Author Archives: kbest

Recurring Gifts Lead to Exponential Support

Regular, smaller gifts have a way of making a significant difference.

This has certainly been the case for Phil and Jenn (Bender) Christofferson. The opportunity to make recurring donations has opened the door to make the impact they desire through the ease of automation. For the past 20 years, the Christoffersons have been making gifts to the Kyle Cope Memorial Scholarship, and for the past decade, those contributions have come through scheduled quarterly gifts.

The scholarship was established in 1999 by Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity brothers and friends of Kyle Cope. He was an active member and leader of Lambda Chi Alpha social fraternity and also served a two-year term as the student representative to the Truman Board of Governors. Kyle passed away in an automobile accident in November 1997.

As a fraternity brother, and as friends of Kyle, Phil (’95) and his wife Jenn (’94, ’95) have been passionate about supporting this scholarship over the years. What they found, like many other alumni and friends, is that making their gifts through a recurring schedule provided ease and flexibility.

“We were looking for a way to make sure our gifts to Truman were consistent, and didn’t require us to remember to send a check every few months,” Phil said. 

The impact of the regularly scheduled gifts has added up over time. The Christoffersons’ support of the scholarship now exceeds $15,000, with most of that total coming through recurring donations.

“It provided us a way to make a more significant contribution to Truman each year,” Jenn said. “By spreading our gift out through quarterly donations, we are able to do more to honor Kyle’s memory and give back to Truman.”

For more information on recurring gifts, go to truman.edu/giving/ways-of-giving.   

SUB Plaza to Get New Look and Fountain

This summer the plaza area directly to the east of the Student Union Building is getting a major renovation. The space is being funded through a seven-figure, naming-level gift along with funds generated through the Sesquicentennial Plaza campaign and the 2019-20 Truman Parent Council fundraising project.

The area will be named the Sandra K. Giachino Reavey Sesquicentennial Plaza, in honor of Reavey, who was a Kirksville native and 1962 graduate of Truman. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business education. In addition to the plaza naming gift, she also established the Sandra K. Giachino Reavey Scholarship to support Kirksville High School graduates who are majoring in business at Truman. Reavey passed away in January 2018.

The plaza will provide a beautiful outdoor gathering space for events, house the commemorative, inscribed bricks and pavers that were donated through the Sesquicentennial Campaign and boast a renovated fountain, which is sure to be a centerpiece on campus.

Perspective of the new fountain by the Student Union Building

Bulldogs Serve Internationally

For the third year in a row, Bulldogs showed their Truman spirit by serving their local communities during TruCare.

The monthlong service initiative saw 1,059 members of the Truman community contribute 10,266 hours of service, including the Big Event, which had 1,146 hours served by Truman students. Projects took place in 36 cities across 19 states and three countries. Alumni chapters and clubs served causes like pet adoption events, Habitat for Humanity and local food pantries.

TruCare was also recognized as a Grand Gold award recipient at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education District VI conference for alumni programming.

Learn more about the impact Bulldogs had around the world during the month of March at truman.edu/alumni-donors/events/trucare.

Greetings Bulldogs

Hope HarmsIt’s no secret, Truman shines through its people, and its alumni are no exception. We have a national alumni board as well as chapters and clubs, all powered by alumni volunteers who organize opportunities for fellow Bulldogs to cultivate meaningful relationships that support each other and our alma mater. Take a look at the exciting programs for alumni and friends: the annual alumni and friends travel trip, the opportunity to serve our local communities through TruCare, events all over the country and so much more. By Bulldogs, for Bulldogs — and there’s a place for you! To get started, connect with the Office of Advancement at bulldogforever@truman.edu or (660) 785-4133.

Bulldog Forever,

Hope (Slaby) Harms (’07)

Alumni Board President

A Triumphant Return

Jenna Fischer on the Baldwin Auditorium stageJenna Fischer visited campus to help aspiring theatre students and pay tribute to a former professor.

Career success can be hard to come by in the performing arts. For every well-known actor, musician or artist, thousands practice their craft in relative anonymity. There may be no blueprint for success, but alumna Jenna Fischer (’95) is doing her best to create one.

“My favorite thing to do is to speak to aspiring actors and theatre students,” she said. “That’s because when I was an aspiring actor and a theatre student, I wanted more than anything to have access to people who were working in the industry that I so desperately wanted to be a part of, and I just want to give other people that access.”

