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University of Missouri

Giving Back

Professor Charles Menifield is paying it forward with a new endowed scholarship.

Charles Menifield

Public Affairs Professor Charles Menifield’s life was changed when he received the Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship during his doctoral training at Mizzou. More than 15 years later, Menifield, PhD ’96, is setting up his own fellowship to assist future graduate students. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

The Gus T. Ridgel Fellowship put Charles Menifield through his doctoral program in political science, supported his wife and child, and even allowed him to buy his parents a house back in rural Mississippi. It was a turning point for his family and career. Two decades later, he is returning the favor by establishing the Dr. Charles E. Menifield Fellowship in Public Administration.

“It was an easy choice to come here when I got that [fellowship],” says Menifield, PhD ’96. Between the Ridgel — named in honor of the first African-American to receive a graduate degree from MU — and a research assistantship, Menifield’s income at Mizzou dwarfed the stipends he’d lived on during his master’s program at Mississippi State University. By his second semester, he’d saved enough to move his parents out of the shotgun-style farmhouse they’d lived in his whole life and into a four-bedroom wood-frame house he bought not far away in Merigold, Miss.

“I was raised to believe higher education means the whole family benefits, so this was part of my giving back to my family,” says Menifield, a professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs.

In February 2013, he started giving back in a different way. The fellowship he established was split into two parts. The first provides a $500 scholarship for a current master’s student in the public administration program. The second is a planned endowment Menifield is funding on a yearly basis and hopes to fully fund before he retires.

Once funded, it will generate about $1,800 annually for one or more graduate students majoring in public administration who have a financial need, with preference given to African-Americans.

“I wanted to give back at least what was given to me,” he says. “This degree has opened so many doors.”

Read about Gus T. Ridgel’s experience as Mizzou’s first African-American graduate degree recipient.