MU Chancellor Visits Students, Community
CAPTION: University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin (left) tours the Litton Agri-Science Learning Center campus during his visit to Chillicothe on Tuesday. He is shown here with Ed Turner, a former member and past president of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, and ag instructor Neal Wolf.
University of Missouri Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin visited Chillicothe on Tuesday, talking with nearly 300 4-H and FFA students in the morning and then later met with University of Missouri Extension staff members and local business leaders during an afternoon luncheon. There were 268 4-H and FFA students from Chillicothe High School, Southwest R-1 and Tina-Avalon, as well as a few other schools, filling the Mervyn Jenkins Expo Center for the chancellor's visit. Loftin gave an overview of what he does and then answered questions from the students. He talked to them about his own agriculture background, stating that he was born in Texas and grew up in a ranching/farming family. "I grew up in a pretty tough environment," he said. "We had no money, but we had plenty of food. But it was OK. I learned a lot of lessons that way. You learn a lot through agricultural life. You learn about integrity, hard work and people."
After meeting with the students, Loftin toured the Litton Agri-Science Learning Center Campus. Construction of the first building was completed in 1994 and since that time, the campus has expanded to include an archery range, a hog facility (now being expanded for a second time), a livestock building, horse arena, campground, an ag education building and additional features. All but a small portion of the ag education building was constructed through donations.
Neal Wolf, ag education instructor at Grand River Technical School, provided highlights of the campus' use. In 2013, there were 42 students who housed 62 animals at the center; and in 2014, there were 50 students who housed 71 animals at the center. He also told the chancellor that there is strong 4-H and FFA involvement at the state fair and that this year there were 105 youth exhibiting at the fair and, for the third year in a row, Livingston County received the Missouri State Fair Governor's Cup, which is based upon the number of state fair exhibitors and their placements. Livingston County has received that award 11 of the last 15 years.
Wolf also explained that there were 42 activities based out of the Jenkins Expo Center covering 126 days and that there were 164 activities covering 151 days at the Mildred Litton building.
Loftin met with community leaders and MU Extension staff members to discuss programming in agriculture, 4-H, food / nutrition, business and community development and emergency management. Presentations highlighted Extension programming in youth development, including the 4-H LIFE program, which addresses the needs of children with incarcerated parents, and a pilot project training program for responding to animal and agricultural emergencies. "It is an extraordinary community," Loftin said later in the day during the luncheon gathering of community leaders and MU Extension staff members. "I was so taken by a number of things. The energy here, and the commitment to education is extraordinary. You're doing the right thing. Investing in education is the biggest payback there is, personally, and as a community." The chancellor also complimented the community on the Litton Agri-Science Learning Center. "It's an extraordinary facility," he said. "To have that facility here is a great investment. Your children here are benefiting immensely from the assets you have put in place here. To have it paid for through philanthropy astounds me. It speaks to the community, the love and appreciation of education. Clearly, you are concerned about education."
Loftin said the University of Missouri reached a couple of milestones this year in that the university is 175 years old this year and that the University of Missouri Extension Service is 100 years old. He talked about how his father utilized the University Extension services weekly in his farming business and noted how the services offered through Extension have expanded. "We now have individuals involved with leadership, nutrition and youth (4-H)," he said. "All aspects of your lives here can be affected by the presence right here in this county through MU extension. We're not just a place down in Columbia; they are right here with you, day in and day out, helping you do things better." He also talked about MU being a land grant institution committed to access and research and that it is a great asset for the state. "We are the largest institution for higher education in Missouri," Loftin said. "We are the most comprehensive institution in Missouri. One of the important things about Mizzou is not just its academic programs, which are world class, very impactful and very important to anybody's future. It's also a place you can find leadership. We have so many organizations. It's a practical place to learn to become a leader. Your diploma gets your first job, perhaps; but, after that, you are the one shaping your destiny."
The chancellor also noted the challenges of managing space with a growing enrollment (2.5 percent increase this year), and Missouri, as a state, that is not growing. He said the university is making an effort to become a better partner with the private sector in developing businesses in Columbia and across the state to give the kind of jobs to the graduates that they want to keep them in Missouri. "They may come from Minnesota or Texas, but if they come here and they love being here, we need to give them the economic ability to make a good living here so that when they get out, they'll stay," Loftin said. "That grows the tax base, it grows the economy, it helps our state to improve."