Author Archives: tmiles

Top Dogs


Ellie Weltha

Weltha earned all-region and first-team all-conference honors after averaging more than 16 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season. She pulled down 307 rebounds to rank fifth in a season at Truman and helped the Bulldogs with two clutch free throws in the final seconds as they upset No. 1 Drury at home 67-66, Jan. 17.



Kara Hunt

Hunt led the women’s golf team in competitive rounds played with 18 and tied for the lowest single-round score of the season at 75 with fellow teammate Natalie Fatka. Hunt averaged 84.3 strokes per round. She had one top-10 finish in a tournament, placing eighth at Columbia College. Honorable mention to Macyn Young who recorded the fifth hole in one in Bulldog golf history and first since 2002.



Jacob Morris

Morris qualified and earned All-America honors at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track & Field Championships in weight throw after breaking the Bulldog indoor record in the event earlier in the season. Morris finished 10th at the indoor nationals. Moving to the outside season, Morris continued to rule the throwing events and was the GLVC champion in the discus throw.



Grace Feeney

Feeney took the bronze medal at the 2022 GLVC Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the heptathlon and was a member of the 4×400 relay team that qualified for the Drake Relays this spring. Feeney scored a career-best 4,488 points in the seven-event heptathlon and was the individual event winner in the shot put. She won four events at the Truman Twilight meet and was fourth in a fifth event.



Emma Walbert

The senior wrapped up her Bulldog career in style by going 12 for 14 at the plate in her final weekend, including a five-for-five performance that tied a school record for hits in a game. Walbert led the offense with a .389 batting average while playing and starting in all 43 games. She will leave Truman softball with the fourth-best career batting average at .385. She was also a three-time All-GLVC team member.



Cade McKnight

The standout forward saved his best for last as he was once again an NABC All-American performer, D2CCA First Team All-Region and earned CoSIDA Academic All-American Honors. He averaged a career high 19.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. He shot 57.4% from the field and 39.5% from three-point range, also both career bests. He will use his final year of eligibility at Indiana State University as a graduate student.



Holden Missey

The junior first baseman led the Bulldogs in most offensive categories again in 2022, leading the team in batting average (.357), runs scored (30), hits (56), home runs (12), doubles (16) and total bases (110). He also served as the team’s closer, earning six saves and a 2-1 record in 13 appearances. He had arguably the best hitting performance in program history against Lewis this season, going five-for-five with three home runs, five runs scored and four RBI, April 29.



AJ Kohler

The sophomore earned two B Cuts at the GLVC championships. In the 200 freestyle he finished fifth in the conference with a time of 1:38.54, and in the 200 butterfly he finished 15th with a time of 1:49.99. He also set a new personal best split in the 200 freestyle relay with a time of 20.53 at the GLVC championships.



Emma Brabham

The senior capped off her career by qualifying for nationals in three events: the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle. She swam 23.83 in the 50 free prelims, 55.97 in the 100 back prelims and 52.87 in the 100 free prelims. It was her second-straight appearance at nationals, qualifying in the 100 back in 2020-21.



Julia Fangman

Playing primarily in fourth singles this year, the junior earned a 16-6 overall record in singles play this season. In doubles play with Samantha Seggerman, the duo went 13-7 overall, playing mostly second doubles with one match at first doubles. She picked up a win in conference play at William Jewell at fourth singles.

Coach Schwegler Passes

Tim Schwegler, the head cross country and track & field coach at Truman, passed away April 14.

A 1980 graduate of the University, Schwegler served as captain of the Bulldog cross country team and was a member of the track team. After graduation, he worked at Kirksville High School as the boys cross country/track & field coach. He led the Tigers to three district titles, two North Central Missouri Conference championships and had three top 10 state finishes.

Schwegler returned to Truman to complete his master’s degree and served as a volunteer assistant for the women’s cross country/track & field squads. Following his master’s degree completion, he was named the head coach at Highland (Kan.) Community College where he built a top-20 NJCAA track and field/cross country program. Schwegler coached 106 athletic All-Americans and 192 academic All-Americans during his tenure at Highland. The Scotties won eight Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference championships and were named the NJCAA Top Academic Team of the Year nine times. He was the 1999 NJCAA Men’s Track Coach of the Year and the 2004 NJCAA Region VI Women’s Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Highland Hall of Fame.

