WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Kay Garrett, former assistant professor of communications at Missouri State University-West Plains, will receive the Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award during the Missouri State University Alumni Association’s annual spring picnic for alumni and friends at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 1, in the exhibit hall at the West Plains Civic Center.
In its fifth year, the award recognizes extraordinary service among former employees of Missouri State-West Plains. Among the qualities considered are professional and/or academic achievements, as well as a demonstrated commitment to the university’s mission. Nominees must have been employed by the university for at least five years and must not currently be employed by the Missouri State University System.
“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award,” said Missouri State-West Plains Director of Development Joe Kammerer. “Kay continues to be an active member of the Missouri State-West Plains community, and her tireless efforts have not gone unnoticed by friends and colleagues. That is just her nature, helping others and working towards improving the quality of life for generations to come.”
Garrett, who received her bachelor’s degree in education from Missouri State University and her master’s degree in oral interpretation from the University of Missouri-Columbia, spent over 40 years in education, both at the secondary and collegiate levels, before her retirement in 2007. She first joined Missouri State-West Plains as a full-time instructor from 1969-1971 and, after brief stints as per course instructor at the campus and full-time debate and oral interpretation coach and English instructor at West Plains High School, she returned to Missouri State-West Plains as a full-time faculty member in 1991, quickly becoming known as an instructor with an endless passion for teaching students and helping them reach their goals.
Always believing that her students were capable of academic excellence, she instilled in them a confidence that enabled them to achieve high levels of competence in critical thinking, communication, valuing, information management and global awareness – the five educational goals of Missouri State-West Plains. “She designed and conducted her classes so that all who completed her courses mastered each of these skills, which are integral to success in every walk of life and in every field of endeavor,” one of her nominators said.
Garrett also was known for her creativity in teaching. “She constantly re-configured her classes to make them more challenging, more interesting and to improve the learning outcomes of her students. She created novel learning environments inside and outside the classroom, spending many extra hours of work to assure that her students had the richest possible learning experience,” one of her nominators said.
She also was integral in developing the campus’ University Life/Student Success” classes to help first-year students – many of whom are the first in their families to attend college – gain the skills they need to be successful in the collegiate environment. The time and effort she put into researching relevant data for the program, visiting with experts from similar programs across the country, and working with colleagues across disciplines allowed the university to develop a class that positively impacted student success rates. She continued her work in this realm afterward, chairing the Student Success Committee and promoting numerous efforts campuswide which positively affected learning outcomes.
Before her retirement, Garrett and her husband, the Honorable R. Jack Garrett, spent two semesters at Missouri State-West Plains’ campus at Liaoning Normal University in Dalian, China, teaching capstone courses to students and, as lifelong learners, soaking in the culture and lessons of a new culture. They also served as host family for four Chinese students who wanted to further their education.
Garrett’s service to the community is just as notable. She served on the Missouri Girls Town Board of Directors for 18 years, five of which were as president; she is a member and past president of the P.E.O. Sisterhood; she is a member of the West Plains Area Habitat for Humanity and the Southern Poverty Law Center; and she served many years as chairwoman of the six federated clubs’ Christmas Open Homes Tour, a fund raiser for Missouri Girls Town. Her enthusiasm and active involvement in numerous community causes and programs led the Business and Professional Women to name her Woman of the Year in 1985.
Although retired, Garrett does not rest on her laurels, instead choosing to continue her support of Missouri State-West Plains through active involvement in the Friends of the Garnett Library. She has served as the organization’s project chairman and president, helped raise $25,000 for library improvements, and spearheaded the 40,000 Book Campaign.
“Kay Garrett has given generously, consistently and graciously to our university over the years, both as a faculty member and a community member. Her efforts have enriched our university, our students and our region beyond all possible measure. We owe her a great debt of gratitude,” one of her nominators said.
The first Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award was given at the 2010 annual picnic to former Director of Development and Associate Professor of History Carol Silvey. In 2011, the award went to former Missouri State-West Plains Dean Marvin Green. In 2012, it was awarded to former Professor of English Dr. Connie O’Neal, and in 2013, it was given to former Assistant Professor of Mathematics Rita Fugate.
The annual picnic is free and open to all Missouri State University alumni and friends; however, reservations should be made prior to the event, organizers said. For more information or to make reservations, call the Missouri State-West Plains development office at 417-255-7240.