Fischer did just that for Truman students when she returned to campus in April. During her two-day visit, the Emmy-nominated actress had multiple meetings with current theatre students where she took questions and offered them advice for seeking a non-conventional vocation.

“When you are pursuing an artistic career, you have to embrace that part of you that is a little crazy and a little delusional,” she said. “You have to be your biggest cheerleader, and no one is going to believe in you as much as you believe in yourself, not even your mom. Somewhere you have to create this unstoppable belief in yourself, and that belief will be tested time and time and time again.”

To help aspiring actors, Fischer literally wrote the book on what to expect for a career in the industry. In 2017, she penned “The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide,” which documents her journey to becoming a professional actor.

“You have to know you’re choosing a path that’s not a straight line, so you can’t expect the spoils of a conventional career when you are choosing an unconventional one,” she said.

Since graduating from the University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre, Fischer’s career includes more than 50 credits as an actor and producer. She is best known for her role as Pam on the hit NBC comedy “The Office,” and the feature films in her body of work include roles in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” “Blades of Glory” and director Clint Eastwood’s 2018 picture “The 15:17 to Paris.” Fischer’s career goes beyond her acting duties. She starred in, and produced, the movie “The Giant Mechanical Man,” and she is currently producing and developing the comedy television series “National Parker” for Freeform.

In addition to providing moral support, Fischer used part of her time on campus to raise funds for theatre students. She helped create and endow a Truman State University Foundation scholarship in honor of longtime professor Ron Rybkowski. Fischer was the guest of honor at a gala in Kirk Memorial where she provided remarks, took commemorative photographs with everyone in attendance and participated in a social media video for the University.

“Ron was my most impactful theatre professor,” Fischer said. “I have been wanting to come back for a long time, and when I heard he was retiring this year, I thought, well, this is the exact right time to come.”

Revenue from ticket sales for the gala went to support the newly created scholarship, which was announced at the event and was a surprise to its namesake.

“It’s hard to describe the warmth I felt, and having Jenna be the one to deliver the news was very special,” Rybkowski said. “For her to take time from her busy schedule to honor me and share stories as one of my former students of how I, in some small way, helped her to achieve what she now has is a night I will always cherish.”

When alumni return, many like to get reacquainted with the town they once called home. For Fischer, who had not been to Kirksville in nearly 20 years, that meant stops at the Wooden Nickel, Dukum Inn, Diner 54, Take Root Café and Maxwell’s. All of her adventures were well documented on her Instagram story, including a late-night trip to Hy-Vee in an effort to find the brand of cheese puffs she fondly remembered from her college days.

“There are little changes in town, but the essence is the same, and that’s why I came to Truman in the first place,” Fischer said.

Fischer’s visit was capped off by her presentation as the 2019 Holman Family Distinguished Speaker. While addressing the crowd of 2,500 in Pershing Arena, she mentioned she could have gone to an acting conservatory, and how she visited schools more closely associated with the industry, like USC and UCLA. Ultimately, she said Truman just felt right when she stepped on campus, and she saw Truman’s liberal arts education as being able to provide more experiences that could benefit her career.

“I got to study on-stage performance work here, but I also learned how to light a stage, how to stage manage, how to build a set, how to break down a set. I choreographed a show. I learned about every element in a hands-on way about how a production goes together, and I think it made me smarter in the long run when it came to a career in the arts because I was able to fully appreciate how incredibly collaborative making a film, or making a TV show or making a play really is,” Fischer said. “Truman did a great job preparing me for my career because Truman made me work hard for what I wanted, and in my particular line of work no one hands you a career.”

5 Minutes with Ron Rybkowski

Ron RybkowskiFor 31 years, Ron Rybkowski has been a fixture in the Theatre Department, however, casual fans of Truman productions can be forgiven if that sometimes slips their minds. Rybkowski does not long for the spotlight, but relishes in helping others succeed. He is the technical guru of the department and has helped design, build and light stages for so many productions there is not enough space to list them all here. He also has more than 50 directing credits to his name, with “Jekyll and Hyde: The Musical,” “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “The Wake of Jamey Foster,” “Into the Woods” and “See How They Run” among his favorite shows.

