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Oct. 31, 2013 Volume 35, No. 11

Staff member reflects on MU’s 150th as the 175-year celebration nears

Jane Harmon

Janie Ausburn Harmon started at MU 25 years ago as a University Events organizer during the sesquicentennial.
Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Janie Ausburn Harmon grew up in Columbia and graduated from Stephens College with a bachelor’s of business administration. She worked for a few years in radio advertising sales, but when she heard about a job opening at MU — a one-year position to assist with the university’s 150th anniversary in 1989 — she wanted the job. 

“I just knew that this celebration was going to change the way Missourians perceived the university,” Harmon said. “And I believe it did.”

Hired by Chris Koukola, then assistant vice chancellor of University Relations and now assistant to the chancellor for University Affairs, Harmon organized the Missouri Young Artist competition, which brought in artwork from around the state for presentation at MU’s Bingham Gallery; planned the Founders Day Barbecue; and hosted the traveling exhibit The Spirit of Mizzou — Moving On

A museum housed in a 48-foot moving van, the exhibit highlighted many aspects of the university, including its history, research breakthroughs, and faculty, student and alumni successes. 

Displays featured props such as a world map showing where alumni lived and the balloon MU Professor Emeritus Zuhdi Lababidi used in 1982 to perform the first pediatric angioplasty to correct aortic valve stenosis in newborns. 

To prepare for her docent role, Harmon pored over brochures and University Archive documents. 

“Folks asked me about admissions, extension, alumni and even advice on growing tomatoes,” Harmon said. “It was a great way to learn about all parts of the university.” 

Along with The Shelter Insurance Sesquicentennial Singers, a group of eight students who performed a song-and-dance show about MU’s history, the van traveled to 44 destinations, from the Missouri State Fair to summertime festivals. 

“Because of the thousands of Missourians and others reached with the events and marketing, the anniversary marked a new era for MU,” Harmon said. “It was important because it reminded people of the depth and breadth of the university, the rich history, all of the research findings that have bettered the world.”

As 1989 came to a close, Harmon knew she’d have to start looking for a new job. During that year, Harmon witnessed the development staff in action, hosting professional fundraisers and securing private funding. She saw the job she wanted — one that would put her previous sales experience to use. 

Jane Harmon

In 1989, Janie Ausburn Harmon joined Mizzou under a one-year contract as an organizer for the university’s 150th celebration. Among her duties was host of a traveling MU museum inside of a 48-foot moving van.
Publications file photo.

Since December 1989, Harmon has worked in development for the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; the School of Law; and the Trulaske College of Business. This summer, she joined University Development as the executive director for advancement. 

For the 175th anniversary, Harmon was consulted on how  planning and other aspects of the sesquicentennial might be appropriated to the 2014 celebration.
Meanwhile, in December, she has her own celebration: Harmon will have been at Mizzou for a quarter-century.
“It means so much to me to be able to say that I’ve been a part of the university for 25 years,” Harmon said.
“To be a part of how the institution changes lives — whether that’s strictly through the education of college students or through health care innovations or through MU Extension’s reach throughout the state — that is rewarding.”
— Kelsey Allen