Story by Kelsey Allen, BA, BJ ’10

Matë Antonic’s work and his family’s life in Missouri are featured in two displays, one in the A.P. Green Chapel and another in Memorial Union. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

Matt’s Magnum Opus

Many Mizzou students spend their Friday nights in downtown Columbia, bouncing between Shakespeare’s, Harpo’s and Booches. Not Matt Antonic. For the past five years, he’s been bathed in Friday night lights, reporting on high school football across the state of Missouri for the Columbia Missourian and the Columbia Daily Tribune.

The senior journalism major from Overland Park, Kansas, who graduates on Friday, Dec. 13, earned his chops as a digital producer for KOMU’s Friday Night Fever. His first gig — manning the social media live feed for the Marshall-Smith-Cotton game — was less than a month after he arrived at Mizzou.

Journalism major Matt Antonic graduates Friday, Dec. 13. Photo courtesy of Matt Antonic

“The director would just tell me where to go, I’d drive out there and write the story,” Antonic recalls. “There was no barrier to entry. That’s one of the real benefits of the Missouri School of Journalism — the incredible ease with which anyone can get involved. A freshman can show up and say, ‘I’d like to be a part of this,’ and you start learning right then and there. It feels weird realizing how far I’ve come.”

These days, Antonic doesn’t just show up on game day. He investigates the players, coaches and the significance of the game. He arrives at the stadium early to develop sources and soak up the atmosphere. And once play starts, Antonic is not just covering the game — he’s rooting out the story behind the game.

So when Antonic saw a star player doing pushups in the end zone after he’d rushed for 296 yards and two touchdowns, he started digging. The result was a portfolio-worthy profile on one of the best high school running backs in the state.

“The smallest little thing can turn into a story if you keep your eyes and ears open,” Antonic says. “If I had turned my music on as I walked off the field after doing interviews, I would have never gotten that story.”

Not far away on campus, another Mizzou student was doing her own digging.

A Curator’s Chisel

Kaitlin Grimes at the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Grimes

Kaitlin Grimes is a doctoral candidate in the art history program in the School of Visual Studies and the public art curator for the Missouri Student Unions. For the past year and a half, she’s been working on two exhibits about Matë Antonic — Antonic’s great-grandpa and one of the stonemasons who built the A.P. Green Chapel on MU’s campus.

Matë immigrated to the U.S. in 1923 from what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Armed only with a third-grade education, he worked his way up to becoming a master stonemason in St. Louis. In the late 1950s, the company he worked for was subcontracted to build the chapel. Matë lived in a trailer in Columbia for four months while he cut and laid the stone using steel chisels and hammers.

“He had forearms like 4x4s and wrists like 2x4s,” recalls Craig Antonic, BA ’85, who donated his grandpa’s collection of tools, many handmade, to the university in 2018.

So while the chapel was undergoing minor renovations this past year (adding fire sprinklers, painting the walls, replacing the carpet), Grimes was curating an exhibition on its construction.

But just like Matt, she wanted to offer more than a play-by-play.

“There was something that pulled at me about this story,” Grimes says. “I had a grandfather who was very handy and was an artist. Matë was very much an artist with his stonemasonry work. I understood the importance of this to the Antonic family.”

So Grimes started gathering notes and figuring out the story she wanted to tell. She pored over pictures and stories Craig sent about his grandfather’s life. She spent hours with a local mason who identified each of Matë’s tools. She dug in the archives, searching for details on other projects he worked on, including the Seven-Up headquarters building and the Old Cathedral in St. Louis. And she even researched the RMS Berengaria, the ocean liner Matë took to Ellis Island in 1923.

The result is two museum-quality exhibition cases —  one in the chapel and a supplementary exhibit in the South Wing of Memorial Union outside the Jesse Wrench Auditorium — featuring Matë’s work as a stonemason and the Antonic family’s life in Missouri, dating back to 1891.

Grimes and the Antonics were planning to meet on Matt’s graduation day, but in November, she got a text from Craig. “I just couldn’t wait any longer. I couldn’t stand it. I just had to get there and see it,” he says.

A Legacy in Stone

So on a sunny, brisk fall morning, Grimes unveiled the exhibits to Craig, his sister and his son. “I was taken aback,” Matt says. “It’s one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen two pictures of my great-grandpa, and he’s not smiling in either of him. I look in this exhibit — and there’s his passport photo and he’s smiling!”

Grimes tells Matë Antonic’s story with photos, documents and tools. Sam O’Keefe/University of Missouri

Craig echoes his sentiment: “The experience was so surreal and emotional. When I was in school, I realized the significance of it. But as I got older, the significance became even larger. The chapel was the magnum opus of my grandpa’s career. You can see the cut marks in the stone. They’re marks from his chisels! It’s amazing.”

When Craig was a student at Mizzou, he’d step into the chapel in between classes for a moment of peace and quiet. During Matt’s last semester at Mizzou, he ducked into the chapel every now and then to reflect on his time in Columbia: Early mornings rooting for Mizzou football in the official student cheering section, Tiger’s Lair. Afternoon study sessions with lifelong friends made in the Sports Journalism freshman interest group (FIG). Late nights on Stankowski Field playing flag football through RecSports.

Like many alumni, it’s the people Matt will miss the most after he moves to Kansas to attend Wichita State University’s sport management graduate degree program.

“Before Mizzou, I lived in the same place my entire life,” he says. “Being around people from all different experiences, I changed for the better. I learned more about the world. But I stayed true to who I was, and I can leave without regrets.”

 

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