This unique summer program takes the threat of a “zombie apocalypse” seriously – if only long enough to elevate public awareness of the need to prepare for natural and human-made disasters.
The Zombie Scholars Academy is a unique academic program that takes the unprecedented interest young people have in the thrilling, and often humorous, fiction of a zombie apocalypse and turns that energy into an engaging vehicle for learning about some of society’s most pressing needs.
A one-week residential learning experience taking place on the Truman campus July 10-17, the Zombie Scholars Academy exposes students to great opportunities in biology, mathematics, creative writing, social science, group leadership and problem solving.
Open to rising ninth to 12th grade students, the Zombie Scholars Academy helps participants take great leaps forward in problem solving and leadership skills, learn a lot about fascinating new topics, and make lots of new friends doing it. For complete details about the program, visit zombie.truman.edu or contact the Institute for Academic Outreach at (660) 785-5406.
Alumni members of Truman’s chapter of Phi Kappa Tau surround Scott Klasner (’03) during a fundraising event in his honor. Klasner (front row, seated) was diagnosed with ALS in 2014. In October 2015, several friends and family members in the St. Louis area came together to offer their support. Along with taking donations through youcaring.com, they organized Scottoberfest, a one-day fundraising event at De Smet Jesuit High School. Klasner’s brother-in-law, Stephen Williams (’00, ’01), along with fellow Phi Taus Pete Guntli (’02), Greg Guntli (’04), Corey Schaecher (’05), Ryan Carrico (’05) and Drew Walters (’06), as well as Kyle (’03) and Annie (Schaus) Deutsch (’03), spearheaded the event, which included food, drinks, bands, entertainment for children, a silent auction and a raffle. Scottoberfest raised more than $27,000, and in total, nearly $50,000 has been collected to support Klasner’s medical expenses not covered by insurance.
Few people have left as big of an impression on Truman as Bill Richerson (’53, ’54). In a relationship that has spanned more than 60 years with the University, he has occupied the roles of student, athlete, teacher, coach and administrator.
“Watching Truman evolve from a regional state university to a liberal arts and sciences university was something I never envisioned,” he said.
Some of Richerson’s watching of Truman was done from afar. While his ties to the University go back decades, he did not always have roots firmly planted in the area. He spent time in the Army, taught and coached at the high school level in Illinois, obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Utah, and was a teacher and coach at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for five years. Still, his personal history is more entwined with Truman than any place else, and he always found his way back to Kirksville.
A native of Chicago, Ill., coach Red Wade recruited Richerson to play football. He was a running back on the 1952 conference championship team, considered by many to be one of the school’s best ever. That Bulldog squad finished two points shy of a perfect season. Richerson’s connection to the program did not end with his playing days, as he was an assistant coach from 1961-70.
Although he came to Truman for football, Richerson arguably made more of an impact on another sport. Serving as the University golf coach, he led his team to eight consecutive MIAA titles and seven trips to nationals from 1984-91. An eight-time MIAA Coach of the Year, he was inducted into the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1988.
As impressive as his athletic contributions to the University may be, Richerson was equally valuable when it came to academics. He was the Health and Exercise Science Department chair from 1975 until his retirement in 1993.
Despite all his professional achievements, Richerson feels his greatest accomplishment was marrying his wife Mary and raising six children. Today, he and Mary split their time between Florida and Illinois, and he still embarks on regular trips back to the place he called home for so long.
“I enjoy my visits to Kirksville to renew old friendships, walk the campus to view the many changes and to see, firsthand, the quality of the student body,” he said. “I have many fond memories of former teachers when I attended Northeast, together with former students and colleagues during my years on the faculty. I have observed the University continue to grow in stature since retirement, and I take pride in feeling that I might have contributed to laying the groundwork for Truman as it continues its quest for excellence.”
Known as an educator who fully invested in his students and players, in retirement Richerson continues to have a giving heart. He does volunteer work at homeless shelters, food pantries and hospitals. He also finds time for reading, traveling, playing golf, conducting coaching clinics and spending time with his 11 grandchildren.
The next time news of an infectious disease outbreak is grabbing headlines around the world, it might very well be a Bulldog on the ground trying to stem the tide of death and save thousands of lives.
