COLUMBIA — A group of Missouri leaders assembled in Columbia this weekend to discuss how they can promote the interests of the University of Missouri System throughout the state.
UM System President Gordon Lamb announced in August that he would assemble a group called The Missouri 100 to provide “support and enthusiasm” for the system’s four campuses. The group has 50 members, as well as nine members of the Board of Curators, who serve as ex-officio members.
Lamb said the number of members is “not sanctity,” and more will be added in the future.
“We found people who already supported the university and began with them,” Lamb said. “From there, we asked, ‘Who are people like them?’”
The Missouri 100 members make or raise charitable contributions to the UM System of at least $1,000 and are responsible for meeting with the president when he travels around the state.
Curator Chairman Don Walsworth said the group acts a “sounding board” for the president, and the group is the first of its kind.
At the group’s inaugural meetings this weekend, members had a reception at Lamb’s official Providence Point residence and a meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn to learn more about the UM System’s priorities. At the Saturday morning breakfast, the group listened to three presentations about health care, economic development and competitive salaries.
Marion Cairns, a curator, said that, as a former state legislator, she knows how influential constituents can be.
“This is a great university that people too often do not know about,” Cairns said. “We need to get people who are influential in communities involved to influence legislators. They can do this better than anyone because they vote for their local candidates.”
U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said it is important to have people involved that have their own “sphere of influence outside the university.”
“Does the university have great professors? Yes. Does the university have great programs? Yes. But the real strength are those people who have graduated and gone on to be successful,” McCaskill said before her speech to The Missouri 100 members.
During his speech, U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said, “Getting this group to speak in one voice about anything is a big stump to jump.”
He said the group will help not only the state, but the country, understand what the UM System contributes.
The three honorary co-chairpeople of the committee are Cynthia Brinkley, president of AT&T Missouri; Richard Miller, president and CEO of Miller’s Professional Imaging; and Gary Forsee, former CEO of Sprint Nextel.
Forsee said his job includes helping the president identify leaders and spread the word about the UM System.
“This is an important chance for people throughout the state and community to broadly ask leaders for support,” he said.