Article Category Archives: Class Notes

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

Ron Thomas (’65) exemplifies Truman’s long-standing history of excellence in education. From a blue-collar background, to Bulldog pride, to technical college president, Thomas proves that pursuing a career in education and helping people are one and the same.

Growing up in a manufacturing community in Illinois, Thomas knew he wanted to pursue a different career path. Studying education provided a chance to relate to a variety of individuals and make a difference. His academic focus never shifted from this original idea. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education from Truman and went on to earn a master’s degree from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Thomas was fortunate to have many opportunities to advance in the education field. He progressed from teacher and coach to positions in both admissions and student services. Additional college administration roles paved the way for Thomas to become president of Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Minn.

During his 13 years of service as president of DCTC, Thomas centered his efforts on collectively resolving a prestige deficit.

“People don’t appreciate two-year colleges with a technical focus,” Thomas said. “I wanted to promote the value and significance of a technical education.”

Thomas helped to enhance the physical facilities on campus and implemented new technology. He also worked on connecting with the surrounding community, building at least 70 new partnerships. These partnerships provided opportunities for students through co-curricular options, honor programs and scholarships.

However, for Thomas, the best accomplishments are seeing the students succeed.

“People forget plaques and awards,” Thomas said “The most important thing is creating opportunities for students to transfer on success.”

Although he retired in 2013, Thomas continues helping students in need with his endowed scholarship fund for Truman. The University’s support throughout the years has encouraged Thomas to provide the same support to other deserving students.

“Even when I didn’t give, they stayed with me,” Thomas said. “Truman provided support and never quit caring.”

In retirement, Thomas is spending a little time on himself. He and his wife live in Birmingham, Ala., near extended family. His spare time is spent writing and helping with an inner-city school as a basketball team’s statistician.

Even with a lifetime of education experience, Thomas urges students to never stop learning.

“Be proud of your college and be proud of what you’re doing. You can make a difference for people,” Thomas said.

Lifelong Educators Return to Campus

Professional educators, and longtime friends from their time as students, reunite at the Homecoming Banquet in October. Seated, left to right: Peter Leu, Sharron Washington, George Simmons and Alvin Smith. Back row, left to right: Leroy Bonner, Clifton Ray and Wayne Clinton.

Professional educators, and longtime friends from their time as students, reunite at the Homecoming Banquet in October. Seated, left to right: Peter Leu, Sharron Washington, George Simmons and Alvin Smith. Back row, left to right: Leroy Bonner, Clifton Ray and Wayne Clinton.

During the Homecoming Banquet in October, there was one table of attendees that could boast more than a century of teaching experience.

Clifton Ray (’69, ’76) returned to campus to see Sam Nugent inducted into the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame. Nugent served in the roles of head baseball coach, head football athletic trainer and assistant athletics director for 34 years at the University.

Ray, a previous inductee into the Hall of Fame, is also a member of Truman’s All-Century Football Team. After his playing days, he spent a total of 38 years in education, first as a teacher and coach in the St. Louis Public School District, and later 14 years as an administrator in several high schools. When preparing to return to Kirksville, he made sure five other alumni made the trip too, including four whom he worked with in the district and another one from Iowa. Ray is the main man responsible for keeping together a group of friends who attended the University in the 1960s and ’70s.

“I talk on the phone to those out of town, and those in town—we run into each other a lot,” Ray said.

Among those alumni Ray coaxed into returning were fellow Hall of Famers George Simmons, Sharron Washington and Wayne Clinton. Each man has gone on to a distinguished career in public education. Simmons (’71) spent more than 30 years as a teacher and coach in the St. Louis Public School District, as did Washington (’68, ’76), who also worked in the Kirkwood and Pattonville school districts. Clinton was the odd man out in the group, having spent his entire career in Iowa where he taught for 34 years and coached multiple sports on the high school and junior high school levels.

Fellow attendees Leroy Bonner (’74) and Alvin Smith (’71, ’76) also worked in the St. Louis Public School District. Bonner spent more than 30 years teaching and coaching in the district. The crowning achievement of Smith’s 34-year career was the 11-year run he had as the principal of Normandy High School.

For some men in the group it had been years since they visited campus. Ray’s last trip was in 2009, but he plans to return more frequently.

“I enjoyed the dinner and the whole weekend,” he said. “I will be back next year, if God wills.”


