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University Affairs Leader at MU to Retire

January 7th, 2014

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­—Chris Koukola, who has led the University of Missouri’s communication efforts for nearly 28 years, has announced she will retire. Koukola will leave her position as assistant to the chancellor for university affairs on Jan. 31, 2014.

As the chief public affairs officer at Mizzou, she has been responsible for an integrated communication, relationship-building and advocacy program that links MU to multiple stakeholders. The university functions she oversees include Constituent Relations, Legislative Liaison/Advocacy, Marketing Communications, MU News Bureau, Publications and Alumni Communication, University Events, Visitor Relations, and Web Communications.

“I have been honored to work for one of our nation’s great flagship universities with the excellent staff members in our University Affairs division, under the leadership of outstanding chancellors, and with colleagues and alumni who truly personify ‘One Mizzou,’ ” Koukola said. “I leave knowing that our public affairs staff now has the opportunity to support yet another great leader for Mizzou, Dr. Bowen Loftin.”

“The applause for Chris Koukola will resound throughout the University of Missouri in praise and appreciation of her 28 years of service and significant contributions to the University of Missouri, but no applause will be greater than my own,” said Brady Deaton, MU chancellor emeritus who served as chancellor from 2004 through 2013. “Since I began working with campus administration in 1989, Chris has been my wise counsel and provided me with her sound judgment in every aspect of public communication of the mission and matters critical to MU. I, along with the entire university, relied with great confidence on her skillful guidance of an outstanding staff to present the strengths and achievement of students, faculty, staff, athletics and alums, and to create memorable events that celebrated accomplishments of the Mizzou family and welcomed visitors from across the country and globe to our campus. Using all forms of media, Chris showcased MU’s excellence and values; she will be sorely missed — but, again, by no one more than myself and my wife, Anne.”

Koukola received the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Geyer Award in 2009, which is presented annually to one elected official and one citizen who have made a positive impact on higher education and MU. She currently serves as a member of the Public Affairs Committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and on the Executive Committee of the Southeastern Conference Communicators Association.

She also has served as a board member and president of the Heart of Missouri United Way and as a member of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce board of directors. She currently is vice president of the Central Missouri Humane Society board. Prior to joining MU in 1986, Koukola served as director of information services and publications at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“I treasured my time working with Chris,” said Richard Wallace, MU chancellor emeritus who served as chancellor from 1997 to 2004. “She was an invaluable member of chancellor’s staff, and from the outset, I recognized that her role far exceeded her title and job description. There were few if any initiatives and issues for which her frank and most insightful advice was not sought. She contributed substantially to better decisions and a better university. I personally owe her very much, and I feel strongly that the same is true for this institution that she has both served and loved.”

Mary Jo Banken, executive director of the MU News Bureau and a 25-year employee of the university, will serve as interim in Koukola’s position, effective Feb. 1, 2014.

Officials will conduct a national search to find a permanent replacement.