New chapter for Brady and Anne Deaton builds on lifetime of academia, family

Thursday, November 14, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:44 p.m. CST, Friday, November 15, 2013
Friday is Brady Deaton's last day as MU chancellor. Here, photos document his two decades of service at MU.

*CORRECTION: Brady Deaton is from eastern Kentucky. **Tom Hiles is vice chancellor for university advancement. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect location for Deaton's upbringing and an incorrect title for Hiles.

COLUMBIA — It's clear that Brady and Anne Deaton have turned the 146-year-old chancellor's Residence on Francis Quadrangle into a home.


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One of Brady Deaton's black-and-gold-striped ties drapes off the back of a chair. A pair of glasses rests on a coffee table. Picture frames, each with a different member of the Deaton family, sit on top of a grand piano. Handprints fashioned into turkeys dot the refrigerator door — made for the Deatons as a surprise by members of the MU Tour Team, who show visitors around campus.

But in many other ways, the Residence seems like a museum. Mark Twain's podium sits in the foyer. MU President Richard Jesse's bed is upstairs. Artworks by MU staffers Brenda Selman, Mindy Smith, Byron Smith and Patrick Muck hang on the walls. The room with the grand piano boasts two fireplaces.

Once, a student came rushing through the front door thinking he was in the neighboring Museum of Art and Archaeology, where he was about to perform a concert.

"He was trying to get into his tux, and he was just like — he had this musical instrument — and he was just, oh, he was in a dither," Anne Deaton recalled. "And I mean, he turned bright red. Red, red, red as can be from head to toe. I said, not to worry. It's OK. It's right next door. You're not so late."

Students likely won't come rushing unannounced into the Deatons' lives when Brady and Anne move to a smaller house in the Chapel Hill neighborhood in southwest Columbia. And as Brady Deaton steps down Friday after nine years as MU chancellor, the couple will no longer host visiting dignitaries, faculty, staff, students, donors and lost musicians.

But they will continue to make MU their professional home as together they launch a global leadership institute bearing both their names.

"I've had wonderful, positive attention, and that's been fine," Brady Deaton said. "But it'll be fun to get a little quieter, just do my work, enjoy life."

For Brady Deaton, this next chapter would not be possible without an understanding of sacrifice, a grounding in family and more than 50 years in and out of the classroom, 24 of them at MU.

Kentucky roots

At a Nov. 4 retirement reception, Christina Deaton DeMarea, the Deatons' only daughter and third of four children, talked about her 71-year-old father's upbringing.

*One of nine children, Brady Deaton grew up in the hills of eastern Kentucky. Their house had neither plumbing nor electricity; they used a creek to keep their butter and eggs cool.

His father, a bricklayer, finished two years of high school; his mother, the eighth grade.

"And yet, my father has never described his childhood as poor because in the midst of that very real poverty was a richness of beauty and love," DeMarea said. "My father would cringe at the suggestion that his success is in spite of that childhood. His achievements are in honor of that childhood."

Young Brady Deaton worked hard in his studies and at home. At 10, he found time to join the local 4-H program. He became the first person in his family to go to college and worked his way through the University of Kentucky by milking cows on a farm.

He graduated in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in agricultural economics. Later, he would earn three more degrees.

But something else happened at Kentucky that would do as much as his academic credentials in setting the course of his life.

"The greatest opportunity that came to my father to ensure his personal and professional success was marrying my mother," DeMarea said.

Brady and Anne

The first time Brady Deaton and Anne Simonetti were in the same room, Brady was standing at a podium at the University of Kentucky in Lexington.

Undergraduate Anne Simonetti was in the crowd with her father, listening to a man she had yet to meet talking about a trip to Ecuador. Brady Deaton, then a graduate student, was planning a YMCA service trip to Quito with a group of students to improve economic development there. 

Forty-seven years later, Anne Deaton still remembers that speech.

"He was speaking about making your life count for something," she recalled at the retirement reception. "I was inspired, and I wanted to go on that trip to Ecuador that he was leading. I turned to my father, who had informed me that I wasn't going on this trip, and I said, 'Look how nice the leader is. He's really, really nice.'"

Anne was already interested in volunteer work when she met Brady. She had spent time deep in the Appalachians helping impoverished people. She had plans to join the Peace Corps.

"So when we came together, that interest in volunteering both in our own communities, in our own country and internationally was already there," she said.

Anne joined Brady's trip to Ecuador. They married a year later.

"To see this New York City, urban, Italian girl with this ... Kentucky farm boy, I mean, the pair of them, somehow they mesh," said MU Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton, who has known the Deatons for about 15 years. "Somehow they complement each other. I think both of them have brought something to the table that improved what both of them were."

After their wedding in 1967, the Deatons moved north, where Brady earned a second master's degree and his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Three of their four children were born by the time they headed back south to Knoxville, Tenn., where Brady taught agricultural economics and rural sociology at the University of Tennessee and Anne earned a master's degree in adult education and aging.

They moved to Virginia Tech in 1978. Now raising four children — Anthony, Brady James, Christina and David — Anne Deaton found time to finish her doctorate. At MU, she has held appointments in the School of Nursing, the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the College of Education.

'Gazing in the same direction'

At the retirement reception, DeMarea described her parents not as two people gazing at each other but as "two people gazing in the same direction."

For Brady and Anne, that gaze has always been toward volunteerism and service. It is at the heart of their vision for the Brady and Anne Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development, which will open in January 2014 and have an office in Ellis Library. The Deatons will focus on concerns such as food security, water safety and environmental sustainability.

