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Nearly 5,500 Graduates to Receive Degrees from Mizzou

University officials will award an honorary degree to Pat Jones, CAFNR alumna, conservationist, ‘mother’ of the Katy Trail

May 8th, 2017

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – During the weekend of May 12-14, 5,484 students will receive degrees during spring commencement exercises at the University of Missouri. University officials also will honor Mizzou alumna, conservationist and “mother” of the Katy Trail, Pat Jones, with an honorary degree.

“Commencement weekend is a time to celebrate the hard work and achievements of all our graduates,” said Pelema Morrice, vice provost for enrollment management at MU. “The University of Missouri is proud of their achievements and confident that they will continue to be successful after graduation as members of the Mizzou Alumni Association.”

During commencement weekend, MU will award 6,088 degrees, including 4,450 bachelor’s degrees, 967 master’s degrees, 338 doctorates, 99 law degrees, 112 veterinary medicine degrees, 100 medicine degrees and 22 education specialist degrees. Some students will receive more than one degree. More than 500 students will graduate from MU’s online program, Mizzou Online. Students in the online program come from 45 states and eight countries.

Each school and college at MU holds separate ceremonies for commencement, and many invite notable speakers to address the graduates. Speakers at this year’s commencement ceremonies include:

  • Former Interim University of Missouri System President Michael Middleton will speak at the College of Arts and Science ceremony on May 13.
  • Carol S. Comer, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, will speak at the School of Natural Resources ceremony on May 13.
  • Marina Walter Guevara, MU alumna and deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, will speak at the School of Journalism ceremony on May 14.
  • Judge Patricia Breckenridge, chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court, will speak at the School of Law ceremony on May 14.

Note: A detailed schedule of events and biographical information of the honorary degree recipient, Pat Jones, are attached.

For more information on the commencement ceremonies and Columbia accommodations, please visit:

MU Spring Commencement 2017

Schedule of Events

Note: Students in the School of Social Work will participate in the College of Human Environmental Sciences ceremony. Students in the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs will participate in the Graduate School ceremony for master’s and educational specialist candidates. The School of Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources will hold a separate commencement ceremony.

Friday, May 12

College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources

1 p.m.

Hearnes Center
Darryl Chatman, member of the Board of Curators, UM System


College of Veterinary Medicine

2 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Ron Cott, former associate dean for student and alumni affairs and executive director for advancement at the College of Veterinary Medicine


Office of Graduate Studies (Master’s and Educational Specialist candidates)

4:30 p.m.

Mizzou Arena


College of Human Environmental Sciences/School of Social Work

7:30 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Jim Spain, vice provost for undergraduate studies


Saturday, May 13

Honors Convocation

8:30 a.m.

Mizzou Arena

Speaker: Pat Jones, honorary degree recipient


School of Medicine

9:30 a.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Rachel Brown, professor of clinical psychiatry, associate dean for student affairs, and diversity and inclusion officer at Central Michigan University College of Medicine in Mount Pleasant, Michigan


Trulaske College of Business

12:30 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Andy Miller, MU alumnus and recent retiree of EY


School of Natural Resources

1:30 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Carol S. Comer, director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources


College of Arts and Science

4 p.m.

Mizzou Arena

Speaker: Michael Middleton, former interim UM System president


Office of Graduate Studies (hooding ceremony for doctoral candidates)

5 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall


School of Health Professions
7:30 p.m.
Hearnes Center

Speaker: Richard Oliver, founding dean of the School of Health Professions


Sunday, May 14

School of Journalism

11 a.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Marina Walter Guevara, MU alumna and deputy director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


School of Law

12:30 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Judge Patricia Breckenridge, MU Law alumna and chief justice of the Supreme Court of Missouri


College of Engineering

2:30 p.m.

Mizzou Arena

Speaker:  Thompson Lin, founder, chairman and CEO of Applied Optoelectronics, Inc.


Sinclair School of Nursing

4 p.m.

Jesse Auditorium, Jesse Hall

Speaker: Pam Evans-Smith, assistant teaching professor and Alberty Richardson Faculty Scholar in Medical/Surgical Nursing


College of Education

5:30 p.m.

Hearnes Center

Speaker: Carla London, director of student services for Columbia Public Schools


Pat Jones Biography

Conservationist Pat Jones has been touted the “mother of the Katy trail” and the “Prairie Godmother,” but her generosity to the state of Missouri extends beyond these monikers. She has donated millions of dollars to conservation efforts and the University of Missouri and has supported education and Missouri businesses in the process.

In 1910, her family purchased a 10-acre area that has since grown to 900 acres and is known as the Young Conservation Area. Jones began her passion for conservation at a young age. She spent much of her childhood enjoying weekend getaways to the country, where she first fell in love with the prairie. Following her passion, she went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in soil science from the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Jones met her husband, Edward D. “Ted” Jones, while on a bicycling trip in 1940. Their mutual love of the outdoors and biking would be the catalyst for their greatest conservation success — the Katy Trail.

On a 1980 trip to Wisconsin, Ted Jones saw a rails-to-trails bicycle trail. The 1968 National Trails System Act had granted states the power to turn old railway corridors into trails. To fund a similar trail in Missouri, Pat and Ted donated $2.2 million to acquire an out-of-use 225-mile railway corridor to convert it into a home for nature, cycling, hiking and conservation.

The now 240-mile Katy Trail spans the state of Missouri, serves nearly 400,000 hikers, cyclists and naturalists annually and has brought an estimated $18.5 million to the businesses that line the trail.

However, the Katy Trail is just one of Jones’ many acts of generosity. In 1997, Pat Jones donated her 711-acre farm and home in central Missouri to the Missouri Department of Conservation and to MU so that it could be preserved, restored and used as an educational tool for children. She also established an endowment, now valued at $3.7 million, to support management, research and conservation education at Prairie Fork, Missouri.

Similarly, in 1999, Jones purchased and donated the Dunn Ranch Preserve, a 3,680-acre area in northwest Missouri, which has been instrumental in tall grass prairie restoration and expansion as well as in prairie chicken restoration; the Preserve anchors a 70,000-acre conservation project.

In 2014, Jones pledged $1.6 million to her alma mater to establish an endowment for a youth program and faculty position in conservation. Jones also is a generous donor to the Missouri Prairie Foundation’s Prairie Garden Grant Fund and the Prairie Stewardship Fund.

Today, Jones remains a staunch advocate for conservation as she continues to support conservation efforts and education.