In 2006, Schwegler returned to Truman to serve as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs. He was elevated in 2013 to the head coaching position. During that time period, he helped produce 25 conference champions, six NCAA Division II All-Americans, one national champion, numerous USTFCCCA All-Academic scholars and teams, nine CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and new school records in 15 different events.

Schwegler is survived by his wife Nancy and two sons, Matt and Sam.

Two Bulldog Teams Enshrined into Athletics Hall of Fame

The 1997 men’s soccer team and the 1972 men’s track & field team were inducted into the Truman State University Athletics Hall of Fame in April.


1997 Men’s Soccer (16-6 – NCAA Final Four)

The Bulldog men’s soccer team in 1997 advanced to the NCAA Final Four after winning their fourth-straight Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association title and sixth overall. Dennis Sweeney’s team went 14-5 during the regular season and was selected to their fourth NCAA Division II tournament in the past seven years.

Round one was a match again rival Southern Illinois Edwardsville in frigid conditions. The Cougars struck three minutes into the match to take the early lead. Senior Jimmy Duran deflected a shot off the post from Adrian Marrero for the equalizer. Late in the match, Marrero scored the winner off a pass from Jeremy Jackson to give Truman their first postseason victory.

The Bulldogs returned home and faced East Stroudsburg (Pa.) University with a ticket to the Final Four on the line. It was Marrero again getting the lone goal as his header off a corner kick in the 14th minute stood up for the win.   

Truman traveled to Boca Raton, Florida, for the Final Four and faced California State-Bakersfield in the national semifinals. The Roadrunners scored a first-half goal off a corner kick. The Bulldogs thought they tied the match early in the second half but Duran’s goal was waved off due to a foul. Bakersfield would score with 20 minutes left to seal the victory. They would eventually win the national title two days later.

Marrero finished with a team-high 15 goals. He was one of six Bulldogs to earn first-team All-MIAA honors along with Matt Berry, Mike Quante, Heine Andersen, Lee Letourneau and MIAA Most Valuable Player Steve Wilhuesen. Scott Meis, second team, and Duran, honorable mention, were also listed for the Bulldogs.

Andersen, Marrero and Quante were all named to the NSCAA All-Region team, Andersen was a first-team selection.

1972 Men’s Track & Field Team

Fifty years ago this spring was a magical time for Coach Kenny Gardner’s Bulldogs and the 1972 track & field team.

Before the indoor MIAA Championship meet in Columbia, Larry Jones captured the NCAA indoor title in the 440-yard dash held in Detroit, Michigan, March 12.

A week later in historic Brewer Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Missouri, the Bulldogs dethroned the defending MIAA indoor champion, Southeast Missouri State, by scoring 71 points to claim the conference championship. It was the 12th MIAA title in the previous 14 years for the Bulldogs. The team had six first-place finishes and placed in all but two of the 14 events.

Moving outside, the team opened with events at Eastern Illinois, duals with Central Missouri, Northwest Missouri and Western Illinois and competed in the Kansas Relays. On May 12-13, the MIAA outdoor championships took place in Springfield, Missouri, and the team took six first-place trophies and collected 76 points. Tom Geredine, Don Allbritton and Larry Jones each won two MIAA individual titles apiece.

Ashland, Ohio, was the scene for the 1972 NCAA College Division Track & Field Championships. With more than 611 athletes representing 115 schools, the Bulldogs earned the highest team finish in school history.

The University had three national champions — Allbritton in the decathlon, Geredine in the triple jump and Jones in the 440. Allbritton earned 22 points during the meet with a three-way tie for second in the high jump and third in the pole vault. Geredine earned All-American honors in the long jump with a sixth-place finish. Jones set a new NCAA record with a time of 45.8 in the event.

Joining Jones in the mile relay to earn All-American honors was Wayne Ventling, Bob Gonzales and Rob Nelson.

Dennis Littrell matched Allbritton’s height in the pole vault at 6 foot 8, but due to tiebreakers, earned All-America honors by placing sixth. Al Fulton and Linley Lipper also competed for the Bulldogs at the championships.

Eastern Michigan scored 93 points to win the team title and Norfolk College was second, only six points in front of the Bulldogs.

The season was not done yet. The following week the “Best in Show” moved west to Eugene, Oregon, for the 1972 NCAA University & College Track & Field Championships, now known as the Division I Championships.

Jones finished second, behind UCLA’s John Smith, in the 400-meter dash with a time of 45.1 to Smith’s 44.5. Allbritton earned the bronze medal in the decathlon.

