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University of Missouri

The Great (Columns) Society

Mizzou Alumni Association honors annual donors with new giving society.

The Simmons family

Jim and Gema Simmons and sons, from left, Christian, 11, Colin, 7, and Logan, 9, are devoted Tiger fans. Photo by Rob Hill.

Raising three boys in Cornhusker country, Gema and Jim Simmons knew they needed to be proactive to keep their youngsters from drinking the Big Red Kool-aid.

They started out buying season tickets for Mizzou football and basketball and donating to the Tiger Scholarship Fund. Then they gave to an endowed scholarship honoring their former School of Medicine financial adviser as well as to an endowed scholarship their med school class formed for their 10-year reunion. Gema, BA ’94, MD ’98, and her sister then established an endowed scholarship for student leaders of their sorority, Alpha Phi. Along the way she became involved with the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women. Jim, BS ’93, MD ’98, is a leader in the local Mizzou Alumni Association chapter, where Gema also volunteers.

The result? “I’m pretty certain anyone who knows us here in [Omaha] Nebraska knows where our allegiances lie,” Gema says. “We have on several occasions had [school] principals ask if [our boys] own any other attire” than Mizzou gear.

The Simmonses donations — and those of roughly 2,500 donors like them —have earned the attention of the association, which launched the Columns Society this fall to recognize individuals and families whose cumulative annual giving to MU totals at least $2,500 — or $1,500 for alumni 35 or younger.

Membership letters went out in September 2013 and the first society event is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2014.

The critical nature and significant impact of annual giving is often underestimated,” says Jill McIntosh, BS BA ’00, director of annual giving and membership at the association. “[The society] recognizes those folks who are the lifeblood of MU — their support allows us to do more every year.”

Gema says getting involved has made a strong family connection to Mizzou. “You don’t have to be a big-dollar donor to be part of Mizzou’s legacy,” she says. “Even if it’s $25 or $50, it will make an impact somewhere.”