Since July 2015, Ashley Styczynski (’07) has been a part of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) for the Center for Disease Control. Commonly referred to as “disease detectives,” EIS officers work across the United States and around the globe to keep Americans safe from a variety of health threats. Among other things, they are responsible for leading outbreak investigations, communicating important public health messages and publishing real-time recommendations.
“Public health is one of the most rewarding jobs there is, because you are helping people, not just one at a time, but hundreds or thousands at a time,” Styczynski said. “None of these changes happen overnight, or are accomplished by a single person, but I really feel like I can make some small difference in the world through the work I do as part of a team.”
In just her first few months as an EIS officer, Styczynski has visited Columbia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to combat infectious disease. Her work in the Congo involves using the smallpox vaccine to prevent the spread of monkeypox, which is endemic in that region. She joined a team that already had four years of worked invested in the project.
“Public health progress is difficult and often slow,” Styczynski said. “This intervention will likely have a dramatic impact in DRC, but there are no quick fixes.”
Originally from the small town of Sterling, Ill., it might appear that Styczynski beat the odds to become one of only about 70 EIS officers working for the CDC, but her academic pedigree makes her well suited for the position. She took a year off of medical school to attain a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins. After earning her M.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago, she completed internal medical residency training at George Washington University. However, it might be experiences during her time at the University that first placed her on her current career path.
“The most valuable aspects from my time at Truman that prepared me for life after college were the opportunities to be involved in research and to study abroad,” she said.
As an undergraduate, Styczynski participated in research labs with Truman faculty members. She conducted microbiology research with Michael Lockhart, as well as mammalogy research with Scott Burt.
“The microbiology research taught me lab techniques that greatly facilitated research I did with HIV during medical school,” she said. “My experience in mammalogy lab has been uniquely informative for the work I do now as part of the poxviruses and rabies branch at the CDC. The field trips we took to collect animal specimens for the mammology lab are very similar to some of the field activities I do in EIS to track poxvirus reservoirs in rodents.”
Opportunities away from the lab also helped shape Styczynski’s future. While she may be a seasoned world traveler now, she had never even been on an airplane until her first of two study abroad experiences at Truman. A summer course in South Africa to study the conservation and management techniques of large game animals inadvertently opened her eyes to another plight.
“When I wrote my essay about what I learned during the course, I couldn’t help but feel far more compelled to discuss what it was like to see people laying alongside the road, waiting to die from HIV/AIDS and its complications,” she said. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to focus my efforts on human health and decided to pursue a career in medicine.”
Not long after that, Styczynski enrolled in a semester-long course in Denmark for health practice and policy.
“This helped me to think more globally about solutions to health care problems in the U.S.,” Styczynski said. “By the time I entered medical school, I was primed to view medicine through a public health lens without yet knowing that was were I was headed.”
Working out of the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Ga., Styczynski could be called upon to travel to the front lines of a health care crisis at a moment’s notice. While the nature of her work can be somber at times, she draws on yet another Truman experience to lighten the mood and sometimes make connections with locals — her time with the University Swingers.
“It’s now become a fun challenge for me to find swing dancing communities wherever I travel in the world,” she said. “Dancing can be a universal language.”
The Summer Talent Academy for Professions in Health (STAPH) offers highly talented students a head start on college life and future careers in medicine and allied health professions.
Students live as college students while exploring the work of medical professionals. They move into a residence hall, make new friends, attend classes and — most importantly — they work with highly regarded faculty and health professionals from Truman and A.T. Still University of Health Sciences.
Created for rising high school juniors and seniors, STAPH will challenge students academically and stimulate their interest in health professions. The integrated curriculum exposes students to osteopathic medicine, nursing and health careers such as exercise science, audiology/speech pathology, athletic training, physical and occupational therapy, and nutrition.
In-depth information about the program can be found online at staph.truman.edu or by calling (660) 785-5406.
In retrospect, it is difficult to believe Irving Waldman and Carl Mitten could have ever met, and almost impossible to believe they would grow so close that they still call each other “brother” nearly 65 years after meeting at the University. On paper, the Jewish transfer student from Brooklyn, N.Y., and the country kid from the northeast Missouri town of Medill should have been strangers, but fate brought them together. Their time in Kirksville solidified their friendship and their devotion to one another helped them to maintain it through the years.