Coach Gardner’s teams would win 34 MIAA championships and earn six, top-10 team finishes at the NCAA College/Division II meet during his career. He was one of the first inductees into the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame in 1983 and the track at Stokes Stadium bears his name after being dedicated to him in 1996.

Allbritton, Geredine, Jones, Lipper, Littrell and Ventling have all been inducted as individuals to the Truman Athletics Hall of Fame.

Dogspy Awards Return

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee put on the Dogspy Awards for the first time in three years this April, honoring the past year in Truman athletics. The ceremony was led by SAAC President Morgan Smith, and many different presenters gave out awards, including President Sue Thomas. Awards were given out for Scholar of the Year, Men’s and Women’s Athlete of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Coach of the Year and Team of the Year. Additionally, there was an Athlete of the Year for each sport. There was also a special tribute to Mike and Wanda Elam, Pershing Arena maintenance workers who retired this year.


Scholar of the Year

Tom Cormier

One of the top distance runners over the past four seasons, Cormier ran in more than 60 races as a member of the cross country/track & field teams. He ran a personal record 31:11.23 in the 10K earlier this spring and also competed in the famous Drake Relays this April. In the classroom he earned a 4.0 GPA in accounting.



Men’s Athlete of the Year

Cade McKnight

The standout forward was once again an NABC All-American performer, D2CCA First Team All-Region and earned CoSIDA Academic All-American Honors. He averaged a career high 19.2 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game. He shot 57.4% from the field and 39.5% from three-point range, also both career bests.



Women’s Athlete of the Year

Emma Brabham

The senior capped off her career by qualifying for nationals in three events: the 50 freestyle, 100 backstroke and 100 freestyle. She swam 23.83 in the 50 free prelims, 55.97 in the 100 back prelims and 52.87 in the 100 free prelims. It was her second-straight appearance at nationals, qualifying in the 100 back in 2020-21.



Newcomer of the Year

Jessica Kozol

She started nine of 16 matches this past fall and logged more than 1,100 minutes at midfield and right back. She was part of a stingy Bulldogs back line that allowed only 11 goals all season. She also scored the game winning goal in a 2-0 victory over William Jewell in late October.



Coach of the Year

Gregg Nesbitt

The football team played a compressed spring schedule in early 2021 and then a regular fall schedule. During the 2021 spring campaign he led the Bulldogs to a 3-1 record and an appearance in the GLVC championship game. During the fall season he led the Bulldogs to a 9-3 overall record and their second-straight victory in the America’s Crossroads Bowl.



Team of the Year

Men’s Basketball

The Bulldogs entered the season ranked No. 6 in the country and reached as high as No. 2 in the NABC poll this season as they won 20+ games for the eighth time in the last nine seasons. The team qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional for the third-straight season as the No. 4 seed in the region.



Athletes of the Year

Tal Dean – Baseball

Hunter Strait – Men’s Basketball

Ellie Weltha – Women’s Basketball

Nathan Key – Men’s Cross Country

Lily Ende – Women’s Cross Country

Josh Schiederer – Football

Kara Hunt – Golf

Justin Olwig – Men’s Soccer

Kate Peterson – Women’s Soccer

Emma Walbert – Softball

AJ Kohler – Men’s Swimming

Emma Brabham – Women’s Swimming

Julia Fangman – Tennis

Gracie Feeney – Women’s Track & Field

Jacob Morris – Men’s Track & Field

Morgan Smith – Volleyball

Heeding the Call

By being open to opportunities when they were presented, Marisa Stam is now in a position to help the global orphan crisis.

Fate has a funny way of accomplishing its goals.

Marisa (Starbard) Stam earned a communication degree with the hope of working as a foreign correspondent. After graduating in 1997, she ended up in corporate retail, first for Target and later with Starbucks. Working for the latter rekindled interests beyond balance sheets and profit margins.

“The coffee belt is in the strip of the world where there’s a lot of developing countries,” she said. “While I was at Starbucks, I got reintroduced to things that I appreciated in college, like international poverty issues, and kind of the world at large.”

In 2007, Starbucks sent Stam to the CARE Conference in Washington, D.C. With the mission of ending poverty, the conference offers opportunities for networking, and Stam met an affiliate of the Selamta Family Project. A unique organization based in Ethiopia, the Selamta Family Project brings hope and healing to orphaned and abandoned children by recreating and empowering families. Children in its care are placed with families and supported through a holistic, community integrated approach rooted in permanency. They do not age out, and they are supported through their first living-wage job.

