Article Category Archives: Class Notes

Quality Education Keeps Family Close to Home


Parents Mike and Mary Jo Schwend, along with siblings Scott and Emily, celebrate with Sarah, who earned a master’s degree in May.

Students often venture miles away from their families when they go to college, but for the Schwends, receiving a great education means moving only a few blocks away from home.

“For me, nothing beat staying close to home with my family,” said Scott, an accounting and finance major.

Attending Truman is something of a tradition for the Schwends. In total, 10 members of the family have attended the University, including both parents, seven siblings and an uncle.

“Having one of the best universities in the country located right in your backyard made the choice to leave our hometown more difficult,” said Mike (’83, ’90), the patriarch of the Schwends.

The three most-recent students, Sarah, Scott and Emily, said that while older siblings did not directly “recruit” the younger ones, it was always a known option.

“Hearing my siblings and parents talk about how much they love Truman definitely helped my decision,” said Emily, a business administration major. “I considered attending other colleges, but Truman provides an outstanding education, and it just so happens to be in my hometown.”

When Schwend children begin looking at schools, other members of the family keep their fingers crossed that the soon-to-be college freshman will stay close to home. Only two immediate family members chose to attend college elsewhere. According to Sarah, Scott and Emily, the “odd men out” are occasionally teased by the family that they couldn’t “handle” Truman, but it’s all in good fun.

“It doesn’t help them when there are so many of us that can defend Truman,” Scott said.

For the Schwends, staying close to home is a bonus for attending an already prestigious school. After watching older siblings grow up, develop careers and take pride in their alma mater, Sarah, Scott and Emily knew Truman not only represented home and a close-knit family – it also meant a useful degree and a good education.

“Truman can be tough, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life,” Scott said. “As a student, I have been
able to learn in an environment that I believe prepares you for the real world.”

Though the siblings are often recognized on campus for being a “Schwend kid,” they still feel some anonymity and get the full college experience even living close to home. Sarah was the first member of the family to attend Truman’s School of Business and join business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi. She thinks the opportunities to introduce herself and establish relationships with students and professors have been ultimately fulfilling.

“I am so proud to say I have a degree from Truman,” Sarah said.

After earning her second degree in May, Sarah (’13, ’16) joined sisters Erin (’04), Jenny (’11) and Amy (’15) as Schwends who have completed their Truman careers. Should the youngest family members, Annie and Matthew, choose to attend, there would be four Schwends still to earn degrees.

As the matriarch, Mary Jo Schwend (’81, ’83) enjoys the family tradition. For her, the best part about her children being at Truman is that it is easier to have them over for dinner. Having seven of the 10 children continue to make Kirksville their home also has been incredibly rewarding.

“As a mom, it’s what you always want,” Mary Jo said.

— Hannah Litwiller (’16)

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall

More than 25 years after coming to the University, Scott Marshall was finally going to get his degree. Parents Russ and Mary were there to witness his achievement, as well as other family and friends who made the trip to Kirksville to celebrate the occasion. Approximately 30 people were on hand to share in the moment. There was, however, one prominent person not in attendance. Scott Marshall passed away in 1994.

Scott was a triple major at Truman in the early 1990s. By the time he lost his life in a summer car accident he had already completed enough credits to earn one degree, but he never applied to graduate since two more were still in the works. When the oversight was finally rectified, the University conducted a special ceremony for his family and friends in February to posthumously award Scott his degree.

“It was emotional, but very upbeat. With stories about Scott, one has to laugh,” Mary said. “Though it was a long time coming, it really was a perfect time for our family as the grandchildren are all old enough to understand and appreciate it. They got to know a little more about the uncle they never got to meet.”


Members of the Marshall family accept Scott Marshall’s degree on his behalf during a ceremony earlier this year. Scott passed away in 1994 after he earned enough credits to graduate but before he received his degree.

Typically students receive their diplomas in May, August or December. It is fitting Scott received his own unique ceremony, because he was anything but typical. The middle of three boys, Scott was known for, among other things, his occasional peculiar choice of clothing. He enjoyed teasing his fellow musicians with his attire. His wardrobe included crazy patterned pants and dress shirts adorned with images such as cars or fish. Converse high tops and a tie – which always matched his socks – would complete the outfit. His eccentric ways were not limited to his fashion choices.