If not for problems with his teeth, Irving Waldman (’54) might never have heard of Kirksville. As a freshman at New York University, Waldman was spending more time on the subway than in the classroom.
“It didn’t feel much like going to college,” he said. “All I did was get up in the morning — early — and come home late at night and study. I wasn’t enjoying it at all.”
During an office visit to check on some problems with his teeth, Waldman’s dentist told him about the University, as his brother had recently completed his studies in Kirksville. By the next fall, Waldman was enrolled, and his journey to the Midwest was an eye-opener for the lifelong city dweller.
When he arrived, the men’s dorms were occupied and Waldman had to take up residence at a rooming house close to campus. One of his neighbors across the street was Carl Mitten (’54). That happenstance would turn out to be a godsend for Waldman, and in an unconventional twist, he credits the farm boy for showing him the ways of the world.
Mitten usually hitchhiked the 60-plus miles from the tiny town of Medill to the University, and although he was from an isolated part of the Midwest, he had already seen a lot of the country. Most of his summers were spent with his father on the railroad.
“I had been very sheltered and I had never been anywhere,” Waldman said. “He had been all over the Midwest in trains, and he was worldly wise. Not too good at school, but he knew his way around and he sort of taught me the ropes.”
Mitten also benefited from knowing Waldman, who was a more proficient student, and often borrowed his notes.
“Irving was book smart and I was street smart, for the Midwest rural culture,” Mitten said. “We made a great pair. I taught him how to survive in Kirksville and he helped me in classes.”
While their relationship may have started out of necessity, they quickly became close friends. When Mitten learned Waldman would not be returning to New York for Thanksgiving, he invited him to Medill, and the duo hitchhiked back to Mitten’s home. It was the first of many times they would make the trip, but Waldman still remembers that inaugural voyage.
“Talk about culture shock,” he said. “The house had no indoor plumbing. I didn’t know that existed, except in the movies.”
Mitten recalls how the city kid handled roughing it in the country.
“When we were at the farm, Irving would go to the neighbor and use the facilities since we only had an outhouse,” he said. Lack of amenities aside, the trip home for Thanksgiving solidified their friendship.
“They were lovely people,” Waldman said. “They took real good care of me for the weekend and we became fast friends.”
That weekend was also the first time Waldman ever got behind the wheel of a car — at Mitten’s urging — and it did not go well. When rounding the first curve, he promptly drove the vehicle straight into the ditch. Nevertheless, when they got back to Kirksville, Waldman was motivated enough to purchase a driver’s license at the drug store for 25 cents.
For the following three years, Mitten and Waldman were nearly inseparable. They ate meals and attended sporting events together. They ended up living on the same floor of the Sigma Tau Gamma house and they worked together selling hotdogs at football games. One year, Mitten traveled back to New York with Waldman for New Year’s Eve. Even though Waldman had a date for the evening, and Mitten did not, the farm boy made the most of his trip, and headed to Times Square for the ball drop.
“He got on the subway. He left in the evening and he came back the next morning,” Waldman said. “He was a go-getter, and nothing stopped him. Carl is very independent.”
Both men studied to be doctors, but their career paths took separate turns after graduation. That summer Mitten and his wife Lois were married, and Waldman was by his side as the best man.
“He missed the first week of med school to be there,” Mitten said.
In fact, Waldman was cutting it so close by staying in town for the ceremony, he had to leave the same day to catch the train back east, and Mitten left his own wedding reception to drop his friend off at the station.
“Lois still reminds me about that,” Mitten said.
Mitten was drafted into the Army that summer, and after serving posts around the world he also attended medical school and became a doctor. He and Lois live in Houston, Texas, where he still practices medicine full time at the age of 83. Most of his work is philanthropic in nature, and he offers free clinics about care and living with diabetes.
“It is very rewarding,” he said. “I thought about doing missionary work abroad, but I felt this area needed my support more.”
Most of Waldman’s professional career took place in Miami, Fla. After years as a radiologist, he retired in 2012, but like his friend, he donates some of his time and medical expertise. In Waldman’s case, he reads scans for Health through Walls, a nonprofit organization that works with prisons in resource-poor countries to help prevent, identify and treat contagious diseases among inmates.
