Student Alumni Initiatives: University of Missouri/ Mizzou Alumni - Silver Medal

1F: Alumni Relations Programs – Student Alumni Initiatives
University of Missouri/Mizzou Alumni Association – Mizzou ‘39

Contact: Carin Huffman Grinch, assistant director, 123 Reynolds Alumni Center, Columbia, MO 65211, Phone: (573) 884-3204, e-mail:

Mission Statement: The Mizzou Alumni Association proudly supports the best interests and traditions of Missouri’s flagship university and its alumni worldwide. Lifelong relationships are the foundation of our support. These relationships are enhanced through advocacy, communication, and volunteerism.

Staff Support: Five student volunteers were instrumental in the planning process and the entire 50 member Mizzou Alumni Association Student Board (AASB) was involved in the implementation of events. The student board was guided by two professional staff members and two program assistants.

Program Description: The University of Missouri is an institution rich in tradition. On February 11, 1839, the Geyer Act was passed by the Missouri State General Assembly to create a state university. In order to provide the greatest ease of access, the university was to be located in one of several central Missouri counties near the Missouri River, the state’s main artery of commerce and transportation. Within the counties of consideration, a spirited competition ensued to raise the most cash and land “subscriptions” to provide support for the university. Boone County amassed the greatest total with just over $118,000. Columbia, the county seat, was to be home to the newly established University of Missouri.

In the same spirit of service modeled by the founding families of the University of Missouri in 1839, Mizzou ’39 was created in fall 2004 as a way to recognize the 39 most outstanding seniors for their academic achievement, leadership, and service to the campus and community. The award program is managed by AASB as part of its mission to preserve and promote tradition and foster a sense of pride within the Mizzou community. It is also consistent with the association’s mission of building and developing lifelong relationships as the foundation of our support.

Seniors must submit a nomination detailing their academic honors, campus leadership, and community involvement as well as complete three essays. Students are asked to describe the moment that defines their undergraduate experience at MU; how they plan to serve Mizzou as graduates; and name a faculty or staff member who impacted them. Applicants were evaluated based on the three criteria – academics, leadership, and service – as well as the strength of their essays and overall application. A three-person selection committee comprised of Mizzou alumni, volunteers, and staff assessed the applications. The judges’ scores were combined and the top 39 recipients were selected.

The recipients are notified individually but kept secret until a special induction ceremony on the Francis Quadrangle during Founders’ Week. The recipients gathered at the alumni center at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, 2006, and walked to the Quad together in silence. At 8:39 pm, the Switzler Hall bell rang in honor of the recipients as they lined up on the steps of Jesse Hall. The bell, which sits atop the oldest classroom building on campus, only rings for three occasions – in remembrance of the passing of a member of the MU family, Tap Day, and Mizzou ’39. After the bell rang, the student board president spoke about the history of the university’s founding as well as the honor of being selected for Mizzou ’39. The names of the recipients were read as each lit a candle. Although the weather in Missouri is unpredictable, particularly in early February, the drizzle and wind subsided before the start of the ceremony. To conclude the candle-lit ceremony, members of AASB and Mizzou ’39 joined together to sing the Alma Mater before walking to the Heidelberg, a favorite campus restaurant, for a reception.

The recipients and their mentors were honored later that week at the campus Founders’ Celebration hosted by the Mizzou Alumni Association. Recipients and their mentors donned unique Mizzou ’39 nametags and were recognized by MU Chancellor Brady Deaton in front of 150 campus members on Feb. 9.

The recipients were recognized once again on Friday, Feb. 10, at a banquet in Reynolds Alumni Center. Families from Colorado to Iowa and Texas to Tennessee made their way to Columbia for the special ceremony. The evening is a special tribute to these outstanding students and their faculty/staff mentors. More than 200 people donned their finest black and gold for the banquet in the Reynolds Alumni Center. Each recipient is honored on stage as an excerpt of one of their essays is read. Their faculty/staff mentor also joins them on stage as both individuals receive a special Mizzou ’39 lapel pin.

