalton Wright, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Missouri, said the outcome of Fleisher and Sewell's collaboration has been outstanding.
"Our country did a bad job of reintroducing Korean veterans," said Wright, also a member of the Missourian Publishing Association's board of directors. "This center helps to fight that."
Joseph McCoskrie, executive officer of MU’s ROTC program, said this was the first such award Wright has presented in Missouri.
"They received this for recognition of public service and helping veterans integrate back into society," McCoskrie said. "Fleisher and Sewell kind of put together a program to help them transition back to college — set the conditions for success."
Fleisher and Sewell were nominated for the Outstanding Public Service Award by Navy Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau. Recipients have "rendered service or assistance at considerable personal sacrifice, motivated by patriotism, good citizenship and a sense of public responsibility," according to an MU news release.
The Veterans Center was created following the recommendations of a Task Force for a Veteran-Friendly Campus established by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. At the time it opened in November 2008, it was one of the first such centers nationally to provide support, share information and advocate for members of the armed forces.
At the ceremony, Deaton reflected on the importance of the center to veterans, the university and the country. As for Fleisher and Sewell, he said, "We're applauding two extraordinary individuals who are heroes of our day."