Couple Pursues Success Together


Robert and Emily (Kiddoo) Kelchen

While meeting for the first time at a Truman visit day, Robert and Emily (Kiddoo) Kelchen had no idea what the future had in store for them. Robert was working the visit day and Emily, a year younger, was looking at Truman as a prospective school.

Robert and Emily’s mutual interests brought them together on Truman’s campus. Their relationship grew as they got to know one another during their time in Student Government, and when they collaborated on a vision document for the University they discovered how well they worked together.

They continued on to graduate school together at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where Emily (’08) pursued a law degree and Robert (’07) a doctorate in educational policy.

Emily, a political science major, discovered she wanted to go to law school through her various activities at Truman.

“I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and doing the Missouri Government Internship Program confirmed that,” she said. “All the cool jobs were held by attorneys.”

Today, Emily serves as the director of public affairs for the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute. In addition to providing legal analysis and lobbying work, she coordinates the organization’s communications plan to make sure its message is consistent with its mission. Previously, she was a lobbyist at the Hamilton Consulting Group and a staff attorney at Great Lakes Legal Foundation in Wisconsin.

Robert was a double major in economics and finance at Truman, but chose a different path than most of his classmates.

“I had some great professors and I really liked what they did,” he said. “I wanted the opportunity to teach and do research.”

He is currently an assistant professor at Seton Hall University in the Department of Education Leadership, Management and Policy, where he teaches higher education finance, organization and governance, and research methods. A consultant for Washington Monthly magazine, Robert compiles and publishes its annual college rankings. His work, in conjunction with other colleagues, was awarded first prize for best data journalism in a small newsroom by the Education Writers Association.
After being so involved as students, Robert, originally from Washington, Mo., and Emily, a native of Memphis, Mo., have still managed to stay connected to Truman even while being far away.

“We were very fortunate that when we were in grad school in Madison, and now since we’ve moved to the East Coast, the Truman Alumni Association has allowed us to work with them to host get-togethers for alumni,” Emily said. “We hosted several in Madison and one in New York City and are planning more for the future.”

In their free time, the Kelchens enjoy traveling around the northeast and watching lots of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. The couple resides in Flemington, N.J., and recently purchased a house built in 1861. They have their work cut out for them turning the house into their home, but they enjoy all of the new projects.

From Truman, to grad school, to rehabbing their new home, the Kelchens have found nothing but success together.

Healthy Lifestyle Inspires Others


Becky (Hadley) Cutright (’08) finishes the 2014 Truman Homecoming 5k.

Becky (Hadley) Cutright (’08) never used to remember a time when she considered herself “thin” or at a healthy weight. Yet, within three years, Cutright’s determination and inspirational story has encouraged others to pursue their own healthy lifestyles.

After turning 25 years old, Cutright recalls not being able to walk up two flights of stairs without being winded. Her weight made her frightened for her health and, subsequently, the future.

“I remember thinking, ‘I won’t live 25 more years if I don’t do something about this now,’” she said.

Since starting her lifestyle change in fall 2011, Cutright has lost 140 pounds. The process began slowly, replacing soda with flavored sparkling waters and swapping in healthy choices for meals and snacks. Eventually, Cutright turned her attention to daily exercise. She began the Couch-2-5K program and steadily began to run. Since 2012, Cutright has completed several 5Ks, two half marathons and one full marathon. She hit her goal weight in March 2014.

Cutrightbeforeandafter2While the journey has not always been easy, Cutright’s grit and resolve have paid off in small forms of success. Her story was featured on a national level in Dr. Oz’s magazine The Good Life. Most recently, Cutright returned to Truman for Homecoming where she participated in the annual 5K, placing second overall in her age group.

“While I was a student I would have never dreamed of participating in the race,” Cutright said. “To come back as an alumna and as a healthier version of myself was such a great feeling, especially when I crossed the finish line.”

Cutright currently lives in St. Louis with her husband Mark and their dog, Nixon. She works as the public relations manager for The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, managing the theatre’s website, social media and patron communication, as well as working with others to promote shows. Additionally, Cutright helps to coach a beginning running program through Big River Running Company.

Past high school and college colleagues have adopted Cutright’s positive outlook. Her story has motivated friends, family and old acquaintances to meet goals, find success and, above all else, get healthy.

