President Choi’s Blog

‘Lucky’ monument to pivotal MU leader turns 100

David R. Francis Monument in front of Jesse Hall.
Monument to David R. Francis in front of Jesse Hall.

A campus landmark recognizing an influential figure in Mizzou, state and national history celebrates its 100th anniversary this week.

David R. Francis served as U.S. secretary of the Interior, governor of Missouri and president of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, among many accomplishments. He was instrumental in helping rebuild campus after Academic Hall was destroyed by fire, and he was a strong advocate for the university. To commemorate his contributions, in 1923 the curators approved a new monument in his honor.

That monument – featuring a sculpture of Francis – was unveiled 100 years ago on June 3, 1924. Originally on Ninth Street, it now sits at the north end of Jesse Hall and faces Francis Quadrangle, which bears his name. University tradition has it that students who rub Francis’ nose receive good luck on their exams.

This summer, we’re completing necessary improvements to Francis Quad, including the area around the monument. Completion is anticipated during the fall semester, when the sculpture of Francis will again welcome students and visitors.

We continue to strengthen the land-grant mission that David R. Francis did so much to preserve. A century later, his monument still provides a lasting example of Mizzou’s legacy of excellence.

— Mun

Appreciating staff excellence

Award recipients and attendees at the 2024 Staff Recognition Awards Ceremony.
Award recipients and attendees at the 2024 Staff Recognition Awards Ceremony.

We recently marked another memorable Staff Recognition Week, an annual celebration of our more than 15,000 Mizzou and UM System staff and their contributions to our teaching, research and engagement mission.

Along with a free staff lunch, fun activities and opportunities for professional development, we also held our Staff Recognition Week Awards Ceremony. We were proud to acknowledge significant service milestones and distribute awards for excellence. Among the many recipients were six receiving Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Awards. All were nominated by colleagues for their incredible commitment to others.

2024 Chancellor’s Outstanding Staff Award honorees:

Dr. Julie Birt – Administrative/Professional Staff

Willie Brown, Jr. – Crafts/Maintenance Staff

Secley Kennedy – Clerical/Office Staff

Ken Neff – Part-Time/Temporary Staff

Peter Norgard – Technical/Paraprofessional Staff

Guy Wilson – UM System Staff

Congratulations to all award and milestone recipients. I’d also like to thank the Staff Advisory Council for organizing this important week of appreciation. I’m grateful for the hard work and dedication shown by each of our staff members.

— Mun

IPG hosts global gathering of research leaders

President Choi addressing attendees during the IPG Symposium.
President Choi addressing attendees during the IPG Symposium.

I was pleased to address the annual symposium of the Interdisciplinary Plant Group (IPG) at the Bond Life Sciences Center. Founded in 1981, IPG has grown from nine original members to more than 50 teams in three MU colleges, the School of Medicine and the USDA-ARS Plant Genetics Research Unit in Columbia. This collaboration also brings together partners throughout the state, including from MU Extension and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.

This year’s symposium unites around 200 global leaders in plant science and features speakers from the U.S., the U.K., Spain, South Korea and Germany. We’re also proud to celebrate the symposium’s 40th anniversary. It’s a remarkable accomplishment and shows IPG’s reputation for research excellence.

The symposium’s topic, “Plant Hormones at the Intersection of Stress and Development,” covers critical research in agriculture and biology, among many areas, as well as potential impacts to human health. These important discussions improve food security, contribute to lifesaving pharmaceuticals and benefit communities around the world.

Thank you to IPG Director David Braun and all who helped organize this year’s symposium. Global issues require global solutions. IPG’s collaborative focus is central to our mission as a land-grant university.

— Mun

Mizzou student and alumni win Pulitzer Prize

Lisa Krantz & Tim Elfrink
Lisa Krantz & Tim Elfrink

Lisa Krantz, a Mizzou doctoral candidate and teaching fellow, is among The Washington Post staff members recently honored with a Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.

Lisa joins three Mizzou alumni also on the award-winning team: Tim Elfrink, deputy editor for political investigations, Amy Fiscus, deputy national editor, and Monique Woo, photo assignment editor.

Amy Fiscus & Monique Woo
Amy Fiscus (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post) & Monique Woo (Mo Rodman/The Washington Post)

These incredible journalists join more than 50 Mizzou students and faculty honored with Pulitzer Prizes. Many additional Tigers have been recognized as finalists across various Pulitzer categories.

Congratulations to Lisa, Tim, Amy and Monique! Their success is part of a long tradition of excellence at the Missouri School of Journalism.

