State Sen. Mike Parson and R. Bowen Loftin

State Sen. Mike Parson, left, winner of a 2014 Henry S. Geyer Award, talks with Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin at a Jan. 12 award reception in Jefferson City. The Mizzou Legislative Network, which gives the awards, also honored Wally Pfeffer.

Last night at a reception in Jefferson City, the name of Henry Geyer, a legislator born in 1790, was on the lips of Mizzou alumni leaders and Missouri legislators. The crowd gathered to fete winners of the Geyer Award, which the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Mizzou Legislative Network has presented annually since 1992 to a public official and a private citizen who have improved the situation of higher education and Mizzou. The 2014 Geyer Award recipients are state Sen. Mike Parson of Bolivar, Missouri, and Mutual of Omaha agent Wally Pfeffer of Columbia.

Today, government’s role in education is clear, but when Geyer was born, the United States was still taking shape. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court met for the first time, President George Washington gave the first state-of-the-union address, and Thomas Jefferson became his secretary of state. Almost half a century later, Geyer had become an accomplished lawyer and Missouri legislator, and the state was still building its infrastructure. Following the example of Jefferson, who founded the University of Virginia, Geyer drafted legislation that established the University of Missouri in 1839 and set the course for Missouri public higher education for the future.

Mike Parson

In 2014, Parson led the effort to increase Missouri’s bonding capacity so that key maintenance and repair work could take place. At Mizzou, the first funded project is Lafferre Hall, which houses engineering programs. Parson represents the 28th District in the Missouri Senate, which includes Barton, Benton, Cedar, Dallas, Henry, Hickory, Pettis, Polk and St. Clair counties. After serving as Polk County sheriff for 12 years, Parson won election to the Missouri House of Representatives in 2004. He is Senate majority whip and vice chairman of the agriculture, food production and outdoor resources committee, and he serves on the small business, insurance and industry committee. Parson runs his cow-calf operation near Bolivar.

Wally Pfeffer

Pfeffer, who graduated from MU in 1989, served as the chair of the Mizzou Legislative Network Committee from 2009 to 2013 and remains a member of the committee. The network is a grassroots advocacy coalition of Mizzou alumni, students and friends who volunteer to contact their legislators about issues of import to the university. During Pfeffer’s time as chair, he testified before House and Senate committees regarding higher-education funding and scholarships and legislation to create citizen-approved consolidated extension districts. During his tenure, network membership grew to more than 5,000. Pfeffer’s volunteer work for the Boone County Chapter of the alumni association spans three decades, and he served on the association’s national governing board from 1994 to 2013.

See more photos from the 2014 Geyer Awards »