Article Category Archives: Class Notes

Mr. Myers Goes to Washington

Sam Myers with President Bill Clinton

A Missouri haberdasher turned political workhorse in Washington, D.C. — the life story of Harry Truman has been widely told. What many do not know, however, is his story shares some similarities with an alumnus of the school that now bears his name.

Not long after graduating from the University with a Bachelor of Science in Education, Sam Myers Sr. (’73) realized teaching was not for him. He moved back to his hometown of Edina, Mo., and partnered with a friend to purchase a local department store. Soon he became involved in state politics and found himself working for Rep. Jerry Litton. The congressman’s statewide television show, “Dialogue with Litton,” afforded Myers the opportunity to meet a number of influential political figures, including some associates of the Jimmy Carter campaign.

After Litton’s death in a plane crash the night he won his party’s nomination for a seat in the U.S. Senate, Myers was contacted to help with Carter’s run for president. He was tasked with advance work for the campaign, making sure everything was ready when the candidate arrived. His efforts secured him a job performing similar duties for the first lady after Carter won the election, and Myers worked similar roles in the 1980s for Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Joe Biden. In between campaigns, he returned to the apparel business.

With the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, Myers landed a dream job. He spent the entire administration coordinating advance work for the 42nd president of the United States. The kid who grew up in a town of 1,200 people was now walking around the White House with an all-access pass and flying across the country on Air Force One.

“You’re thinking, ‘my word, I grew up watching this stuff on TV and now I’m actually getting to do it,’” Myers said.

Rather than feeling burned out after two terms, Myers was ready for more. He was back on the campaign trail with Al Gore in 2000, and later with John Edwards. By 2008, his reputation as a logistical wizard preceded him, and Myers was asked to help prep Mile High Stadium for the acceptance speech of then-candidate Barack Obama during the Democratic National Convention. His old friend Biden also requested he serve as the vice presidential trip director. After an eight-year absence, Myers was back at the White House.

“Once you walk away from it, you want to get back there again,” he said. “It took a long time to get back. I spent 15 years in the White House and I never took it for granted.”

Myers has traveled more than a million and half miles with the nation’s leaders, visiting each state and 59 countries. Not every stop has been an exotic location. He has ventured into war zones on nine occasions, including trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Of his seven journeys to Iraq, one was a surprise overnight expedition to visit troops. Myers has met rock stars and dignitaries, attended the Academy Awards, the World Series and World Cup, but some events do stand out in his mind more than others. Trips to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, along with meeting popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, are among his personal highlights.

“The ones that never go away, the ones that are down deep, are the religious experiences,” he said. “If you are a practicing Catholic from a small town in northeast Missouri and you’ve met three popes, you don’t ever, ever forget that.”

Myers has done enough in his career to consider it complete, but he still plans to spend much of 2018 assisting candidates during the midterm election cycle. While he has a preference for a certain side of the aisle, his vision for the future does not rest with any particular party.

“My hope is we can get down the road to where we are all one and make this thing work,” he said.

Like that other haberdasher who went to Washington, Myers remains true to his Missouri roots. When he is not working or at his home in D.C., he and his wife spend as much time as possible at their residence near Baring Lake, not far from where his incredible journey began.

Sowing the Seeds of a Healthy Future

The updates are a more regular occurrence now. Often it is an invitation to a high school or college graduation. One young man stopped by upon receiving his driver’s license. Another made a documentary film about his life. After more than a decade in the field, the children Kate (Fletcher) Reynolds once knew as patients are becoming adults in their own rights. Like satellites sent into deep space, they are now doing what they were meant to do after years of hard work and planning.

“Our main objective is to help children become as functional and productive members of society as possible,” Reynolds said. “We want them to become members of their communities and show that regardless of the barriers in their lives there is so much they can contribute.”

As manager of the ChildServe outpatient clinic in Ames, Iowa, Reynolds has worked with countless children since she was hired for a part-time therapist position in 2005. ChildServe is a non-profit organization that partners with families of children with special health care needs. It is a job she clearly loves, and one she never saw coming.

Following her exercise science degree from Truman, Reynolds (’02) returned to her hometown to earn a doctorate of physical therapy from Des Moines University. She had hopes of working in outpatient orthopedic sports, but a 10-week rotation at the ChildServe facility in Johnston, Iowa, changed her plans. 

“I realized pediatrics was where I wanted to be. It’s hard to beat a job where you are expected to come in, play and be silly,” she said. “And there is nothing more rewarding than watching a child progress through milestones – to be able to share in those joys with the family.”

Fate seemed to be pushing Reynolds in that direction. Personal ties had her searching for a job in Ames, and ChildServe was seeking to bolster offerings at its extension center in the area as well. Reynolds was brought on to build a full-time case load, and by 2009 she was splitting her time as a therapist and team leader. The following year she was named manager of the facility, and while see rarely sees patients one-on-one anymore, she understands the value of an administrative role.

