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Scholarship Supports Students and Honors MU Grad Who Died on 9-11

May 29, 2007

Story Contact:  Katherine Kostiuk, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — John Charles Willett, a 1995 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, died in the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. Now, a scholarship established in his honor is helping MU students pursue their dreams.

When he died, Willett was 29 and worked at a subsidiary of Cantor Fitzgerald on the 101st floor of the north tower. After his death, his parents — Ron and Lucille Willett of Walnut Shade, Mo. — established a scholarship for students majoring in economics at MU. They announced at John Charles' memorial service that all gifts would go toward this scholarship, and many friends contributed to the fund.

“With this scholarship, the Willetts have turned the tragedy of their son's death into hope and support for MU students who are struggling to pursue their dreams,” said MU Chancellor Brady Deaton. “This generosity means so much to MU and to the students who benefit from it.”

Lucille said her son was interested in politics, and she wonders where his career could have led. When John Charles was 23 years old, then Gov. Mel Carnahan appointed him treasurer of Taney County, the youngest such treasurer in Missouri.

“John Charles knew what these students are going through,” Ron said. “He paid for his education with grants and loans, and was still working to pay off loans when he was killed.”

The John Charles Willett Memorial Scholarship provides one or more annual awards to students who demonstrate financial need. It also encourages recipients to participate in a mentoring program for other students, especially minority students, both while at MU and after completing their degrees.

Samantha Dalton, a recipient of the scholarship, wrote in a thank-you letter to the scholarship's donors that she was “honored to be receiving a scholarship in memorial of someone who did so much for the world.”

“There is always a moment when a student like myself gets so extremely stressed and bogged down by the financial stress of higher education that it seems like it is impossible to continue due to extreme budget constraints, but this scholarship will assist me so much in my final undergraduate year,” Dalton said in the letter.

The Willetts have made a point to get to know the recipients of the scholarship they created. Ron said that he and his wife enjoy sharing their son's values and dreams. The John Charles Willett Memorial Scholarship provided $2,000 of support for one student in 2006 and $1,500 of support for two students in 2007.

This gift is part of the For All We Call Mizzou campaign, which will celebrate raising $1 billion in the spring of 2009. Reaching this goal will enhance MU's ability to compete nationally and internationally for the best students and faculty and will provide broad access for students of all economic backgrounds to Missouri's flagship University. The campaign has raised $793.75 million.