The Right Place

Rich and Melissa Chapman came to Kirksville in search of an education. They ended up finding a home.

As students, Rich and Melissa (Davis) Chapman approached Truman from different directions, both literally and figuratively. After growing up in the small town of Camp Point, Ill., Rich felt like Kirksville was the big city. For Melissa, who hails from the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo., moving to a rural area for school was a bit of a culture shock. It worked out well for both of them, and the benefits it has reaped for Kirksville are nearly incalculable.

For most alumni, Kirksville is a multiyear pit stop in their lives. They come to northeast Missouri – sometimes reluctantly – to get an education. Most move on after graduation and have quaint memories of their college town. However, a number of graduates like the Chapmans end up realizing Kirksville is more than just a great place to go to school, it’s a great place to live.

“We chose to stay because we developed relationships with close friends,” Melissa said. “We found a church we loved and jobs that we were passionate about doing.”

Both are teachers in the Kirksville School District, but they took noticeably different paths to get there. Melissa (’00, ’02) participated in the MAE program after earning her degree in English. She completed her internship in Novinger, Mo., and continued to teach fifth grade in that school for three years before moving to Ray Miller Elementary in Kirksville. After 12 years there, she made the short trip over to William Matthew Middle School where she currently teaches sixth grade math and reading.

Upon earning his degree in psychology, Rich (’98) was a truancy officer in Quincy, Ill., for two years before returning to Kirksville to work at the Bruce Normile Juvenile Justice Center. After several years, he switched over to become a special education teacher and earned a master’s degree from the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He later transitioned to the Project Lead the Way Engineering Program, and he now teaches engineering to high school students at the Kirksville Area Technical School.

“As college students, we were so wrapped up with our own new-found independence that we had blinders on to all of the wonderful things Kirksville has to offer and the great people that make Kirksville a great place to live and work,” Rich said. “As educators, we are now very aware of the outreach that Truman students do throughout the Kirksville School District. As students, we never realized how intertwined the college and schools truly are.”

The Chapmans have now been residents of Kirksville more than four times longer than they were students, and they have become ingrained in the community. Their two daughters, Olivia and Julia, are involved in a number of activities. Rich has been a coach for football and golf at Kirksville, and cheerleading at Truman. They have even helped to increase the population of town by convincing Melissa’s parents to relocate to Kirksville. Without a doubt, the family’s biggest impact has come in the form of a 5K run/walk they have put on for the past seven years in support of diabetes research.

The Inspire 1 for JDRF event is the Chapman’s response to Julia’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. When Julia was six, she saw a news story about a child who started a race to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and wanted to sponsor her own. It has been a family endeavor ever since. The annual event usually includes about 150 runners and has raised a total of more than $53,000.

“After the first year, we had such an outpouring of support from our community, we knew then that we had made the correct decision to make Kirksville our home,” Melissa said.

Melissa and Rich Chapman with daughters Olivia, left, and Julia

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