“As much as I love seeing children progress and succeed, I also really love assisting new therapists join the team and continue to expand and improve upon the services we offer,” she said. “It allows me to help assist more families than I ever could as a staff physical therapist.”

Reynolds has her work cut out for her. Demand for clinics that specialize in treating children is high, and families often have to travel great distances because there are no other options closer to home. To fill those needs, ChildServe has been continually growing. The organization specializes in speech, occupational and physical therapy services, but has begun to offer mental health and psychological therapies along with many specialty clinics. Reynolds and her team are also developing a feeding clinic at the Ames location and exploring the possibly of expanding ChildServe’s concussion services to their site.

Continued growth is Reynolds’ focus now, both in the programs ChildServe offers and in the pediatric therapists who provide them. She enjoys the health care providers she works with, and is happy to have ended up in pediatrics, even if it was not originally part of the plan.

“I never thought I would pursue something in a management or business realm, but I’m having a lot of fun in this role,” she said.

Finding Purpose, Sharing Hope

A friendship formed at freshman orientation leads to a life-altering donation

After working more than 20 years in corporate America, Raymel Speed (’91) was restless. Like many people, he felt destined for a higher purpose, but he did what most people are too afraid to do – he quit his job and went back to school in his 40s. Speed earned his teaching certificate and became an elementary school teacher, something he refers to as the best decision of his life. As noble as it was to go from tycoon to teacher, he still had more to give. In the summer of 2017, Speed was able to provide an old friend and fellow Bulldog a new lease on life.

Kevin Mott (’91) knew the worst was coming sooner or later. Doctors diagnosed his chronic kidney disease early on, but as his condition worsened over the years he was experiencing loss of energy. The very drugs he was taking to stay alive were beginning to negatively affect his quality of life. In 2015, he was told he would need dialysis or a transplant.

Mott had been somewhat private about his condition, but as it became dire, he reached out to a select group of friends through email.

“I never asked anyone for a kidney,” he said. “I let people know my situation and what I needed.”

One of the people who received that initial message was Speed. After meeting at freshman orientation in the late 1980s, he and Mott have been friends ever since. Both men acknowledge their relationship waxed and waned over the years, but they always made a point to stay in touch. Speed even worked in Mott’s hometown of Chicago for a while before returning to his roots in St. Louis.

“We just checked in here and there, or saw each other at weddings or when either of us would come to town,” Mott said. “Ray is someone I know I can trust to be there for me and properly help me deal with issues in my life.”

Before he was finished reading Mott’s message, Speed said he knew he would be a match to donate a kidney. The only question in his mind was whether or not he could go through with the surgery.

“I didn’t want to make an emotional decision I couldn’t back up with action,” Speed said. “I also didn’t want to send Kevin on an emotional roller coaster by saying yes I’d donate then backing out because of nerves.”

On Nov. 23, 2016, Mott widened the circle of people who knew about his condition. He posted it to Facebook on his birthday.

“I figured I’d get the highest number of people paying attention that day,” he said.

Mutual friend and Truman alumna Elizabeth Rolf Kanerva (’91) took the screening test to see if she was a match. Although she was not, her subsequent Facebook post urging others to get tested was the final sign Speed needed after 10 months of contemplation. He ordered the testing kit the next day. Just as he predicted, he was a match. 

Once the decision was made, the intensity of the situation increased. Speed drove to Chicago for several days of testing and medical consultation, and Mott’s support system established a GoFundMe account to spread the word and help with travel and recovery expenses for the two.

“His friends and family were the most supportive group of people I’ve ever met,” Speed said. “They were so very lovely and welcoming. I felt like I’d known them for years.”

The procedure was scheduled to coincide with Speed’s summer break. Following the transplant in July, he was in the hospital three days but did not consider himself fully recovered until October.

After his five-day stay in the hospital, Mott missed nearly three months of work as a financial advisor, but has since taken well to his new kidney. Little things such as restroom availability or the ability to sit through a meeting are less of a concern for him now, as are drug side effects like weight fluctuation.    

“I have so much more energy,” he said. “My prognosis is excellent. You can never tell how long a donated kidney will last, but we’re hoping for a long, long time.”

Mott knows he owes Speed a debt of gratitude that can never fully be paid. While he is not at all surprised by his friend’s selfless actions, this chapter of their lives has understandably brought them closer.

“I can’t thank him enough, but it doesn’t change my opinion of him. This is who I always thought he was, a caring, tough and giving individual,” Mott said. “My friends and family are happy to get this chance to know him.”

For his part, Speed remains humble about his donation and seems happy to have been in a position to help his friend.

“I never in a million years would have guessed I’d do something like this,” he said. “I wanted to find my purpose in life, and I guess being open to accepting that, in whatever form it shows up in my life, helped me move forward and fight through whatever fear I had.”

With both men on the road to recovery, their friendship can return to the good-humored vibe it normally had during the last 30 years.