The final form of recognition took place on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the Missouri-Texas A&M men’s basketball game. Recipients were recognized during half-time by the campus and community. The recipients received a special gold Mizzou ’39 t-shirt to wear as they were recognized at mid-court during half-time. Their names flashed on the video board as a tribute was read to them. As they walked off the court, Zou Crew, the student cheering section, held signs for each recipient and cheered loudly.

The students who were not selected were also contacted individually. A personalized e-mail message was sent to each non-recipient with excerpts from their essays. A copy of the comments about their faculty/staff mentor was shared with that individual by mail. In addition, a personalized letter was sent to each dean highlighting the list of recipients from his/her school or college. These extra touches left the non-recipients and deans with a good impression of the association.

Program Goals and Objectives: The primary goal of Mizzou ’39 is to build a program that recognizes outstanding Mizzou students for their academic success, leadership, and service. It also presents an opportunity to reach out to MU faculty and staff. Because the award includes a service component, AASB and MAA agreed the award would be a natural tie-in with the University’s Founders’ Celebration. Other goals were to receive 100 applications and recognize a diverse group of students for their contributions to campus and the community.

Target Audience: The 3,000 members of the undergraduate Class of 2006 were the target audience for the award program. The Mizzou ’39 award strives to attract the most outstanding seniors who excel inside and outside of the classroom. These individuals were targeted through a variety of channels including mass e-mail, listservs, the Facebook, posters, and more.

Total Number of Participants: More than 100 seniors applied for the 2006 Class of Mizzou ’39. Seventy individuals attended the induction ceremony on the Quad including 36 recipients and 40 AASB members. One hundred and fifty people attended the campus Founders’ Celebration including Mizzou ’39 recipients and their faculty/staff mentors. More than 200 people attended the Mizzou ’39 banquet. The event attracted several campus administrators including the vice chancellor for student affairs and several deans. Because the event was held the evening before the association’s winter governing board meeting, several board members also attended the banquet. Another major campus event was held on Feb. 21, but 30 of the recipients were present for the half-time recognition during the Missouri vs. Texas A&M men’s basketball game.

Living and Addressable Alumni: The number of living and addressable alumni is 216,228. There are more than 28,000 students at Mizzou including 3,000 seniors.

Volunteers Involved: This program would not be possible without the creativity and hard work of AASB. The organization is comprised of 50 student volunteers. AASB members are not eligible to apply for the award, but staff administers the selection and notification. Staff also contacted non-recipients and shared their essays with their faculty/staff mentors. AASB handled the details of the induction ceremony and reception. They also assisted with set-up and mingled with recipients at the Founders’ Celebration. Student board members handled all of the set-up and details for the award banquet on Friday evening and were seated throughout the room to visit with the honorees, faculty/staff mentors, and families. They created a poster board sign for each recipient held by Zou Crew, the student cheering section, during the Missouri vs. Texas A&M basketball game.

Program Budget: The program budget includes funding for event promotion, gifts, professional services, decorations, and event admission for recipients and faculty/staff mentors. Expenses total $7,251.10 and event income totals $2,080.00. Below is an itemized program budget for Mizzou ’39.

Advertising (campus newspaper) ($372.00)
Advertising (broadcast email, facebook) ($68.00)
Postage ($37.02)
Mizzou '39 Lapel Pins ($352.50)
Founders' Reception (Mizzou ’39 ribbons) ($25.00)
Award Banquet ($4405.60)
Event Income (banquet) $2080.00
Reception (Heidelberg) ($210.05)
Photographer ($190.00)
Misc. (candles, luminaries, poster board, etc.) ($357.55)
Interpreter ($125.00)
Flowers (Corsages & Rental) ($322.50)
T-Shirts ($370.88)
Stage Signage ($415.00)
TOTAL ($5171.10)