Stam and two fellow Starbucks employees were invited to visit the Selamta Family Project on a trip the following year. Not only did they generate enough financial support to cover their trip, they were also able to provide funding to support a new forever family home in Ethiopia.

“It was incredible. I had never experienced so much generosity in my life. Through our store we ended up raising a total of $15,000,” she said. “That trip in 2008 radically changed my life. It was a very personal experience.”

After returning home, Stam stayed connected to the Selamta Family Project, serving on its board of directors. Feeling more connected to her faith, she also started working as the director of outreach and development for her church in Maine. Although she did not take that job for the experience, it would play a key role in her future. In 2014, not long after her husband Aaron (’97) accepted a job that relocated their family to Florida, the Selamta Family Project asked Stam to serve as executive director. She would be responsible for all aspects of the organization’s operations, including marketing, fundraising, business management, program oversight and strategic development.

“I learned a lot very quickly about leading a nonprofit,” Stam said, “My formal education through Truman obviously played a big part on the communication side, and then my practical experience in business through corporate retail and then nonprofit by working with the church for three-and-half years, it just all kind of culminated with a skillset that somewhat prepared me for this new role. I was definitely not fully prepared, but I feel like I’d been given an opportunity with all the assortment of things I’ve been privileged to learn in all that time and apply that to this new role.”

Stam is charged with meeting large goals with a small staff. She is one of three full-time, U.S.-based employees. There are two other part-time domestic employees, but more than 50 in Ethiopia. That is by design.

“This is not some Western mindset coming in saying, ‘hey, you guys are doing it wrong,’ This is really all about equipping exceptional people on the ground to do what they’ve been called to do with excellence,” she said.

Establishing a solid foundation should allow the organization to have greater impacts year after year. So far, Selamta has served more than 220 children and families in Ethiopia, of which 35 children have successfully launched to independence. New homes were established in 2019 and 2020, and 17 new children started with the program in 2021. 

“Just the outcomes that we’ve seen already are super humbling,” Stam said. “It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

In hindsight, it appears fate always put Stam in the proper place at just the right time. She’s found a calling that speaks to her passions, and while she realizes others might not be in a similar position, she feels like everyone can still make meaningful contributions.

“Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone can play a part somewhere in caring for orphaned and vulnerable kids and vulnerable families,” she said. “There are so many ways the gifts and talents that you’ve been given can bless somebody else, it’s just a matter of being willing.”

The Case of the Disappearing Disease

Greg Gerhardt has dedicated his career to improving the lives of patients with neurological diseases.

Now in his fifth decade as a neurological disease researcher, Greg Gerhardt is no stranger to the harsh realities of the field. He knows money and research flow to where they can serve the greatest good, however, those with rare conditions can often feel set adrift because it is not financially viable to invest in smaller patient markets. Just because he understands the logic, doesn’t mean he has to accept it.

For Gerhardt, his interest in finding cures for those left behind started at an early age. His grandfather passed away from a brain tumor before he was born, and he grew up hearing stories about how its manifestations and treatment changed him.

“Ultimately, that had more effects on my family than the actual death of him,” Gerhardt said. “It’s become kind of a Sherlock Holmes novel for me of reconstructing over the years exactly what happened.”

Looking at the progression of his career, Gerhardt does give the appearance of a detective doggedly doing whatever is necessary to track down a culprit. After graduating from the University with a degree in chemistry in 1979, he went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas with further training in psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. He has had extensive training in chemistry, neuroscience, pharmacology, neurosurgery and psychiatry. At the University of Kentucky Health Sciences Center he holds the Charles D. Lucas, Jr. Professorship for Parkinson’s Disease Research. He is a professor in the departments of neuroscience, neurosurgery, neurology, psychiatry, pharmaceutical sciences and electrical engineering. From 1999-2012, Gerhardt served as director of the Morris K. Udall Parkinson’s Disease Research Center of Excellence at the Chandler Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky – one of 12 centers of that type in the U.S.  – and he is currently director of the Center for Microelectrode Technology and co-director of the Brain Restoration Center.

“It’s kind of one of those trains I jumped on and kept jumping on to another track. I got hooked on it, trying to solve these problems,” he said.

The next piece of the puzzle Gerhardt drops into place has the potential to be the most important. He recently co-founded Avast Therapeutics, a company designed to advance new treatments for neural disease. By building off of existing research and clinical trials, Gerhardt and his colleagues hope to fill a void in treatment.