“When I started, I never expected my journey to have such an impact on others. They say to me, ‘I know that if you can do it, I can do it,’” Cutright said. “I’ve come so far and I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been.”

Alumna Starts Medical Career in Africa

Dawn Runge, left, shares a moment with fellow chiropractor, Dr. Elga Drews, during her first week in Namibia.

Dawn Runge, left, shares a moment with fellow chiropractor, Dr. Elga Drews, during her first week in Namibia.

After graduating with a degree in communication in 2005, Dawn Runge was one of many Truman students who chose to continue their education. Like several others, she pursued a career in the health care field and became Dr. Runge after attending Logan College of Chiropractic. However, the similarities with most of her peers end there as she took an unconventional path to start her career.

Shortly after she passed her boards in January 2014, Runge decided to look at international chiropractic job postings. One that caught her eye was for a satellite clinic in Namibia, Africa, at the Rundu Medical Center. After several Skype interviews and discussions with an established chiropractor, Runge accepted the position as a contract doctor for the center. She is enthusiastic to be part of the effort to introduce chiropractic medicine to developing areas of the country with scarce medical facilities.

“It is the first of its kind for hundreds of kilometers at least,” Runge said.

Rundu Medical Center houses numerous practitioners, including a radiologist, several M.D.s, a physiotherapist, a biokineticist, a dietician and a dentist. According to Runge, the center offers to fulfill the health care needs that previously had been untended in the community of more than 90,000.

Due to the county’s lack of medical facilities, Runge had the unique experience of diagnosing a patient with a brain tumor. She probably would not have had the opportunity to do so in the United States because a primary care physician most likely would have seen the patient first.

One of the appeals that drew Runge to becoming a chiropractor was the field’s holistic approach to treatment. Helping people alleviate their pain and teaching them how to prevent future discomfort are the most rewarding aspects of her job.

“Looking at the entire body system to determine the source of pain is important because back pain, something we treat commonly, has almost 100 sources, ranging from the way we sit, to cancer,” she said.

Runge’s chiropractic practice has been open since the summer of 2014. She is contracted through the Rundu Medical Center for two years and is not yet sure if she will stay and continue to practice in Namibia or return to the United States. Even though she decided to purse a different career path from what she originally studied, she feels that her time at Truman was well spent and enabled her to find something she loves.

“University is a time to really get to know yourself and take time to evaluate what brings you joy,” Runge said.

Bulldog Climbs the Corporate Ladder

English degrees don’t typically translate into careers in the technology field, but alumnus Mike McClaskey (’85) found a path between the two, going from literature student to DISH Network executive.

McClaskey grew up in Kirksville with a family tradition of Truman graduates dating back to the early 20th century when his paternal grandmother attended the Normal School for a period of time. His parents were also students of the University and his mother served as a professor at the college for almost 20 years.

“My mom was one of the first women professors who decided to keep working while she was pregnant. So, you could say I was attending Truman even before I was born,” McClaskey said.

McClaskey originally planned to carry on the family tradition of teaching. However, while working toward his bachelor’s degree in English, his advisor, Dr. Heinz Woehlk, opened up the possibility of a career in technology. During his master’s studies in English at the University of Missouri-Columbia, another advisor also urged him to pursue a similar career.

“In my case, I was applying for both teaching jobs and technology jobs out of graduate school,” McClaskey said. “Whichever offer came first determined my career path and it turned out to be a technology role.”

This twist of fate started a succession of career promotions, culminating in McClaskey’s 2007 arrival at DISH, a direct-broadcast satellite service provider. In his role as DISH’s chief information officer, McClaskey assembled an information technology team, managed software releases, helped to develop emerging technologies and established systems to provide high-quality customer service. Under his direction DISH’s IT department successfully completed one of the largest business transformation initiatives in telecommunications, leading to many accolades and awards.

Now, after working more than 25 years in the IT industry, McClaskey continues to climb the corporate ladder with his new role of executive vice president and chief human resources officer at DISH.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get to learn a new discipline while positively impacting the lives and careers of our 20,000-plus employees,” McClaskey said.

Despite his accomplishments, McClaskey has not forgotten his modest beginnings or undergraduate background. He even credits his wife Janet (Yearns) McClaskey (’84) for straightening out his academic priorities. Since graduating, the McClaskeys have both dedicated their efforts to making the University one of the core focuses of their philanthropy. They stay heavily involved through the John R. Kirk Society, the Joseph Baldwin Society and the President’s Circle, and even created the McClaskey Family Endowment Fund.