I. Create an award program that recognizes the most outstanding seniors as well as engages faculty and staff. The program was a complete success and the recipients, their families, and their faculty/staff mentors all appreciated the unique honor. These individuals shared such positive comments and felt truly overwhelmed by the recognition. Mizzou ‘39 went above and beyond their expectations, especially for the second year of the program. In addition, numerous administrators recognized the success of the program. Shortly after the banquet, Dr. Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor of student affairs, commented to the AASB president that she hoped to be included the following year. Other deans and administrators also shared their positive comments with several MAA staff and AASB members. The buzz created around the award program continues to grow and certainly has the campus community talking about this new tradition.

In addition to measuring the success of the program, AASB members continue to carefully examine the program to find ways to improve it with each year. Many of the suggested changes from last year were added included an additional essay question on the application, implementing a GPA minimum, establishing an earlier application deadline to allow more time for the judges, and creating additional measures to recognize the students at the Founders’ Celebration. New ways to improve the program have focused on promoting it in attempts to increase awareness and expand the application pool.

II. Recognize a diverse group of students for their outstanding contributions to campus and the community. From athletes to international students, the pool of applicants was quite diverse. Each candidate truly was outstanding which made it difficult for the selection committee to narrow it down to 39 recipients. Those selected represented a variety of majors, activities, and organizations. The recipients also came from different backgrounds and were geographically diverse.

III. Receive 100 applications. At first, applications trickled in slowly, but 102 applications were collected by the application deadline. The achievement of this goal was truly the result of a team effort by all members of AASB. The group promoted Mizzou ’39 through traditional forms of promotion such as display advertisements in campus publications, fliers, and mass e-mail messages to seniors through the university’s weekly email update. Committee members also thought outside of the box. Information was posted on, an online student networking site, while messages were also distributed to numerous listservs. Students and staff contacted faculty and advisers to solicit the names of worthy candidates. The combination of traditional methods of communication coupled with tremendous grassroots efforts yielded solid results.

This number is slightly down from the previous year although it did meet the established goal. As with any new program, there are growing pains and much is learned by trial and error. The main reason for the decreased number of applicants was the fact that they were due two weeks earlier than the previous year. In order to prevent them from being due the week of finals, AASB decided to require the applications to be due earlier. It also afforded the judges more time to review the applications during the busy holiday season. Unfortunately, the application deadline also fell the week after Thanksgiving Break which led to the decrease in the number of applications received. In the future, AASB has decided to make applications due the last day of finals week as it was the first year of the award program.

IV. Tie into campus Founders’ Celebration to add new life to a “tired” event. The Mizzou ’39 award adds another dimension to the campus Founders’ Celebration by strengthening the connection between the association, graduating students, and members of the campus community. Each recipient was invited to attend the campus celebration as well as bring his or her faculty/staff mentor. Their participation in this event doubled attendance from the previous year. The chancellor highlighted the success of these outstanding students in his comments and the association president also recognized these leaders in front of a crowd of over 150 people. The recipients wore black and gold Mizzou ’39 ribbons with special nametags as a way to recognize them as well.

The Future of Mizzou ’39: The positive effects of Mizzou ’39 continue to be felt across the student body as well as among faculty and staff. You can find information on the recipients on many of the school and college websites such as the Missouri School of Journalism, College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, and the MU Sinclair School of Nursing.

Campus tour guides reference the program during each campus tour. As the group walks across Francis Quadrangle, the tour guide references Mizzou ’39 because the induction ceremony takes place on the Quad. It is also is featured prominently in the Mizzou Traditions video played at each of the 18 Summer Welcome freshman orientation sessions. A former recipient and her mentor describe the feeling of being selected and recognized at the banquet as being a highlight of the Mizzou experience.

This new program has quickly become an outstanding tradition for Mizzou seniors. Mizzou ‘39 engages students as well as faculty and staff as part of the association’s mission of developing lifelong relationships.