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March 19, 2015 Volume 36, No. 24

A political science alumnus donates $1 million to boost College of Arts and Science professors

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From left, Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, Tom Hiles, vice chancellor for advancement, and Mark Wilkins share a moment March 13 at the gift announcement in the Reynolds Alumni Center. Photo by Rob Hill.

The first college paper Mark Wilkins ever wrote could have been his undoing.

“There was a sea of red ink — more red ink than I’d imagined could be on a paper in my life,” he said, describing the pages Elaine Lawless, now a newly retired Curators Professor of English and Folklore Studies, handed back to him in her 1986 introductory English class.

He didn’t know it then, but it was a turning point in Wilkins’ development, not just academically but also personally.

“She taught me how to write, and, more important, she taught me how to think,” said Wilkins, BA ’90. “If you take a step back, thinking and communicating, if you can do that, all other things are possible.”

Giving Back

It was the first of many moments at Mizzou, both in class and on the job, that a professor or staff member challenged Wilkins to think bigger and perform better.

And it is the same challenge he levied back to his alma mater March 13, with a $1 million gift to create the Mark A. Wilkins Fund for Excellence in the College of Arts and Science.

“This gift is a thank-you for what happened in the past,” Wilkins said during his gift announcement in the Reynolds Alumni Center, “but it’s also our challenge for what needs to happen in the future.”

Read the rest of Erik Potter’s story at Mizzou News.