“We have been greatly blessed over the years,” McClaskey said. “We want to establish structures that will help needy students—like we were­—in perpetuity.”

McClaskey’s degree didn’t ultimately define his career path. Outside influences encouraged him to think beyond what’s considered customary. Although he may not have originally had the academic background for his career, he has made it work out to his advantage.

“I have never truly been qualified for any job I’ve pursued, but somehow I’ve made it work out. Some of that comes down to luck and timing, but mostly it was hard work, taking on difficult jobs few others want, a willingness to clean up messes and a commitment to continuous learning,” McClaskey said. “If you accept the fact that your career path is an unforeseeable adventure enabled by continually honing your skills and knowledge and taking calculated leaps, you will have the flexibility to go places you might never imagine.”

Mike McClaskey

Mike McClaskey (’85)

Digital Dog is Reaching Billions

In the digital age, the more people you can reach, the more influence you have. As the president of Adknowledge, Marco Ilardi (’99) has the power to reach billions.

Since graduating from the University, Ilardi has established himself as a key player in the world of digital media. In 2005, he helped facilitate the sale of the social media trailblazer MySpace to News Corp. He also worked as an executive vice president at Fox Interactive Media prior to taking his role at Adknowledge.

Ilardi earned his degree in business administration long before most people had ever heard the term “social media,” but he still credits the preparation he received at Truman for helping him excel in an emerging field.

“My experiences at Truman helped me learn how to get multiple tasks accomplished efficiently, creatively and within rigorous time constraints,” he said. “Learning how to overcome obstacles and manage a complex work schedule with concurrent priorities is extremely valuable in the workplace.”

As the president of Adknowledge, Ilardi oversees a global company that brings in hundreds of millions in annual revenue. The global digital marketing company specializes in assisting large clients reach consumers through social media, mobile devices, video and email. Adknowledge is responsible for helping name brand clients—like Coca-Cola, Ford and McDonald’s, to name just a few—reach an audience of more than a billion people.

Adknowledge has five offices in the U.S. as well as international offices in Canada, England, Germany, France, Singapore and Brazil. Ilardi oversees the company from its global headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., where 150 of its 350 total employees work.

Ilardi is tasked with making sure the business stays on top of consumer behavior and new technologies. So far, business has been good on his watch. Adknowledge has received awards for performance and it is a strategic partner of social media giants Facebook and Twitter.

“I am really excited about the future of Adknowledge,” Ilardi said. “We have a highly motivated team that is consistently opening up exciting new channels for growth and providing innovative marketing opportunities for our clients.”

When he is not working to expand his company’s global reach, Ilardi enjoys playing tennis, cooking and spending time with his wife and two daughters.

Marco Ilardi (’99)

Marco Ilardi (’99)


Phil DiRuocco (’67) was named to the Westchester (N.Y.) Sports Hall of Fame in October 2014. Before retiring in 2000, he served the Irving School District for 33 years, most notably as athletic director and varsity baseball coach.

Glenda Martin (’74, ’75) was named the Lincoln County Volunteer of the Year. Some of the many activities she was credited with include teaching free exercise classes, delivering hot meals to senior citizens and the homebound, and working extensively with her church.

Mary Evans (’75) was named a 2013 National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. She has served as the principal at Cumberland Trace Elementary School in Bowling Green, Ky., since 1996.

Pamela (Weatherby) Popp (’83) was named to the Board of Directors of Sepsis Alliance, the nation’s leading patient advocacy organization promoting sepsis awareness. As a sepsis survivor and health care lawyer she will provide the organization personal and professional views on the need for sepsis awareness.

Mark Ackerson (’86) will serve as the new director for the Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps. Founded in 1948, the Cavaliers are one of the most successful drum and bugle corps in history, winning 20 national championships, including seven Drum Corps International world championships since 1992. Each summer, 150 male brass, percussion and color guard performers age 16-22 present a marching music show considered among the most challenging and original in the world. Ackerson marched in the Cavaliers color guard in the 1980s before joining the tour management team in 1991.