As their lives have taken them on different paths, it has been tough for the pair to see each other regularly, but they have remained close. They talk on the phone, and have occasionally gotten together for face-to-face visits. In October 2014, both men returned to Kirksville for their 60th class reunion to remember some of the best times of their lives.
“College was a lot of fun, and I credit Kirksville, and Truman, for being a major part of my success as a human being and a physician. The people were wonderful,” Waldman said. “I really grew up there, because of Carl.”
“Irving is the closest thing to a brother I have ever had,” Mitten said.
This past summer when Duane Benton, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, was reviewing some 700 applicants for four coveted law clerk positions, three applicants who had a Truman degree rose to the top.
“Seeing ‘Truman’ on their resumes means their undergraduate education was as good as it could be,” Benton said.
Benton is as qualified as anyone to assess the value of an education, having attended Northwestern, Yale, the University of Memphis and the University of Virginia. Although he has no direct ties to Truman, he became impressed with the school 20 years ago during a visit to campus. Benton, who is also a CPA, is regularly asked to speak to accounting groups at universities. While serving as a member of the Missouri Supreme Court, the Truman Accounting Club invited him to Kirksville.
“At most colleges, about 10 students show up, in a sterile lecture hall, with perhaps one or two faculty,” Benton said. “At Truman, it was a banquet with over 100 students and all the accounting faculty. I knew then, Truman is different.”
Since that experience, Benton has kept an eye out for Truman graduates when it comes time to find new clerks. As a testament to the value he places on a Truman degree, three of the four clerks he hired are Truman graduates. Adam Hoskins (’08), Karianne Jones (’10, ’12) and Alyssa Mayer (’08) were all aided by having ties to the University.
“Each has a record of exceptional academic achievement,” Benton said. “Frankly, almost all the 20 to 30 finalists for clerkships have outstanding whole-person resumes. When I see ‘Truman,’ I know their college education was impeccable.”
Benton expects a lot from his clerks, who are tasked with analyzing the hundreds of cases his court has been assigned. They provide in-depth research and then express the results to him, both orally and in writing, before helping to draft the opinions of the court. One week a month, Benton’s court holds session in St. Louis, Mo., or St. Paul, Minn., and once a year, he hears arguments in Kansas City, Mo., or Omaha, Neb., during the court’s “formal” week. A majority of his time is spent in chambers, working closely with the clerks, providing them the opportunity to learn more about the legal system.
“Judge Benton is very well-respected as a judge and as a member of the Missouri legal community, and I thought he would be an excellent role model and mentor to a young attorney,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins plans to be a civil litigator, focusing on commercial litigation and employment. The variety of cases is what led him to the clerkship. For Jones, who hopes to pursue a career in appellate advocacy, it is an opportunity to discover what methods judges find to be persuasive and effective.
“I wanted a career that engaged my skills as a critical thinker, researcher and writer,” Jones said. “I enjoy thinking both academically and practically about argumentation.”
Mayer is on a slightly different track than her Truman counterparts, serving in a career position with Benton. After working as an assistant prosecutor in Platte County, Mo., she has spent the last year in her current role.
“I did not apply for a judicial clerkship right out of law school, and I grew to regret that decision,” she said. “Since working here, I’ve met some incredible judges and attorneys from the Eighth Circuit. It’s fascinating to see how decisions are made from this side of the bench.”
Hoskins, Jones and Mayer are not the first Truman graduates to clerk for Benton. One of his past clerks was John Hilton (’02), a former Truman State University Board of Governors member who currently works in legislative affairs for the federal judiciary in Washington, D.C.
“Clerking for Judge Benton was an invaluable experience, personally and professionally,” Hilton said. “He is a great judge, and will always be a role model for me. I am glad he thinks so well of Truman.”
In all likelihood, the fraternity of Truman clerks will grow.
“I will continue to hire Truman clerks in the future,” Benton said. “Based on my experience, I consider Truman to provide the opportunity for an education equivalent to that of any first-tier college, including schools in the Ivy League, Big Ten and the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges.”