Story by Marcus Wilkins

The Mowrer family stands shoulder-to-shoulder outside of Kaldi's Coffee, smiling at the camera.
The Mowrer family of Kennett, Missouri, represents the third and fourth generations of Mowrers — dating back to the 1940s — to attend Mizzou. From left: William, BS Ed ’93; Alli, health sciences major; Melinda, BS HES ’93; and Hannah, health sciences major. Photo by Michael Boyer

“Hi, are you all here for a tour?” asks a beaming Alli Mowrer from behind the reception desk. “Welcome to Mizzou!”

The handpicked student desk attendants — or “deskies,” as they are affectionately called — often initiate the first face-to-face Mizzou interaction for new Tiger families as they enter the Office of Admissions. Friendly, knowledgeable and eager to help, each crew member seems born for the job, their DNA teeming with black and gold.

This is practically the genetic truth for Mowrer, a senior health sciences student and a fourth-generation Missouri Tiger. Her great grandfather, “Papaw” John Mowrer, BS Ag ’43, PhD ’74, was a professor in MU Extension. Her great grandmother, Valdeen Mowrer, AFNR ’42, worked as an admissions advisor from 1965–86.

The picture on the left is black-and-white. Mike and Jean are sitting for a portrait in front of a banner at a formal event. Mike is wearing a tuxedo and has his arm around Jean, who is wearing an evening dress and white gloves, and is leaning toward Mike. The picture on the right is of Mike and Jean standing in front of one of the Columns at night. Mike is wearing a dark suit and Jean a green dress.
Mike and Jean Mowrer, who originally hail from Unionville, Missouri, attended numerous Mizzou formal events in the 1960s. The photo on the right was taken in 1967 before commencement for a graduating friend. The couple, the second generation of Mowrers at Mizzou, settled down and started a family in Kennett, Missouri. Photos courtesy of Mike and Jean Mowrer

“Growing up, I originally thought great grandma Valdeen worked in Ellis Library,” says Alli, of Kennett, Missouri. “But it makes it special that she actually worked in admissions.”

Mizzou diplomas festoon the Mowrer family tree like acorns on a Francis Quadrangle oak. Grandpa Mike Mowrer, BS Ag ’67, JD ’76, a U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran, was performing ROTC drills on campus when he learned of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Grandma Jean, BS Ed ’68, recalls the strict dress code and curfew for the women of Johnston Hall where she was a resident assistant.

“I also remember being serenaded by the fraternities between Johnston and Wolpers,” says Jean, an audible smile in her voice. “And Mike gave me roses.”

Alli’s mom, Melinda Kirklin Mowrer, BS HES ’93, and dad, William, BS Ed ’93, kept busy with Kappa Alpha Theta and Phi Gamma Delta, respectively.

“We never missed a game, and you had to be a true fan back then,” says Melinda, recalling some lean years of Tiger football. “We were at the fifth-down game and the first night game. We weren’t getting the W’s, but at least there was some history happening.”

Alli, Hannah and William sit around a table at Kaldi's. Alli smiles across the table at her father. Hannah is laughing and looking at her mother, not pictured. William looks straight ahead.
The Mowrer family visited at Kaldi’s before the family weekend game. From left, Alli, Hannah and William. Photo by Michael Boyer

If you’ve ever wondered how campus and Columbia have evolved through the generations, just ask the Mowrers. The Shack, The Stables, Ernie’s Steak House, The Old Heidelberg — some hangouts defunct, some still going strong. The family rarely misses a Homecoming, and William and Melinda returned Sept. 22, for the Georgia game and Family Weekend.

“Downtown Columbia has changed so much over the years,” William says. “It’s a destination now. We love MidiCi Pizza, but we still always hit Shakespeare’s even if we call it in before the drive home to Kennett.”

The latest in the lineage is Hannah, Alli’s freshman younger sister who lives in Johnston Hall, just like her grandmother. The sisters followed their parents into Greek life, both joining the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Although the girls were raised in the Bootheel — and even took piano lessons from Bernice Crow, mother of Kennett native Sheryl Crow, BS Ed ’84 — CoMo is where the heart is.

“I haven’t felt homesick at all,” says Hannah, perfectly summarizing the Mowrer-Mizzou connection. “Maybe that’s partly because Alli is here, but I don’t really feel like I’ve left home. I’m at home, just in a different place.”

Degree guide
AFNR: Attended the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
BS Ag: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture
BS Ed: Bachelor of Science in Education
BS HES: Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences
JD: Juris Doctorate
PhD: Doctor of Philosophy