— Mun

Commencement weekend celebrates Tiger excellence

(Left to right) President Choi, Sarah Leen, Dr. Gilbert Ross, Dr. Marcia Chatelain and Interim Provost Matt Martens during a brunch celebrating honorary degree recipients.

(Left to right) President Choi, Sarah Leen, Dr. Gilbert Ross, Dr. Marcia Chatelain and Interim Provost Matt Martens during a brunch celebrating honorary degree recipients.

Congratulations to the more than 5,100 students graduating this weekend! I’m so proud of their accomplishments and know they are prepared to lead our state and nation.

As we celebrate the Class of 2024, I also want to recognize four incredible MU alumni receiving honorary degrees. An honorary degree is the highest form of recognition offered by the university. We are pleased to acknowledge their many contributions to Mizzou and their fields.

 Dr. Marcia Chatelain is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a widely published scholar. She is currently the Penn President Compact Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

 Sarah Leen is an award-winning photojournalist and former director of photography at National Geographic. She now serves as a photo editor, teacher and mentor to a new generation of visual storytellers.

 Dr. Gilbert Ross orchestrated mid-Missouri’s first kidney transplant surgery and is a founding member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons. He has spent more than 60 years serving throughout the MU School of Medicine.

Don Walsworth

Don Walsworth will receive an honorary degree during the Trulaske College of Business ceremony.

 Don Walsworth is a well-known business leader, former chair of the Board of Curators and an incredible supporter of the university and Mizzou Athletics. He is CEO of Walsworth, Inc., one of the nation’s largest book and magazine publishers.

I look forward to formally recognizing our honorary degree recipients – and all Mizzou graduates – at commencement ceremonies throughout the weekend.


— Mun

Guggenheim Fellow is newest MizzouForward faculty member 

Dr. Utku Asuroglu
Dr. Utku Asuroglu

Mizzou’s own Utku Asuroglu, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in composition at the School of Music, was recently named a 2024 Guggenheim Fellow. This fellowship is one of the most prestigious and competitive in the country. Dr. Asuroglu is the only 2024 recipient from Missouri. 

We’re proud to announce that Dr. Asuroglu is also our newest MizzouForward hire! He is the 21st MizzouForward faculty in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the 71st overall. Dr. Asuroglu will be teaching courses in music composition and electronic music. 

Mizzou was the first university in the nation to offer postdoctoral fellowships in composition, thanks to the visionary support of Curator Jeanne Cairns Sinquefield and Rex Sinquefield. Because of MizzouForward, Dr. Asuroglu will continue to share his incredible talent with our community and grow our reputation as a center for contemporary music.  

Congratulations, Dr. Asuroglu! 

— Mun

Commending our world-class faculty 

(From left to right): President Choi, Chair Wenneker, Kemper Fellow Chris Prestigiacomo, Commerce Bank Columbia President Sarah Dubbert, Kemper Fellow Amy Knopps, Kemper Fellow Seth Howes, Kemper Fellow Jason Furrer, Kemper Fellow Nicole Campione-Barr, Interim Provost Martens, Commerce Bank CEO of Missouri Markets Steve Sowers
(Left to right): President Choi, Board Chair Robin Wenneker, Chris Prestigiacomo, Commerce Bank Columbia President Sarah Dubbert, Amy Knopps, Seth Howes, Jason Furrer, Nicole Campione-Barr, Interim Provost Matt Martens and Commerce Bank CEO of Missouri Markets Steve Sowers

Last night, we celebrated the 2024 William T. Kemper Fellowships for Teaching Excellence, the highest teaching award given at Mizzou. Since 1991, Mizzou and Commerce Bank have worked together to recognize MU faculty members who demonstrate a deep commitment to student success.

Our 2024 Kemper winners are: 

Nicole Campione-Barr – professor of psychological sciences, College of Arts and Science 

Jason Furrer – associate teaching professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, School of Medicine 

Seth Howes – associate professor of German, College of Arts and Science 

Amy M. Knopps – associate director of bands and director of athletic bands, College of Arts and Science 

Chris Prestigiacomo – associate teaching professor and Vairam Arunachalam Distinguished Teaching Professor, Robert J. Trulaske, Sr. College of Business

Each fellow was introduced by a former student who shared the profound impact of our faculty. We were proud to honor them alongside their families, students, colleagues and past Kemper recipients. 

The Kemper Awards Ceremony concluded our annual Faculty Excellence Week. Across multiple events, including a Kickoff Celebration, Faculty Book Authors Celebration and a Faculty Awards Ceremony, our community came together to applaud faculty and their outstanding dedication to teaching, research and meaningful engagement.

