Story by Brian Consiglio, strategic communication, '19 

It has been 40 years since Jess Bushyhead graduated from Mizzou, and he has been changing Hollywood’s film industry ever since. The Raytown, Missouri native traveled to Los Angeles a few months after graduation in 1978 to pursue a career in the television industry and has been calling California home ever since. In addition to editing, film production and electronics consultation, Bushyhead has gained extensive experience in Hollywood with graphics composition, feature documentaries and docu-drama reality.

As a television editor, producer and writer based in Los Angeles, Bushyhead has won six national Emmys working for cable outlets such as CNN, Country Music Television, HGTV, MSNBC, History Channel and the Oprah Winfrey Network. In May of 2018, almost 40 years to the day from his graduation, his niece Lauren Lopez, also from Kansas City, will receive her diploma from Mizzou. Bushyhead knows that because of Mizzou, Lauren will be ready for anything the world throws at her.

Picture of Jess Bushyhead in a helicopter after a tour in New Zealand.

Thanks to his Mizzou education, Bushyhead has traveled the world for his work, experiencing things like helicopter rides in New Zealand.

“Quite simply, Mizzou opened my eyes, mind and soul to the art of the possible, which for me has lasted a lifetime,” Bushyhead said.

A communications major at Mizzou, Bushyhead took classes that sparked his imagination like psychology, philosophy and even a history class called “Witchcraft in Salem.” His creativity also played a role during his time as a MU cheerleader. In fact, his time cheering for Mizzou can still be felt today.

"The word Mizzou wasn't popular much at all back then," Bushyhead said. "The university was always called MU or the University of Missouri.  "Mizzou was used back in the 1940's mainly by G.I.s returning from war but had faded a bit in the tumultuous 60's.  But I had always thought it sounded cool and catchy so I made the cheerleading squad put Mizzou on our uniforms.   Some of the girls hated it, but I was captain of the squad and the chairman of Homecoming, so I kind of forced the name to be revived at least as far as pep-rallies, signs and uniforms."

Picture of Jess Bushyhead doing a back flip at the Hearnes Center as a Mizzou Cheerleader in the late 1970s

Jess Bushyhead excites the crowd at the Hearnes Center during Mizzou Basketball with a daring back flip.

As we know, Mizzou stuck. Especially because of a fateful bus ride during the 1976 football season. On a trip back to Columbia after beating the Buckeyes in Columbus, the cheerleading squad and Marching Mizzou members were trying to figure out if Mizzou could have a catchy call and response similar to Ohio State's.

Picture of Jess Bushyhead in 1978 hugging a female cheerleader.

40 years later Jess Bushyhead still remembers the excitement of Mizzou's stunning win over Ohio State.

"We were seriously arguing about what type of response would work when suddenly a guy named Cedric Lemme, a Mini-Mizzou band member said, 'hey, why don't you guys try MIZ / ZOU?," Bushyhead recalled. "It was like a giant light-bulb went on — that's it!"

It took a few games for MIZ / ZOU to catch on, but once it did history was made.

"A sportswriter asked me about it a few years ago said, 'there's no place in the state you can go and just randomly yell, 'M-I-Z' and someone, or even a lot of someones, will answer, 'Z-O-U," Bushyhead said.  "So strange as it seems that cheer is apparently my biggest legacy to Mizzou… or perhaps getting everyone to call Mizzou 'Mizzou' instead of the staid University of Missouri or MU."

While Lopez may not be able to say she was part of the group that came up with Mizzou's cheer, Bushyhead will be a proud uncle when she walks across the stage with a degree in biology. Lopez recently received the Bonnie Zelenak Excellence in Tutoring Award given to MU Learning Center tutors. And he knows that Mizzou has prepared her for a lifetime of success.

“I don’t fear the modern world in all of its colorful craziness because Mizzou gave me the tools to understand, process and appreciate the bumpy but ever-forward march of the human experience,” Bushyhead said. “I was transported from my suburban Kansas City environment where everyone looked and acted like me, to a place with diverse cultures, languages, colors and ways of thinking about the world.”