“We feel that not every therapeutic has to be the barnstormer,” he said. “You have that niche of people to treat, and that’s what we’re going after.” 

Specifically, Gerhardt is drawing on decades of experience with Parkinson’s disease in an effort to provide a better quality of life for the 60,000 individuals diagnosed each year. As a founding member of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Gerhardt knows as well as anyone how much progress has already been made. Not a week goes by where he isn’t participating in a surgical procedure to implant a deep brain stimulation electrode in a patient to help control tremors and rigidity. In a perfect world, he hopes to make more progress through less invasive means. Avast is researching nasal therapeutics and inhalers to administer medicine more efficiently. The company also plans to explore biomarkers to identify a disease’s progression and tailor a precise treatment for an individual.

“One of the major hurdles in my field of neurodegenerative diseases is that we too often treat these diseases as a single phenotypic disease, when in reality, it’s a spectrum of diseases,” Gerhardt said. “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

To make the most of every research dollar, Avast develops therapies or devices that may have gone unexplored by bigger companies. When they have a product ready to go beyond their scope, they seek assistance to get it to scale.

“Really our business model is to develop the technology to the point where we can likely turn it over to a larger firm that has the pipeline and the resources to move in different directions than we can,” he said.

When coming up with the name for their company, Gerhardt and his co-founders settled on Avast because it is a nautical term that means stop, commonly associated with “Moby-Dick.” The goal is ideally to put an end to – or stop – all neurological disorders, but unlike Captain Ahab, Gerhardt has reasonable expectations in pursuit of his own white whale. Previously, Parkinson’s disease might take 10 years off of a patient’s life span, but through continued medical vigilance Gerhardt has seen it evolve from a death sentence to something that can be managed with proper treatments. Although he will continue to work toward eradication, that much progress can be its own reward.

“In the business of medicine, the big thing is to help our patients have a better quality of life,” he said. “We may not be able to cure something, but we can improve the quality of your life so you can live with it much better and have a fulfilling life.”

Sure, Why Not?

An optimistic approach to life has helped Shelley Washington establish a career doing what she loves.

When put on the spot to identify a composer, most people can name Bach or Beethoven. More refined listeners can cite other – usually long deceased – men often associated with classical music. Shelley Washington is one of the relatively few individuals who can claim composer as a job title, but she doesn’t buy into the perceived hoity-toity nature of the field.

“Anyone is a composer the second you intentionally make something up,” she said. “You don’t even have to write it down. If you make up some noise in your head that you intentionally assembled, that’s it. That’s the only thing it takes to be a composer, in my mind. Because I don’t think you have to have specialized training to be able to make stuff up that you like that you want to share.”

Washington (’13, ’14) has a relaxed approach to her profession, probably because she has the bona fides to back it up. Along with her two degrees from Truman, she has master’s degrees from NYU and Princeton, and she is a year away from earning a Ph.D. in music composition from the latter. Her experience goes beyond theory and into actual practice, having composed pieces for large and small ensembles, soloists and even musical theatre. Washington’s musical influences are vast and wide, making it difficult to categorize her creations.

“Making sound and noise in some capacity is just what I do, and it is also very convenient that it is my job,” she said. “It is hard for me to explain it because it’s the stuff I wrote.”

Growing up in Kansas City, Washington’s parents regularly took her to the symphony and opera, and her uncle was a prominent jazz musician. She learned how to play the English handbells through her involvement in church  ensembles, and on any given day she can be found listening to country, pop, folk, big band, rock or mambo. Making a living as a composer was never the original goal. She came to Truman with the intent to become a music teacher.

“I grew up listening to everything that was on and really just loving all of it, and I didn’t want that to go away,” she said.

The plan changed for Washington just before she started the MAE program at Truman, thanks to an interdisciplinary grant between the music and theatre departments. Two students – one from each program – were selected to spend the summer creating a musical theatre production. Washington got her first taste of composing original music, and it sparked an interest. After completing her degree, she visited family in New York City to check out prospective schools. She also researched contemporary composers, becoming a fan of Julia Wolfe. Washington got to meet Wolfe on her trip to New York and even sat in on one of her classes. When Wolfe expressed interest in Washington’s portfolio, her career trajectory changed immediately.

“That was all I needed, to hear one of my heroes saying, ‘hey, I like your stuff, and I think you should do it,’” Washington said.

