Commending Character

The Mizzou ’39 Award recognizes outstanding students and their campus mentors.
Monday, February 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:02 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

In 1839, a group of Boone County families worked tirelessly to win a bid to establish MU. These founding families’ spirit of service and commitment to the community are reflected on campus today among a group of MU students, faculty and staff.

On Feb. 7, 39 MU seniors and 37 faculty and staff were recognized with the inaugural Mizzou ’39 Award, sponsored by the MU Alumni Association Student Board. On Tuesday, the group was again recognized at the Founder’s Day Celebration, an event commemorating MU’s 166th birthday.

According to the association’s Web site, the award was created this year “in the spirit of service modeled by the founding families that made possible the 1839 founding of the University of Missouri.”

Jayson Meyer, coordinator of alumni activities, explained the connection between the Mizzou ’39 winners and the Founder’s Day event.

“The reason we are celebrating (Mizzou ’39) in connection to the Founder’s Day celebration is that we celebrate service,” he said. “Civic-minded people committed their personal wealth and time so that Mizzou could be created in Columbia, and we want to recognize those faculty, staff and students that continue the founding families’ commitment to Mizzou.”

Carin Huffman, coordinator of student programs and athletic events for the MU Alumni Association, said the idea for the award came from a visit to a nearby university.

“Our Alumni Association Student Board attended a conference two years ago where they picked up the idea from the University of Illinois about a senior honorary award,” Huffman said. “We worked to come up with a proposal to plan an award that would honor seniors for their leadership, their service and their academic achievement at Mizzou.”

Applicants for the award listed their community service, work experience, campus involvement and honors. They were asked to write an essay describing how they plan to further serve MU as alumni. A second essay asked applicants to describe an MU faculty or staff member’s effect on their experience at MU.

“Too often, faculty and staff don’t hear from students as to how they’ve had impacted them,” Huffman said.

“We notified the faculty and staff honorees and provided them the information that was shared about them by the student,” Meyer said. “Their response has been really fantastic.”

Winners were notified in mid-January. It wasn’t until Monday’s reception that the 39 student honorees were introduced to one another.

“I think it adds to the anticipation,” said Karli Echterling, one of the student recipients of the award.

Echterling said she learned about the award from a teacher who encouraged her to apply. She said she was humbled upon learning she had received the award.

“I knew they would have some really great applicants,” she said. “I know MU has a lot of very talented, very involved people. I was very excited.”

A native of St. Joseph, Echterling, 22, came to MU to study biology. She said she has always had an interest in gerontology, the medical science that studies the health effects of aging, and hopes one day to become a geriatrician. During her freshman year, Echterling took a community-involvement course taught by Anne-Marie Foley, director of the Office of Service Learning. She said the course and Foley had a lasting impact on her.

“Through her leadership and mentoring, we were able to take our knowledge and ideas outside of the classroom and into the community where it could more clearly reflect the values of MU,” Echterling wrote in her essay nominating Foley as her faculty mentor. “Dr. Foley has truly inspired me to use my unique strengths and interests in a way that can best benefit our society as a whole.”

Echterling founded a program called Lasting Intergenerational Fellowship Experience in March 2002.

“I decided I wanted to develop some type of program for senior citizens and middle-school students to learn about each other and to have an educational curriculum for students to learn about the aging process and what happens when you get older,” she said.

Echterling said she realizes the impact MU had in supporting her desire to start her own program, and that as an alumna, she hopes she can return that support.

“As a future MU graduate, it is essential that I tell others it was because of an MU course and the support of the campus, that I was able to directly affect the lives of students and senior citizens through the intergenerational program.” Echterling wrote in her essay for the Mizzou ’39 award. “In the future, I would like to serve MU by acting as a mentor for students that have an interest in making a change in their community.”

Huffman said with 137 seniors completing an application for the award this year, selecting 39 was difficult for the faculty and staff who served as judges.

“We had four judges on the selection committee, and it was exciting and rewarding for them to go through these applications and read about these students’ accomplishments,” she said. “It was tough to evaluate them because all of the students who applied are deserving of this award.”

Mizzou ’39 award winners were recognized at an awards banquet Friday at the Reynolds Alumni Center. The group will also be honored during halftime of the Missouri men’s basketball game against Baylor at

7 p.m. Wednesday in Mizzou Arena.

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