Chuck Woods (’86) is the Chief Financial Officer and vice president of finance for Global Services & Support (GS&S), a business unit of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. In this role, he is responsible for all finance-related activities for GS&S, a $9 billion business that provides innovative and capabilities-driven solutions in logistics, supply chain management, aircraft modifications, training and other services with more than 15,000 employees working in nearly 300 locations around the world, including operations in Australia, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

Sherri (Elliott) Thomas (’88) was selected as one of six educators in the state for the 2014 “Stars of the Classroom!” sponsored by the Missouri Lottery and the St. Louis Cardinals. This program celebrates excellence in education by honoring outstanding Missouri educators. She had the honor of throwing out the first pitch at a Cardinals game on July 5, 2014. Thomas is the principal of Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City.

Matt Williams (’90) has been named president of the Columbia (Mo.) Landmark Bank. In his new role with Landmark Bank, he will serve as Columbia branch president and will also manage the local commercial loan department. Landmark Bank is a community bank with $2.1 billion in assets and 42 locations in 28 communities across Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

Jessica (Prinster) Dederer (’91) was named marketing director for Family Resource Center, one of Missouri’s largest agencies dedicated to preventing and treating child abuse and neglect.

Jenny Lindquist (’92) was named the Veterinarian of the Year by the Missouri Animal Control Association. The award is given to the veterinarian who has provided outstanding service to aid an animal welfare program.

Lori Nix (’93) provided photography and artwork for the July 7-14, 2014 issue of Time magazine. Her work was on the cover and in the feature story, “The Smarter Home.”

Gregory J. Linhares (’94) was selected as the clerk of court for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Tyson Ketchum (’96) was named to the Kansas City Business Journal’s “Best of the Bar” list of outstanding area lawyers chosen by their peers. He is a member of Armstrong Teasdale’s litigation practice group and has successfully represented corporations and individuals in a wide variety of commercial and tort litigation cases. The primary focus of his practice is employment, insurance coverage and personal injury cases.

Jeremy Boesch (’97) of St. Charles, Mo., was selected as the Wentzville School District Teacher of the Year for 2013-14. An English teacher at Timberland High School, he was one of only seven finalists for the statewide Teacher of the Year award. Candidates are judged on the respect and admiration of students, parents and colleagues. Selection is also based on their ability to inspire and educate students of all backgrounds and abilities.

Jamie (Smith) Manker (’98, ’00) is among 50 finalists for the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. The award is designed to raise the status of teaching and is open to applicants worldwide. Manker was selected from more than 5,000 nominations and 1,300 final applications. The 50 finalists come from 26 countries. Ten finalists will be announced in February with the winner revealed in March. Manker teaches at Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, Mo.

Mark L. Wolz (’98) was named president over commercial activities for Midwest Bank Centre. He operates out of MBC’s Fenton, Mo., branch.

Brent Povis (’00) developed the game “Morels,” which was named 2014’s Best New Card Game by Games magazine.

Jimmy Kuehnle (’01) was selected to be one of 102 artists in the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art show “State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now.” During the exhibit, which ran from September 2014 into January 2015, Kuehnle created a large-scale inflatable biomorphic creature that “lived” on the water outside the museum in Bentonville, Ark.

Nathan Becker (’08) was selected as one of only 10 business journalists to receive the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics and Business Journalism through Columbia University in New York City. The fellowship offers qualified journalists the opportunity to enhance their understanding and knowledge of business, economics and finance in a year-long, full-time program. Fellows take courses at Columbia’s graduate schools of journalism, business, law and international affairs. Becker is a copy editor and sports editor for The Wall Street Journal.

Adam Hoskins (’08) joined the Minneapolis office of Faegre Baker Daniels as an associate. He earned his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2012.

Galen Gibson-Cornell (’09) was selected for a three-month artist residency at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica, in Venice, Italy. In 2013, he received a Fulbright fellowship to explore the urban walls and poster culture of Budapest, Hungary. His artwork has been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the United States and Europe.

Jansen Otterness (’09) was promoted to manager at BKD’s Southern Missouri practice. BKD is a national CPA and advisory firm. Otterness is a member of BKD National Health Care Group and provides audit services to community health center clients.

Benjamin Friesen (’10) joined Husch Blackwell’s business litigation group and will work out of the Kansas City, Mo., office. He received his J.D., summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, where he was an Omar E. Robinson Scholarship recipient, managing editor of The Urban Lawyer and a staff member of the UMKC Law Review.