Making a drastic career change and moving halfway across the country to one of the biggest cities in the world might seem overwhelming to some. For Washington, it fits right in with her philosophy on life, which pretty much boils down to “sure, why not?”

“That’s been 90% of my career thus far – ‘sure, why not?’ – and it’s been really fun. It’s really weird, but it’s really fun,” she said.

Keeping an open mind has opened doors for Washington. Her willingness to work with anyone, try anything and go wherever the job may take her has led to one experience after another. She’s played with nearly 20 different ensembles and recorded with countless artists, samples of which can be found on her website, Her work was even featured in an episode of the Netflix documentary series “Explained.”

As a performer, Washington specializes in the baritone saxophone. She is also proficient in the alto saxophone, flute, handbells and guitar, but surprisingly not the instrument most people associate with composers. She self identifies as a “garbage” piano player.

In addition to her composing career, Washington’s versatility as a performer helped her snag a spot in the Brooklyn-based band Good Looking Friends. The passion project checks a very specific item off of her bucket list.

“My childhood dream of playing in a rock band is being fulfilled, and I love it,” she said.

Washington is always looking for an opportunity, and she has already found her next project. She will spend the next three years writing and editing an opera in conjunction with a friend’s podcast based on the life of former model-turned-stalker Nell Theobald.

“This is a first for me, which is very scary and very exciting,” she said. “It’s hard learning new things, especially once you become a grown-up. However, I will never stop learning.”

New Man on the Minnesota Vikings

Tyler Williams was part of a Super Bowl-winning organization last year. Now he is using his exercise science degree to help a new team reach their peak potential.

It is a relatively small club of people who can claim the title of “world champion,” and Tyler Williams (’06) is one of the few. He joined the ranks in February when the Rams, an organization he has been affiliated with professionally for almost 20 years, hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. As the team’s director of sports science, the achievement was the product of a highly focused career.

“My whole life has been involved with sports and activity,” he said. “I always had a passion for understanding how the body functions and trying to understand the puzzle of what could be done to reduce injury risk and also gain a competitive advantage.”

Williams came to Truman because he saw a well-respected school that could help him reach his goals. The athletic training program offered hands-on experiences and talented instructors that supported the students.

“The Health and Exercise Science Department was impressive in their process of operation, structure and faculty,” he said. “There was a passion for the industry that was unmatched from my visits with other universities.”

As a student, Williams was encouraged to pursue internship opportunities. Following his passion, he sent his resume to all 32 NFL organizations, eventually landing a position with the St. Louis Rams, just up the road from his hometown of Crystal City, Missouri. Williams worked summer internships with the club for three years, followed by three yearlong internships while he completed a master’s degree from California University of Pennsylvania. In 2010 he joined the team full-time as an athletic trainer for four years. He would go on to serve as the team’s sports science coordinator/manager for three years before taking on the role of director of sports science in 2019.

The NFL’s regular season may run 18 weeks, but that does not mean Williams spends the rest of the year on the golf course. Along with getting players ready for the weekly demands of a physically grueling game, he and his fellow trainers: coordinate post-season surgeries and rehabs; attend the annual NFL combine to medically assess and evaluate potential draft picks; and participate in numerous meetings to understand research on topics such as helmet testing, biomechanical assessments, performance assessments, internal medical injuries and orthopedic injuries all designed with an eye toward developing new safety protocols.

“The essence of an athletic trainer is really being a caregiver,” Williams said. “The biggest misconception is that we work the games and practices during the season and then have time off in the off season.”

In the best of circumstances, being responsible for the health and wellness of an NFL roster is challenging. Adding a pandemic on top did not make things any easier.

“Everything became individualized and spaced out in a world of group settings and tight spaces in athletics, which created hurdles on top of the everyday workload,” Williams said. “We had to think outside the box from what was traditionally done and become problem solvers in order to maintain efficient and effective training methods for our athletes.”

Williams gained some experience in dealing with disruptive events several years before the pandemic hit. Following the 2015 season, the Rams relocated from St. Louis to Los Angeles. Along with coaches and players, staff members had a decision to make. Williams chose to take the 1,800-mile trip west, not just because he loved his job or needed a paycheck.

“Being from the Midwest it was difficult to take that leap, but our vice president of sports medicine and performance, Reggie Scott, is an industry leader in sports medicine,” he said. “It made for an easier move knowing I could continue to develop under him.”