“Life is good,” Speed said. “And I can forever hold ‘that time I gave you a kidney’ over his head.”

The Doctors are In

Lloyd Cleaver and sons (from left) Jonathan, Nathan and David

All good things must come to an end. Lloyd Cleaver (’72) had a monopoly as the only dermatologist in Kirksville for more than two decades. The native of Macon, Mo., attended both Truman and A.T. Still University, and after serving in the Navy, he returned to open Cleaver Dermatology in 1986.

Like with most successful businesses, competition eventually followed. First it was one doctor, then another, and before long a third was practicing in town. Rather than feel any pressure, Cleaver was actually pleased to welcome each new physician since they are his sons. All three followed in their father’s footsteps, attending Truman and ATSU. Patients calling the office to make an appointment with Dr. Cleaver need to be specific as the practice now includes David (’02), Jonathan (’04) and Nathan (’06).

“It is a delight, and I pinch myself to see if I am dreaming,” Lloyd said of working with his sons. “We have always been very close, but continuing to work together brings us even closer.”

Many people cannot imagine working with a family member, let alone three, and the doctors get comments to that effect from patients all the time.

“I always say it is great 99 percent of the time,” Jonathan said. “We all have strengths that we can bring to the table which makes working in a family practice easier. We all round each other out well.”

Since Lloyd started the practice more than 30 years ago, Cleaver Dermatology has grown exponentially. From humble beginnings in Gutensohn Clinic, it now occupies an expansive building on the south end of town, and the doctors see patients in five other locations in Missouri and two in Iowa. Services consist of medical, cosmetic and surgical dermatology, as well as dermatopathology. Cleaver Dermatology also includes a skin spa specializing in a variety of products.

There may be more growth much farther down the road. Jonathan’s eight-year-old son, Brighton, already considers himself a dermatologist in training and occasionally shows up in scrubs to “help out” at the office. While Lloyd’s run as the area’s sole dermatologist did come to an end, it also marked the start of a new streak: Cleaver Dermatology as a multi-generational enterprise.

A Passion for Patients

Photo © Mercy Ships, Justine Forrest

Medical laboratory scientists are a critical part of the health care industry, although their efforts can sometimes go unnoticed. With a never-ending line of tests to run and results to return, “lab rats” usually stick to their work, rarely interacting with patients or some of the other aspects of a hospital. Leah (Weiler) Cate pursued an atypical experience as a laboratory scientist and was rewarded with the good fortune to meet colleagues from around the world, learn new skills and see firsthand the difference health care can make in a patient’s life.

After receiving a degree in biology from Truman in 2010, Cate earned her MLS certification through a program at St. Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, Mo. She continued her career at the hospital, and although she enjoyed the work, she was interested in pursuing volunteer opportunities abroad.

“There aren’t many organizations out there where lab people can easily get involved,” she said. “I was looking for something that was big enough to need a laboratory and was doing good things for the community they were in at the time. Mercy Ships seemed like the perfect fit when I found them.”

Mercy Ships is a non-profit organization that provides free surgeries to people in underdeveloped countries. At any given time, it has between one and three ships in service, mainly in Africa. Once docked in port, the staff provide medical assistance on the ship for up to 10 months. Services vary depending on the needs of the patients and the expertise of the doctors, but often include treatment for burns, goiters, benign tumors, cleft lip repairs, orthopedic surgeries and cataract procedures, among others.

“The types of surgeries the ship does are mainly for things that we take for granted here in the states,” Cate said.

In addition to providing medical services, the Christian-based organization offers many programs off the ship, including dental clinics, church services and support of nearby orphanages. Mercy Ships also has helped to renovate an old hospital, and its volunteers regularly teach locals what they can do better in terms of health care.   

Cate has twice served on board Mercy Ships, in 2015 and 2016, both times in Madagascar. As a volunteer, she did not receive any compensation, and she paid her own expenses, including travel to the ship. Those were not the only sacrifices she made. Mercy Ships do not have access to blood banks like hospitals do in developed countries. All of the blood used during surgeries on the ship comes from the staff. Cate donated during both of her stints with Mercy Ships, and actually hand delivered it to the patients. Her second donation went to a young child named Jeremie.

“He was so small we divided up the unit, and he received my blood three different times before going home,” Cate said. “When his mother found out that it was my blood he was getting she said – in English – ‘Thank you. Thank you, so much!’”

Many patients recuperate on the ship, which afforded Cate the ability to interact with them. She remembers Landrino, a small boy recovering from a burn contracture surgery who loved to cause mischief for the nurses, and Santa, a girl treated for a cleft lip and whom Cate calls “probably the cutest baby I had ever seen.”

Since her time with Mercy Ships, Cate has settled in to a permanent job at a hospital system in Warrenton, Va., and is happy working as a generalist in the lab. She has considered going back to school for nursing and would also like to serve with Mercy Ships again before she and her husband start a family.