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.”
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.”