2011 Icons of Education


Almost without fail, business leaders will tell you that one of this region’s true strengths is a network of outstanding educational assets—from K–12 public schools up through major research universities. Those schools, colleges and universities didn’t get to be good by virtue of merely opening their doors. They became great because they had great people behind them: Administrators with vision, instructors with passion to cultivate young minds, support staff members who did the blocking and tackling of daily operations that made the whole thing work.

It would be impossible to recognize everyone who has contributed to making this region better-educated than the rest of the nation as a whole. But each year, Ingram’s shines the spotlight on a small group of educators with its Icons of Education awards, recognizing those who have undeniably been a part of that academic achievement. This year’s winners include college presidents, active and retired; professors and public school teachers who have made a wholesale commitment to reaching their students; and deans of business schools, who have made a huge impact on the business and industries that sustain our local economy.

We’re pleased to introduce to you the 2011 Icons of Education. We’re confident that when you meet them in the following pages, you’ll agree that their achievements on behalf of all of us have made them standouts in their chosen professions.

Lawrence Biondi

President, St. Louis University


St. Louis University was nearly 170 years old when the Rev. Lawrence Biondi became its president. Clearly, it was time for a few changes. And in the 23 years since taking the reins, Biondi has reshaped and reinvented the historic university, the nation’s first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River. Sprucing up things on campus, however, didn’t prove to be enough: He’s also been a key figure in the revival of the surrounding Midtown region of the city, injecting a new life and dynamism into the relationship between university and community and earning accolades as an urban pioneer.

During his tenure, SLU has grown from a commuter college to a major national university with 13,000 students who hail not just from each of the 50 United States, but from 80 countries internationally. Biondi has committed vast resources to academics, student scholarships, financial aid, faculty recruitment, state-of-the-art technology and campus improvement projects. Just as significantly, he has raised the institution’s national profile by reorienting it as a major research university. A cornerstone of his commitment to scientific discovery came in 2007, when SLU opened the $81 million Edward A. Doisy Research Center.

Much of that change has been financed from Biondi’s work on three capital campaigns that have yielded more than $600 million, and all of it was formulated to mesh with a specific mission of education in the tradition of the Jesuits, the largest order of the Catholic Church.


Gerald Brouder

President, Columbia College


Gerald Brouder became president of Columbia College in 1995. Not long after, he found himself in the unflattering position of asking a local banker for a line of credit to keep operations running. He set out to ensure that it would be the last loan Columbia College sought. “The endowment for an institution nearly 150 years old sat at $2 million,” he says. “The immediate goal was to establish a minimum three-month corporate operating reserve and grow the endowment.” Mission accomplished: In a span just one-10th of the college’s lifetime, the endowment has grown by a factor of 35, and stands at $69 million. Oh, and the school is debt-free, too.

The latter development, he said, reflects “my personal financial management philosophy and that is that we do not spend money that we do not have. Simple as that appears, it works.” It required tough choices and sacrifice, but the schools reserves, he said, finance faculty development, facilities upkeep, process reengineering “and achievement of our mission of providing superior teaching and learning.”

Brouder marvels at the technological advances that have changed collegiate education, and he applauds a newfound emphasis on measurable learning outcomes. But attainment of a college degree, he fears, too often has devolved into credentialism, “where the goal is on obtaining the degree rather than on learning.”

A singular focus on making higher education accessible has marked the college’s on-line growth, but not merely for the sake of growth: “Affordable access is critical to retaining the designation as the best higher education system in the world,” Brouder says. “A highly educated citizenry is central to the preservation of our democracy.”


Mike Nietzel

Former President, Southwest Missouri State University


A defining attribute of vision is the ability to see past one’s own immediate interests, one’s career, even beyond one’s own lifetime. Mike Nietzel brought vision to Southwest Missouri State University, and Springfield, Mo., is being transformed because of it. He retired last year, but his impact is still being felt as the school and the city move forward on the IDEA Commons. The long-term vision for that 30-acre slice of downtown, Nietzel said, was to develop an urban neighborhood dedicated to creativity: “We wanted to focus on domains where MSU had specific expertise,” and where opportunities for commercialization and economic development could blossom. Specifically, innovation. Design. Entrepreneurship. The arts. A foundation that would strengthen ties between city and school, yielding something greater than the sum of their parts. It wouldn’t have happened without MSU’s effort to earn the endorsement of city officials, garner public support, and recruit private developers who would share the vision.

