MU's South Quadrangle rededicated to honor Carnahan

Friday, September 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:59 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

Despite the rain, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered Friday on MU's South Quadrangle to rededicate it in memory of Mel Carnahan, the "education governor" who died in a plane crash in October 2000.

The crowd, which included several members of the Carnahan family and Gov. Bob Holden, watched the unveiling of a small monument honoring Mel Carnahan placed near the center of the quadrangle.

Tom Carnahan, the former governor's son, was among those who addressed the gathering. "There's something about dedication ceremonies that lift our hearts and brighten our outlook on life," he said. "It puts us in touch with the past and also links us to the future."

Mel Carnahan was serving his second term as Missouri governor in 2000 when he died along with his son, Randy, and a long-time aide, Chris Sifford, in a plane crash south of St. Louis. Mel Carnahan was campaigning for a Senate seat at the time, and won the election only days after his death. Jean Carnahan was appointed to serve in her husband's place for a term that ended in 2002. She lost a bid for re-election.

Jean Carnahan is writing a book reflecting upon her experiences of the past three years. It will be published in the spring by the University of Missouri Press. She received a standing ovation before speaking to the crowd Friday.

"You all honor our family by your presence," Jean Carnahan said, adding later that "all of you who worked with Mel know there was one thing that defined his public life, and that was the intensity of his commitment to public education."

Several university officials spoke of their admiration for Mel Carnahan and his efforts to improve education in Missouri.

"He worked hard to realize his vision for Missouri, " said University of Missouri President Elson Floyd. "He fought hard to secure adequate funding for education. He made this university his university."

Tiffany Ellis, Senate speaker for the Missouri Students Association, told how Mel Carnahan's contributions still help students today. The MSA lobbied strongly for the rededication of the quadrangle.

"Thanks to his efforts, students across the state are better prepared," Ellis said. "Preparing students for an unparalleled age of technology and diversity was something to which Gov. Carnahan was dedicated. ... He set a new standard for the future."

MU Chancellor Richard Wallace and university Curator Sean McGinnis also spoke at the ceremony.

Jean Carnahan and other family members unveiled the monument, which features an etching of Mel Carnahan's face. The monument was made possible by a contribution from the James B. Nutter family of Kansas City. The quadrangle is now officially known as "Mel Carnahan Quadrangle: Honoring Leadership Through Public Service."

Many people remained after the ceremony to remember the former governor and his achievements. Jean Carnahan spoke of her experiences while her husband was in law school at MU.

"He visited here many, many times and often commented on what a beautiful place it is," she said of the quadrangle, located between Hulston Hall and the Reynolds Alumni and Visitor Center. "He would be excited to see this many people here, people who after three years will still come out and honor his memory."

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