"Here we are from parents that only went to the eighth grade and (saw) what educating their children could mean," Anne Deaton said. "Now, all the succeeding generations — our children, their children, so forth — will be people of education and contributors to society. Our parents were great contributors to society, but their potential was limited by their lack of education."

Sitting in the ornate Residence recently, Anne Deaton said she and Brady have never cared much about material things.

"We are privileged to live in a place we never dreamed we would be living in. But if it went away tomorrow, we have four beautiful children, their spouses, our seven grandchildren and each other," she said. "We would be where we have always been: centered in family and our love and devotion to one another."

Life at MU

Their devotion to MU began in 1989 when Brady Deaton took a job as a professor and chairman of what was then the Department of Agricultural Economics. Four years later, he left the classroom to become chief of staff for then-Chancellor Charles Kiesler. Stints as provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs followed.

Brady Deaton became chancellor in October 2004, succeeding Chancellor Richard Wallace.

"Brady has a real, real vision for this university as being a globally significant research and educational institution that fulfills its land grant mission of extending the university to the community, to the state, to the world," Middleton said. "I think if you wrapped up what he would view as his hallmark, it would be strengthening this institution, its posture, in all those regards."

**Brady Deaton oversaw the university's first billion-dollar fundraising campaign, "For All We Call Mizzou." Tom Hiles, vice chancellor for university advancement, called Brady Deaton the perfect person to be the face of the campaign.

"He has a genuine passion for the university, and this inspires donor confidence," Hiles said. "Additionally, he can articulate the big ideas that encourage investment by our alumni and friends."

Brady Deaton also has been a visible presence beyond the MU campus. Former Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman called him genuine.

"The fact that he can empathize with so many and reach and identify with so many different classes of people — students, faculty, staff, alums and the general public — has been a tremendous strength and the quality that I will remember," Hindman said. "I think it stems from him, him as a person."

Making decisions

MU Provost Brian Foster said Brady Deaton has not hesitated to take on unpleasant conflicts. "He takes on tough issues, tough relationships in a very straight and civil way, but he’s tough about it," Foster said.

When it comes to major decisions that affect MU, such as its 2012 transition from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, Brady Deaton changed his decision-making process depending on the nature of the decision, Foster said.

"Some are very political, some are very principled decisions about our policies and rules on campus," Foster said. "Those are driven by his own ethical principles. He’s a very strong, principled person, but he’s also a data person. He’s an economist, for heaven’s sake. Where appropriate, data drives his decision."

Slow communication from the administration has frustrated some of MU's faculty and staff in recent years. It has created a sense of being excluded from important campus decisions. That was the case last spring when the announcement came that the Museum of Art and Archaeology would move off campus to Mizzou North.

Faculty Council Chairman Craig Roberts said Brady Deaton has been straight with him. "When he's told me something, I've not found it later to be untrue," Roberts said. "I'm sure that administrators can't reveal everything they know. They shouldn't. The things he did tell me have helped me work with Faculty Council in a huge way."

Middleton thinks big decisions warrant longer wait times.

"If someone perceives that Brady is taking too much time, I can assure them that he took exactly the appropriate amount of time to satisfy himself that the decision he made was right," Middleton said. "I have never complained about the timing of things. I know he’s doing what he needs to do to make himself comfortable with the difficult decisions."

Once Brady Deaton makes the decision, there is no backing off, Middleton said.

"He’s done the thinking, he’s made the decision, and he’s ready to take whatever lumps may come from having done it," Middleton said. "That’s a good thing. You've got to go where your principles take you and stand behind them. He’s always done that."

'Centerpiece of welcome'

When Brady Deaton became chancellor and he and Anne moved into the Residence, they opened it up to the community and campus guests.

"Every night they were having a function in the residence. Either students or faculty or visiting guests," Middleton said. "I don’t know how they lived there because there was always somebody there visiting."

Brady and Anne Deaton said the residence is first and foremost a home, even if they do have lots of visitors. Last week, that included former U.S. Ambassador June Carter Perry.

"I have always been proud that my first and most meaningful career has been that of a homemaker,” Anne Deaton said at the reception. "And then, I got this amazing opportunity, when all my children were grown and gone … to open the home of the university. Make it the centerpiece of welcome, make students feel that they could knock at the door and come in."

They have been her favorite guests.

"You’re sitting there and listening to students, undergraduate and graduate students, talk about what they do here on campus, the aspirations for the future — that's pretty inspiring," she said.

Brady and Anne Deaton had their own aspirations as students at the University of Kentucky. In some ways, they’re still working toward them.

Both will work to improve global welfare through their new institute. Brady Deaton will continue his post as the chairman of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development, and Anne Deaton plans to stay involved with the Rotary Club of Missouri. She also has plans to promote several initiatives.

They will split their time between Columbia and their retreat home near Blacksburg, Va.

Neither is really slowing down — just redirecting efforts, Anne Deaton said.

“It is really with real joy that we return now — full circle, you might say — to our academic interests," Brady Deaton said at the retirement reception. "Both Anne and I are very excited about these next steps, and we will focus again, with more emphasis, on our four grown children and our seven grandchildren and their beautiful families."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

Here is a timeline of Brady Deaton's life and career. Graphic by Caitlin Campbell, Graciela Aguilarleon and Jaime Williams

MU’s endowment, or the pool of funds donated to the university, has increased by more than 600 percent since Brady Deaton became chancellor in 2004. In 2012, the university received its largest endowment gift, $30.1 million from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which funds the operation of the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Graphic by Joey Fening

Fall enrollment for MU has increased during Chancellor Brady Deaton’s tenure at MU. Since 1997, fall enrollment for undergraduates has increased by about 55 percent. Graduate and professional student enrollment increased by about 61 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Graphic by Mollie Barnes

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