Nietzel came to MSU in 2005, after a 32 years at Kentucky, but his impact in Missouri far outweighs the brief timeline. His tenure saw the planning, construction or completion of more than $150 million in capital projects, including the crown jewel JQH Arena, a $67 million, 11,000-seat venue. He also led development of new undergraduate and graduate scholarship programs. Before his resignation took effect, Nietzel was moving in a new direction; last April, he accepted Gov. Jay Nixon’s invitation to serve as special adviser on higher education and work-force readiness. When he signed up for that duty, Nietzel said he wanted to continue serving Missouri students, but Gov. Nixon said his contributions would amount to more than just routine service: “Mike Nietzel’s not only on the team,” the governor said, “but in the huddle calling plays.”

William Fuerst

Dean, KU School of Business


For the past decade, the School of Business at the University of Kansas has been under the direction of William Fuerst, who became dean of the school after a 21-year stint at Texas A&M. Dean? Maybe his title should have been Change Agent: Since he arrived in 2000, the school has added five new majors, hired more faculty and given them more resources for classroom instruction and research, expanded the MBA and master’s of accounting programs, the number of elective courses—the list goes on.

“Our students now have increased opportunities to study abroad, obtain internships, participate in case competitions and consulting projects, and interact with successful business leaders in our classrooms and in their offices,” Fuerst says. A native of Kewanee, Ill., he earned a degree in psychology from Knox College, an MBA at Northern Illinois and a doctorate in management information systems from Texas Tech. His tenure in business education has given him front-row seating for another transformative change, he says.

“Twenty years ago, the majority of students targeted big, well-known companies as a place to start their professional careers,” says Fuerst, who will relinquish the dean’s title in June. “Today, many business students are interested in entrepreneurship—they have creative ideas and the internal fire to be their own boss. The companies these students create will be an important key to economic growth, both in the U.S and internationally.”

Business education has also changed, he said: “It has become more market-driven. Most U.S. schools of business today have boards of advisors, comprising business leaders who help fine-tune curriculum, guest lecture in classes, interact with students and faculty, and provide high-level assistance in developing business graduates who meet the
needs of recruiting companies.” In the end, he said, that change serves both the students and the companies involved.

Mary Spratt

Professor of Biology, William Woods University


Mary Spratt gets a big share of the credit for re-integrating a biology curriculum at William Woods College in Fulton, Mo. She’s a distinguished professor of biology, so it was only natural to want a strong program. But her push for it was as much personal as professional. “Many of the young women interested in the sciences who came to William Woods, then still an all-women’s college, reminded me much of myself at that age: from rural backgrounds, first-generation college students, a bit unsure of themselves in their ability to compete in what was viewed then as a male-dominated field,” Spratt explains. “I had sometimes felt at a disadvantage as a woman in science, and wanted to be very supportive of these young women.” That she’s been, and her students, in turn, have written volumes of endorsements that helped earn Spratt the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Missouri Teacher of the Year honors from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Her success, she says, isn’t entirely hers, for implementing a biology program is expensive. “Fortunately, the administration didn’t blink and was very supportive,” Spratt says. She cites two disconcerting trends in higher education: technology that makes some students passive, not active, learners, and over-involved “helicopter parents” who “hover so closely over their away-from-home kids,” diluting their experience of independent living.

Edward Hammond

President, Fort Hays State University


Edward Hammond earned his Ph.D. at the University of Missouri, but that’s not the biggest reason he bleeds black and gold. Hammond has served as president of Fort Hays State University—same mascot (Tigers) and school colors as his doctoral alma mater—for 25 years. That’s roughly three times the average tenure of a university’s chief executive today.

He’s made good use of his time, leading Fort Hays State into the business of organic growth. Enrollment has more than doubled over the past 12 years, from 5,533 in 1999 to more than 12,000. That’s within hailing distance of the Regents’ system’s urban representative, Wichita State University. To achieve that, the university embraced a hold-the-line mentality on credit-hour costs, made a resolute commitment to contain operating expenses, and aggressively expanded distance-learning programs.

Hammond’s tenure has touched the lives of thousands, but he recalls three students in particular: one, a youth who overcame a troubled start to graduate and become a banker in his hometown; another, an extremely introverted lad who responded to FHSU’s individualized instruction by blossoming into vice-president of the student body. Perhaps most poignantly, Hammond recalls the graduation of a student from a partner university in China. Her parents had sold the families’ oxen to pay for their daughter’s education. “The people in China are willing to sacrifice nearly everything for a college education,” Hammond says. “What a responsibility that places on us!”