“He’s the type of guy who would buy you a CD for a gift, open it, play it for you to make sure you liked it, then wrap it up and give it to you,” recalls younger brother Greg (’00), who followed in Scott’s footsteps in coming to Truman.

Thanks to University alumni on the music faculty at Valley High School, Scott was the first member of his West Des Moines, Iowa, family to attend Truman, and he was a shining example of a liberal arts student.

“Scott was a unique, interesting person, full of fun and fun to be with,” Russ said. “He was a problem solver, and liked to try all things.”

One of his many interests included a fondness for Mustangs. Of the couple he owned, a version of the 1979 Indianapolis 500 Pace Car received much of his attention. A rough project when he acquired it, he eventually replaced the motor and restored the paint and graphics to their original look. When he found the correct fabric for the interior, he enlisted his mother’s help to reupholster the car. Mary did the pattern making and sewing while Scott attached the material to the seats.

“The car didn’t always work the best, though,” Greg said. “There were times when he would have to always park on a hill so he could get a rolling start to get it started.”

The Mustang’s personalized plates read “Smarsh,” a nod to the nickname he picked up in high school when a band director mispronounced his name from a class roster. For whatever reason, the name stuck, and during his time at Truman it is how most of his friends, including those in the various ensembles he played in, or his brothers in Phi Mu Alpha, knew him.

While he may have been intrigued by a variety of subjects, music was his passion. A euphonium and bass trombone player, Scott’s goal was to perform music professionally. He chose Truman in part because of its three jazz bands, and even earned a spot in the top band his freshman year.

In keeping with his Eagle Scout roots, he followed the organization’s motto of “be prepared,” and coupled his music performance degree with degrees in music education and business, just in case his first career choice did not go the way he envisioned. No matter what path he would have taken, Scott no doubt would have made a difference to those around him, and he would have had a good time along the way.

“He was a fun, caring guy who touched a lot of lives,” Greg said.

In a way, Scott is still touching a lot of lives. Within months of his passing, his family established the Robert Scott Marshall Memorial Scholarship, and it is awarded each year to Truman music students with special consideration for those in the latter stages of their academic careers.

“NMSU was a very important part of Scott’s life and we wanted to recognize that. We wanted Scott’s memory to live on,” Mary said. “He was concerned about having money after his four-year scholarship ended as he was doing a triple major. We knew there were others in similar situations and felt by establishing the scholarship, we could help others reach their goals.”

Gerald Elijah “Shag” Grossnickle (’42)

ClassNotes-ShagGrossnickleGerald Elijah “Shag” Grossnickle (’42) of Kirksville passed away April 25, 2016. In his 100 years he led a full life as a public servant, sportsman and entrepreneur. A Navy veteran of World War II, he was called to duty before graduation that year and did not cross the stage with his class. A native of Carlisle, Iowa, following his time in the service he returned to Kirksville where he led a life of many interests with his wife Sarah. He taught for a year, ran a restaurant for a while and spent a total of 28 years in elected office serving the citizens of Adair County in various capacities. During an eight-year stint as sheriff, he never carried a gun, rarely wore a uniform and often kept his badge in his pocket. He also bought a share in an insurance company, which he would later go on to own and operate with one of his sons. Grossnickle was named a Master Conservationist by the Missouri Department of Conservation for his efforts to bring wild turkey to the region, and he is a member of six different halls of fame, including the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame and the Missouri Athletics Hall of Fame. Among his many community involvements, he helped to start the Kirksville Baseball Softball Association and sponsored a little league team for more than 50 years until the time of his passing. Grossnickle also had affiliations with the Loyal Order of the Moose, the El Kadir Shrine Club, the Kirksville Jaycees, the United Way, the YMCA and the Red Cross. He joined the Kiwanis Club in 1945 and his longtime membership in that organization led to the newly created inclusive playground in Kirksville partially being named in his honor. In 1993 arrangements were made for Grossnickle to lead the graduation processional during summer commencement ceremonies. More than 50 years after earning his degree, he was finally able to cross the stage and accept his diploma.

Tutus and Tiaras Trump Cancer

Connie and Mike Smith pose for a picture together on the night they met in October 1990.