Each day, Mizzou’s world-class faculty make valuable contributions to our state and society. I enjoyed recognizing their many accomplishments.

— Mun 

Honoring our incredible supporters and alumni

(Left to right) Jefferson Club Board of Trustees Chair Bill Roundtree, William F. "Bill" Baker, Dr. Dale E. Klein, Cindy Dudenhoffer (accepting on behalf of the late Anne R. Kenney), Steve Ellebracht, Dr. Jim Simón, John Anderson and President Choi
(Left to right) Jefferson Club Board of Trustees Chair Bill Roundtree, William F. “Bill” Baker, Dr. Dale E. Klein, Cindy Dudenhoffer (accepting on behalf of the late Anne R. Kenney), Steve Ellebracht, Dr. Jim Simón, John Anderson and President Choi

We recently welcomed loyal Tigers back to campus for Donor Recognition Weekend. Over the three-day celebration, we were proud to share our gratitude as well as our ambitions for continued excellence.

One of many highlights was the Jefferson Club Golden Quill Alumni Excellence Awards. We honored six distinguished MU alumni for demonstrating outstanding achievement in their fields:

John Anderson – ESPN SportsCenter anchor

William F. “Bill” Baker – regarded as the most important living structural engineer

Steve Ellebracht – founding principal of IsoTherapeutics, a leading radiopharmaceutical company

The late Anne R. Kenney – a pioneer in developing standards for digitizing library materials

Dr. Dale E. Klein – Reese Endowed Professor of Engineering at the University of Texas and former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

And Dr. Jim Simón – co-founder and chief scientific officer of IsoTherapeutics

AD Laird Veatch and his wife Brandy at the 2024 Jefferson Club Annual Dinner.
AD Laird Veatch and his wife Brandy at the 2024 Jefferson Club Annual Dinner.

We were also thrilled to welcome our new AD Laird Veatch and his wife Brandy to Saturday night’s Jefferson Club Annual Dinner – just one day after he was formally introduced to the Mizzou community. It was an opportunity for AD Veatch to meet fellow Tigers and to share his vision for winning championships.

We’re always pleased to thank those who support the university in so many ways. Whether it’s achieving record student success, victories on the field or incredible research breakthrough – our donors help shape the future of Mizzou.

— Mun

Experiencing world-class music in Columbia

(Left to right) Scott Yoo, Maurycy Banaszek, Peter Miyamoto and Sophie Shao performing at First Baptist Church of Columbia for “Quartets with Scott Yoo and Friends”

Columbia resident and internationally-renowned conductor Scott Yoo was joined by MU faculty and other virtuosic performers for concerts featuring the music of Brahms, Mozart and Fauré. These unique events are part of the 20th anniversary of the Odyssey Chamber Music Series, the only local organization specializing in chamber music.

Scott Yoo and Ayako Tsuruta

Maestro Yoo is an accomplished violinist, the host of PBS Great Performances’ “Now Hear This” series and the Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra. MU School of Music professors Peter Miyamoto (piano), Alice Dade (flute) and Odyssey’s Executive and Artistic Director Ayako Tsuruta were among those accompanying his powerful performances.

MU faculty Peter Miyamoto and Alice Dade

There’s a strong connection between Odyssey and Mizzou. Director Tsuruta came to Columbia in 2003 and is married to Professor Miyamoto. Maestro Yoo is married to Professor Dade and both are dedicated supporters of Odyssey and the creative community on campus and around mid-Missouri.

I’m grateful to Maestro Yoo, Director Tsuruta, our faculty and all the musicians for sharing their talent and artistic excellence.

— Mun

Global impact with Fulbright and International Programs 

Dr. Kattesh Katti
Dr. Kattesh Katti

Dr. Kattesh Katti, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute of Green Nanotechnology and of the University of Missouri Cancer Nanotechnology Platform, has been selected as a Fulbright specialist for 2024.

He is globally credited for inventing a new medical modality referred to as “Nano-Ayurvedic Medicine.” This innovative breakthrough combines nanomedicine with ayurveda, a millennia-old medical practice in India. As a Fulbright specialist, Dr. Katti will lead a six-week research mission at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. 

Dr. Katti is in good company. Mizzou’s International Programs works with the Fulbright Scholar Program to support educational excellence around the world. Dr. Katti joins at least four other MU faculty members who received Fulbright awards for the next academic year. New recipients will continue to be announced through the end of the semester. 

Congratulations to Dr. Katti – and all Mizzou Fulbright awardees – on their outstanding achievements! 

— Mun