After eight years in professional theatre Rybkowski made the switch to teaching because it offered him a chance to guide students who were excited about working in the industry, and it gave him the stability to always be there for his family. With both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in theatre from, respectively, Whittier College and California State University, Fullerton, Rybkowski has been working with students at Truman since the late 1980s.

Although he will officially retire during the summer, his name will carry on at Truman for years to come. In the spring, he was surprised with the announcement that the Ronald M. Rybkowski Honorary Technical Theatre Scholarship had been created after alumni, co-workers and friends raised money to establish a Truman State University Foundation fund in recognition of his years of service.

How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

I truly believe in and support the mission that has made this University what it is today. The philosophy of a well-balanced and broad-based education is most appropriate and evident in the teaching of theatre. No other major combines performance, literature, art, music, communication, psychology, sociology, math, chemistry, biology and engineering in ways that theatre does. One of the biggest benefits of directing is showing my students what can be achieved with a well-rounded education. I, too, have a degree from a liberal arts and science college. It gave me the ability to succeed in many areas, and so can they.

What do you like best about teaching?

Every semester is new! New students, new productions, new challenges and the opportunity to work through all of it. I have been blessed to work with some of the most talented faculty members and students over my 31 years, making me a better artist and person.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m not a big fan of Shakespeare. I feel too many people put his work way too high on that proverbial pedestal. There are a lot of great playwrights and plays that deserve just as much attention as his work. Besides, Christopher Marlowe wrote all those plays anyway, so let’s give credit where credit is due.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Working side by side with my students. I am very fortunate that most of the courses I teach require hands-on experience, where we get out of the classroom and into the theater. Being able to work so closely with my students has been richly rewarding.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Making a difference in my students’ lives so much that they created a scholarship in my name.

What was it like to hear that there will be a scholarship named in your honor?

Very humbling! It’s hard to describe the warmth I felt. As if every one of my students, past and present, all at one time, gave me a hug. To have meant so much that I somehow shaped or moved them, guided them forward to achieve what they desired, and that I played a part in that so much that they would band together to honor me for – in my opinion – just doing my job, is absolutely remarkable.

Art is Life

Maggie AdamsLike a lot of artists, Maggie Adams uses her art in an almost therapeutic way. When her mind is weighed down with heftier subjects like time, memory, the human condition – even life and death – it comes out through her work in fibers. Conversely, on her more carefree days, she can just throw a ball of clay on the pottery wheel and see where it takes her.

“I’m attracted to both fibers and ceramics because as a discipline they both started as purely functional objects,” Adams said. “There is no practical reason for people to add decoration to the surface of a pot or intricately sew patterns into cloth, and yet we do.”

While there may not be a practical reason to embellish everyday items for artistic reason, that is not to say it doesn’t serve a purpose.

“A person’s problem-solving and decision-making skills are challenged and developed in an art class,” Adams said. “Yes, math and science courses do this as well, but in an art class the many problems that will inevitably arise when trying to create something can be resolved in more variable or subjective ways. A person who can adapt to these problems and move forward will begin to cultivate these skills and apply them in other areas of their life.”

A native of Kirksville and a rising junior at Truman, Adams was looking for a small-college experience where she could make connections with faculty members and fellow students. That was particularly important when it came to how she would turn the studio art major she picked out of passion into a career.

“It was reassuring to meet people who were pretty much in the same boat as me, because very rarely do schools talk about different career opportunities in the arts,” she said. “I have been able to make great friendships with other art majors and build positive connections with many faculty members due to the welcoming and close-knit atmosphere of the Art Department. They are a huge factor in how positive and enjoyable my experience here has been thus far.”

That support is one of the reasons Adams plans to go into art education in the future. She hopes to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree in either ceramics or fibers and eventually help the next generation of aspiring artists. This summer, she will get a chance to try out the profession while serving as a preceptor for the Joseph Baldwin Academy, Truman’s summer program for students in grades seven through nine.

“If I can survive three solid weeks with a bunch of middle schoolers who are into ceramics, I can handle anything down the line,” she said.

Adams plans to be a professor in post-secondary education, but her ultimate goal is to remain close to what she simultaneously considers her means of escape and her connection to the rest of the world. 

“Honestly, wherever I am, as long as I’m working with art, I will be content,” she said. “Art is the only thing that I can give 100 percent of myself to with no regrets, no matter how much time or energy I choose to devote to it.”

Maggie Adams