Joseph Grissom (’11) received a 2014 Woodrow Wilson Indiana Teaching Fellowship. As a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow, he will receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a special intensive master’s program at Ball State University that will prepare him to teach math and/or science in Indiana’s urban and rural public schools.

Paul Friz (’12) participated in an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where he spent time as the assistant to the Rosetta project manager. The Rosetta space probe made headlines in November 2014 when it successfully landed on the surface of a comet. Friz is pursuing a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and conducting research at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia.

Author Enlists Former Professor’s Help

Annette Drake (’87) may have already penned three books, with more on the way, but writing still is not her full-time job and she has to make adjustments to pursue her passion. She wakes up at 5 a.m. in order to log some writing time before her commitments for the rest of the day start to pull her in a dozen different directions.

In addition to her career as a registered nurse in Spokane, Wash., Drake is mother to four children, the youngest of which is in second grade, making her and her husband the oldest parents in the class. A dog, two rabbits and a cat round out the household. A hectic schedule is nothing new for Drake who considers her life an adventure. She has lived in three states, changed careers and worked in more hospitals than she can count.

“I’m a wanderer who is on occasion lost,” she said. “It’s life. It’s messy.”

Drake attended the University for journalism and she practiced the craft at small newspapers in Missouri and Kansas before deciding it was not for her.

“I’d had enough school board meetings and photo spreads of beauty contest winners to last me a lifetime,” she said. “It was then that I started exploring the field of nursing. It looked so glamorous.”

While she may not have stuck with journalism Drake did make some lasting connections studying the subject at Truman that have helped her in her writing career. When she was living in Alaska and looking for advice on a draft of her first book, she incorporated the help of her former professor, Les Dunseith.

Les Dunseith

Les Dunseith

In addition to being an alumnus of the University and a former Pershing Scholar, Dunseith (’80) spent three years working in the Public Relations Office and advising the Index. After attending graduate school in Los Angeles he returned to Kirksville to teach mass communication for four years. Like Drake, whom he would come to know during that time, Dunseith was looking to make a change in his life.

“I felt like I needed more professional experience to make me a better teacher, so I moved back to California with the goal of working four or five years in newspapers, then looking for another professor opening,” he said.

Dunseith ended up taking a job at the Los Angeles Times, and those four or five years turned into 24.

“It was too good of a job to leave, so I wound up as a daily journalist who taught on the side rather than a professor who did occasional journalistic work, as I had envisioned,” he said.

Dunseith did stay involved in higher education and has served as an adjunct faculty member of the University of Southern California for more than 20 years. He is now semi-retired and works as a consultant to the student newspaper and as a writing coach for students in beginning writing and reporting classes. The semi-retirement allows him the luxury of free time and when Drake originally approached him for guidance he was hesitant to relinquish much of it.

“I told her I could do so on a cursory basis,” he said. “But, once I read the manuscript, I got caught up in the story and ended up sending her a bunch of suggestions.”

Today, Dunseith describes his relationship to Drake’s writing as “curmudgeonly first editor.” He has edited parts of each of her three novels and plans to review her future endeavors, although occasionally Drake might entertain second thoughts about seeking his advice.

“He’s tough. He holds you accountable,” she said. “It’s like someone giving you the answers to the test, but then at the same time, going into great detail about all of your wrong answers. His edited versions come back with lots of red ink.”

For Drake, one of the defining moments of the professional relationship with Dunseith came while getting feedback for her first book, “Celebration House.” A few days after receiving his edited manuscript, she got an email from him asking about the main character.

“That’s when I realized that even though he was done editing it, he wasn’t done thinking about it,” she said. “I had created a character he genuinely cared about, and it was an ‘aha’ moment for me.”

Currently, Drake is working on sequels to “Celebration House.” She also has plans for a mystery with a young female reporter as the protagonist, for which she will draw on her journalism background for support, something her toughest critic thinks is a good idea.

“Annette is a keen observer of human interactions, and her writing shows direct benefit from her varied and unique personal experiences,” Dunseith said. “She is someone who has lived a life fully, constantly striving to find new and better opportunities for herself and her family. The fact that she is writing books in rapid succession while working as a registered nurse and raising four children is truly inspirational.” •

Drake-A-Year-with-Geno“A Year with Geno”
Annette Drake (’87)
When single mom Caroline Taylor finds herself in desperate need of a place to live, she rents the basement of Air Force Sgt. Geno D’Antoni, also a single parent. Life is messy with two angry ex-spouses, four boys and a pungent basset hound, but they still find time to ask the most important question: when does your best friend become your future?