Connie and Mike Smith pose for a picture together on the night they met in October 1990.

From the dangerous to the embarrassing, men are notorious for doing whatever it takes to impress the women in their lives. When Mike Smith met his future wife Connie Smith at a mixer between Lambda Chi Alpha and Sigma Kappa in 1990, he pulled out all the stops to win her heart.

“He was up for dancing most of the night, which I loved, or talking on the porch swing, which was sweet,” Connie said. “And he knew the rap to ‘Groove is in the Heart,’ which was impressive.”

The two dated on and off throughout college, and after their engagement, they settled in Mike’s hometown of Kansas City. Mike (’93) put his business administration degree to use for Western Auto and later YRC freight company. Connie (’91), a communications major at the University, found work in advertising, followed by public relations at two different school districts. When children Matthew and Madeline came along, she became a stay-at-home mother.

Connie and Mike’s relationship had taken the natural progression that so many do. College parties gave way to PTA events and carting the kids around to various extra curricular activities. By Mike’s own account, their lives were fairly standard, “until the cancer thing hit.”

In December 2011, Connie was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. There was no history of cancer in her family, and Mike never knew anyone who had the disease. Throughout the early diagnosis process, Connie was not too concerned. She was told there was an 80 percent chance it was just calcifications, and she thought doctors were being overly cautious with a second-look mammogram and biopsy surgery.

“Then I heard, ‘I’m sorry to tell you, you have cancer.’ The rest of the conversation sounded like the teacher on Charlie Brown,” she said. “Initially, my brain couldn’t keep up. There was information overload combined with stunned disbelief.”

Facing the prospect of her own mortality, Connie’s maternal instincts were key in fighting the disease. She and Mike decided an aggressive approach was the best way forward. Most of the next year of her life revolved around surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Connie and Mike Smith, along with their children Matthew and Madeline, celebrate at the 2014 Race for the Cure in Kansas City.

Connie and Mike Smith, along with their children Matthew and Madeline, celebrate at the 2014 Race for the Cure in Kansas City.

“When I thought of my kids, being around to see them grow up, I wanted to do everything in my power to make that happen,” she said. “Looking back, there were moments I don’t know how I got through them.”

Sensing that Connie felt like she was alone, Mike set up a Facebook group, Team Connie, to show her how many people were on her side. The group quickly reached more than 300 members, and one of Connie’s sorority sisters mentioned Race for the Cure.
An annual 5K fundraiser, Race for the Cure is one of the signature events of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, an organization devoted to breast cancer education, research, advocacy and support programs.

“The race does a great job of making survivors feel special and like every single survivor is a guest of honor at a really great party,” Connie said. “It’s a great way to be a part of a larger community of people who understand what you’ve been through.”

After putting a team together, it was suggested Mike do something unique to solicit donations, and the idea of wearing a tutu was proposed.

“I said that it would take a lot of donations, at least $2,000, to get me to wear a tutu,” he said.

When that year’s tally came in at more than $5,000, not only did Mike wear the tutu in the race, he topped off his wardrobe with tights and a tiara. Every year since her diagnosis the Smiths have participated in Race for the Cure in Kansas City, and every year they have earned enough that Mike has put aside his pride and worn the outfit in support of his wife and the cause.

Today, Connie is cancer free. She and Mike continue to support Komen Kansas City because of the impact it has on their community and the resources it provides. They also recently celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.

“I would say we are as close now as we have ever been,” Mike said.

Paino’s Last Lecture Available Online

President Troy D. Paino

President Troy D. Paino

The Truman campus was saddened when University President Troy D. Paino announced he was leaving to become the president of the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, effective July 1. In making his announcement, Paino expressed the decision to leave was among the most difficult in his life as he loves the students, faculty, staff and community and has felt that love returned tenfold.

Paino also expressed in the announcement that “down the road there will be opportunities for me to express what you have and will continue to mean to me.” One such opportunity occurred when Paino closed out the Student Activities Board Last Lecture series April 27 in Baldwin Hall Auditorium with his presentation titled “On Saying Goodbye: The Power of Letting Go.”

Paino’s presentation is now available on the University’s YouTube channel at