He’s also driven to educate students about the dangers of alcohol abuse and binge-drinking, and is guided by a deep sense that this nation’s economic fortunes are inextricably linked to the financial commitment we make to educate and train workers in an evolutionary economy. “States are abandoning their role of providing financial support for universities,” he laments. “This is very short-sighted because education is the foundation of our economy. … It is costly but essential that universities receive the resources needed to meet these challenges.”

Bruce Walker

Former Dean, MU's Trulaske School of Business


Like any great vintner, Bruce Walker tended his dominion at the University of Missouri’s business school knowing that the fruits of his work wouldn’t be fully realized for years to come. Those years are here. “A dean can/should have a long-term positive impact on a college in different ways than students, faculty, and staff can,” said Walker. “Thus, I am especially proud of being involved with two projects that took more than 10 years to reach fruition.” Those being the physical move of the college into Cornell Hall in 2002, and his work to help fund and rename the school as the Robert J. Trulaske Sr. College of Business, in honor of the late St. Louis businessman whose family’s donations made it possible.

The biggest source of his pride, though, has walked right out the door of the school: Roughly 15,000 students earned degrees from the business school before Walker gave up his duties last fall to return to the faculty. The university recognized him with its prized Manuel Pacheco Academic Leadership Award in 2008, an honor that goes to just one administrator across the four-campus system each year. “For me, the Pacheco Award was validation of my decision to stay at Mizzou rather than entertain opportunities at other universities,” Walker says. “I chose to stay as dean because I wanted to provide leadership for the effort to build and sustain an outstanding, and nationally renowned, business school. The award, along with the national rankings earned by our degree programs and our academic units for research productivity, validates my decision.”

Joan Gallos

Professor of Leadership, Henry W. Bloch School of Management


Joan Gallos is a teacher by profession; she specializes in leadership courses at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management. But get beyond her resume, and what you really find is . . . a student. “For more than 30 years, I have worked to understand and deepen conceptions of what, how, and why professionals learn,” she says. That unwavering quest to understand now just how we learn, but how leaders apply their knowledge, has marked her career at multiple
stops from Harvard to Kansas City, among other venues. “The common core across all this work is the search for new understandings,” Gallos says, “vehicles to foster learning, change, and creative expressions of the human spirit at work.”

As director of the Bloch School’s Executive MBA program, Gallos deals with students who are atypical. “I love my work with seasoned executives because they understand that leadership and management are as much art as science—and you can’t become a great artist by simply memorizing models and passing tests,” she says.

But knowledge is only as helpful as your capacity to use it, Gallos says, and professional success requires reflection, self-knowledge, and the wisdom that comes from knowing how to learn from experience. “That kind of learning is long, complex, inwardly focused, and at times painful,” she declares. “I see younger students too impatient for that—seems like a waste of time. They want to get on with things quickly.”

Morris Collins

Warrensburg School Board


To a fourth-grader in the 1950s, the very concept of a U.S. Supreme Court would have been an abstraction. Much more tangible was the fear that young Morris Collins felt two years after the court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, the day he rode a school bus with white students for the first time. It was, Collins recalls, “literally a scary adventure.” Quite a shock to a youngster who had only known the company of other black students in a one-room schoolhouse in Johnson County, Mo.

For years, Collins would be the object of a lot of “firsts” in public education: a three-month stint at Concordia High School (“They had never had any black students before, and let it be known they were not welcome there,” he says), the first black teacher in the Warrensburg school district, and the district’s first black school board president. Now retired as a K–12 educator, he is serving at the University of Central Missouri as an adjunct professor, under the direction of Mick Luerhman—formerly a student teacher for Collins. From his current vantage point, Collins can see the impact of his career in another light.

“Interestingly enough,” he says, “five of the eight art instructors in the Warrensburg School District were either my student teachers or I was their university supervisor,” Collins beams. “One of the art teachers was my student in the fourth and fifth grade.”

Nearly 60 years after Brown, he’s still a champion of equal access in education: “It was especially important that every child have an equal opportunity for a measure of success in my classroom,” Collins says. “The same is true today as a school district policy-maker. It is absolutely essential that every student in our district, as well as nationwide when necessary, has the same opportunity for success.”


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