Drake_BONE_GIRL“Bone Girl”
Annette Drake (’87)
A lonely girl learns to play a discarded trombone. An abused stallion learns to trust. Together, they save their world.




Drake-Celebration-House“Celebration House”
Annette Drake (’87)
Carrie Hansen has a special ability to see and talk with the dead. Despite battling heart issues, Carrie is determined to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion in Lexington, Mo., and reopen it as a venue for celebrations.



Annette Drake

Annette Drake

The Bookshelf

Diehl-Two-Sides-of-a-Different-Coin“Two Sides of a Different Coin”
Patricia (Johnson) Diehl (’66)
This collection of short stories is about second chances, ranging from a cattle stampede to re-connection.



Ruins-Assembling“Ruins Assembling”
Dennis Finnell (’69)
Finnell’s poems sift through the ruins of memory to uncover what it means to have lived an American life. From a post-war St. Louis neighborhood to a small New England town, “Ruins Assembling” takes the reader on a sprawling journey to see, smell, taste and hear the tender cadences of a world that is both familiar and terrible.

EverUpward“Ever Upward: Overcoming the Lifelong Losses of Infertility to Own a Childfree Life”
Justine Brooks Froelker (’01)
“Ever Upward” is the hopeful story of what one woman did to change her life for the better after the heartbreaking, devastating and lifelong losses of infertility. Froelker, a mental health therapist, blogger and author, guides the reader through the strategies she used to overcome the loss of her dream of motherhood and chose to thrive through the ownership and acceptance of her childfree life.

TaggedforDeath“Tagged for Death”
Sherry (Novinger) Harris
Sarah Winston starts her life over when her husband ends up in the arms of 19-year-old temptress, Tiffany. Sarah’s self-prescribed therapy happily involves hitting all the garage sales in her small town of Ellington, Mass. Sarah finds a grisly surprise in one of her yard sale bags: a freshly bloodied shirt that undoubtedly belongs to her ex, who now happens to be chief of police. If that’s not bad enough, it seems Tiffany has gone missing. Now it’s up to Sarah to prove that her cold-hearted ex is not a cold-blooded killer.

Secular-Parenting“Secular Parenting in a Religious World: Practical Advice for Free-Thinking Parents”
Be-Asia (Jewel) McKerracher (’06)
“Secular Parenting in a Religious World” guides non-religious parents through holiday celebrations, conversations about death, sex and much more. McKerracher advises parents on how to keep children grounded in what is right, while at the same time allowing them to explore.

VicarOfWynbury“The Vicar of Wrynbury”
Nancy Moore (’92)
The novel’s story takes place in England prior to World War I and follows the lives of a new, ill-tempered vicar in a small church and his benefactor, a well-intentioned and lonely woman. They strive to rebuild the old church while facing their various troubled histories and create a functional yet tenuous friendship that becomes more.

ShowMeTheGold“Show Me the Gold”
Carolyn Mulford (’60)
Staking out a country graveyard against vandals on an August night, ex-spy Phoenix Smith and acting sheriff Annalynn Carr Keyser receive an urgent call from a neighboring county. They respond and position themselves to guard the road behind an abandoned farmhouse where four bank robbers were spotted. The women engage in a fatal shootout with a fleeing father and son. Two other gang members escape. Achilles, Phoenix’s K-9 dropout, can’t sniff out their trail, but he smells a trap set to kill pursuers.

Awake“Awake: A Journey of Love, Loss, Gain and Life Redefined”

Keri D Watson (’98)

Watson shares her personal journey of the untimely passing of her mother and the amazing events that followed in an effort to inspire others who have gone through loss or are simply looking for life inspiration. “Awake” is a non-profit book that unites us all, whether a spiritualist, scientist, atheist or religionist.

Erika Woehlk (’01)
From Arcadia Publishing’s iconic “Images of America” series, “Kirksville” shares the historic timeline of the northeast Missouri town. From its first European settlers in the early 19th century to its incorporation in 1857 and even to present day, the author reveals the history of her hometown with more than 200 vintage and modern images.