Along with his own professional development, Williams saw his athletes reach their full potential on the field. The Rams went to the Super Bowl in 2019 and won it 2022.

“It was an absolutely phenomenal experience,” he said. “Going through it, you really realize how many things have to go right and how important it is to work with amazing people. The entire organization has to be working in lockstep in the same direction, not just the players and coaches, but the medical staff, strength staff, sports science, nutrition, front office, equipment and operations.”

Williams ended his time with the Rams on the highest of notes. Following the season, he took a job with the Minnesota Vikings as the executive director of player health and safety. The change gets him a little closer to his Midwestern roots, and he is excited to work with new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell.

“I have always tried to go where I am led. The Vikings are an amazing organization with phenomenal ownership that prioritizes their people and the care of their athletes,” Williams said. “The opportunity to work with people like that and build something together is what drew me to Minnesota – the people.”


Kirk Renovation to Bring Student Support Services Together, Provide Outreach to the Community

Truman will soon transform a campus landmark to bring together many student support services in one location.

With financial assistance from the state of Missouri, Truman will renovate the Kirk Building to house a new Student Success Center. The center will employ a collaborative service model in which individual student service departments do not simply co-locate and deliver their services nearby to one another; but rather, work in coordination to meet students’ needs from entry to exit. The Student Success Center will be comprised of: the Career Center; Tutoring Services; the Student Health Center; University Counseling Services; Student Access and Disability Services; the Center for Academic Excellence; the Communication Lab; and the Writing Center.

In addition to housing the Student Success Center, the University will also use the updated facility to provide resources to the community, including workforce development outreach, rural telehealth counseling and academic outreach workshops.

The Sustained Knowledge of Integrated Lifelong Learning Skills (SKILLS) Center will build upon the services of the departments in the Student Success Center, making key services available to the local community. While area K-12 students would have access to tutoring and advising, adult learners might seek skills to assist with career advancement through non-credit workshops on topics such as digital literacy, computer applications and personal development. Truman students will have the opportunity to be trained to lead and support these community learning opportunities.

The SKILLS Center will look to collaborate with relevant community partners including: the city of Kirksville, Adair County and other municipalities and counties in the northeast Missouri region; Kirksville Regional Economic Development, Inc., and other regional economic development entities; the Missouri Division of Employment Security; and regional health care and social service providers.

The total estimated cost for the project is approximately $21 million. State support for the project comes in the form of $10.5 million through the American Rescue Plan Act that was recommended by Gov. Mike Parson during the State of the State address in January. The University plans to pursue grant funding and private donations to help meet its required portion of the funding.

If funding is approved by the Missouri General Assembly, design for renovation of the building is slated to begin in August 2022 with completion projected by December 2024.

Constructed in 1923, Kirk Building is named in honor of John R. Kirk, an alumnus and the second-longest tenured president in University history. For generations of alumni, it is remembered as the social center of campus since it was the site of games, assemblies and events.

The Big Event Returns

Hundreds of Truman students volunteered their time to participate in the first Big Event since 2019.

Through the help of the SERVE Center, students were matched with more than 60 job sites around town. The job sites included simple service acts such as trimming bushes, raking leaves and washing windows for residents of the community.

Junior business major Norah Grojean was excited to finally be able to take part in her first Big Event since arriving at Truman. The 2020 Big Event was canceled due to the pandemic, while the Big Event in 2021 was planned but canceled due to rain.

“My group was put in charge of raking leaves for a household. The family was extremely grateful, kind and even got us donuts to have a little snack break,” Grojean said. “They provided all the materials we needed to do the job and were always there for us if we needed to ask any questions.”

Created in 1982, the Big Event has become one of the largest one-day, student-run service projects hosted nationwide. It allows students to show their appreciation to the surrounding community for their continued support. Since hosting its first Big Event in 2001, Truman has continued to receive positive feedback from the Kirksville community. The SERVE Center often receives many calls from community members on how grateful they are for the services provided by students. Many of them say they had already expressed their gratitude to the students, but wanted to make sure the University was aware of how thankful they are for the help. Some also explain how they are no longer able to complete a lot of the tasks they seek assistance for, and if it were not for the students they would have to make other arrangements.

“My favorite part about participating in the Big Event is that I felt like I was truly making a difference in the lives of others right then and there,” Grojean said. “I loved feeling a part of a community that cares enough to give back to the city that gives so much to Truman and its students.”