MAA Presents Geyer Award to Big Thinkers
Rep. Mike Thomson and Brady J. Deaton take home prize.
If Rep. Henry S. Geyer hadn’t written the Geyer Act of 1839, the University of Missouri wouldn’t be celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2014. Every year, the Mizzou Alumni Association (MAA) presents the Henry S. Geyer Award to a public official and a citizen who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to higher education and Mizzou. On Jan. 13 at the G2 Gallery in Jefferson City, Mo., the Mizzou Legislative Network of MAA presented the 2013 Geyer Award to Rep. Mike Thomson and MU chancellor emeritus Brady J. Deaton.
When Geyer and fellow members of the Missouri General Assembly wrote the legislation that established the state university in Columbia, “They were thinking big,” said MAA Executive Director Todd McCubbin, M Ed ’95. “They were thinking big about the University of Missouri and what they wanted it to be.”
Thomson embodies the spirit of Geyer, said Pat Thomas, BS ’97, the awards chair for the Ag Alumni Organization that nominated him. Thomson spent nearly 38 years in public education, first teaching and serving as a high school guidance counselor and then returning to his alma mater, Northwest Missouri State, as an instructor and administrator.
“I got up every morning for 55 years and went to school,” Thomson said. “It’s natural for me to bring that commitment to the legislature.”
As chair of the Higher Education Committee and a member of the Budget, Education and Joint Education committees, Thomson has supported legislative bills throughout the past six years that established the Missouri Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative; improved Access Missouri and Bright Flight scholarships awards; created an at‐large position for the Board of Curators; and improved remedial education, transfer and articulation agreements, and reverse transfer policies.
One bill Thomson supported improves transfer agreements among public two‐ and four‐year higher education institutions and requires the Department of Higher Education to create a statewide core transfer library of a minimum of 25 lower‐level courses that are accepted at all public colleges and universities in the state. Thomas said this legislation will have a positive impact on higher education in Missouri.
“As a parent, you know how crucial it can be to be able to transfer credits,” Thomas said. Students who take classes that do not count at other schools and lose credit often end up extending their college career and going further into debt. “[Thomson] sees education in the big picture.”
Nominated by the Nursing Alumni Organization, Deaton was also honored as a big thinker. He served from 2004–13 as chancellor at MU, where he cultivated a larger and more diverse student body, increased spending on research, hired prestigious faculty, completed the For All We Call Mizzou campaign, opened 21 new buildings and ushered Mizzou into the Southeastern Conference.
Deaton referenced his humble upbringing in rural Kentucky and how much he benefited from public education.
“Henry Geyer was not a Missourian, but he had served in the war defending this nation, and he was committed to its success,” Deaton said. “Like Henry Geyer, I, too, am not a native Missourian, but I share his belief in what this university contributes to the quality of our lives and the role of citizens in this state what they can contribute to the nation and to the world.”
To a room filled with members of the Missouri General Assembly and Mizzou administrators, faculty, staff and alumni, McCubbin reiterated how the Geyer Act began with a group of legislators with different ideas coming together to establish the state university that is now in its 175th year.
“As we imagine what the next 175 years will look like, let’s think big,” he said. “And let’s start with this legislative session. There is a lot of opportunity to think big. It’s an important time for the University of Missouri. Everything that happened in 1839 leads us to today.”