A beautiful love story began in a class registration line on the campus of what is now Truman State University; it was June 4, 1954, and a young Jack Magruder met a young lady named Sue Brimer and boldly struck up a conversation. Just months later they married and have been together ever since. They have three children: Julie, Kerry, and Laura—and seven grandchildren. Anyone who knows the family knows that the Jack-and-Sue love story is an enduring one.
A second love story is Magruder’s lifelong passion for education. He earned his degrees, including a doctorate, in mathematics and chemistry. He worked in a lab for a while mixing chemicals (often radioactive) and experimenting with new combinations, when he realized one day that this was not the job for him. He loved people, loved learning, and knew he wanted to help others learn. He decided to teach.
He taught chemistry for three years at a community college in California, then at Truman for 22 years until he became head of the science division.
If you have spent any time publicly in Kirksville with Magruder—or anywhere in the state of Missouri, for that matter—you have experienced the friendly interruptions of old acquaintances addressing President Magruder as Jack. He would remember their names, sometimes even spouses’ or children’s names as well. He would then turn to his companion for breakfast or lunch and say, “She [or he] was in my 7:30 chemistry class.” It is truly amazing how many students he has taught and how many greet him and remember his class fondly—even if they did poorly.
He later held the post of vice president for academic affairs at Truman before becoming president of the university in 1994. As VPAA and president he inspired others to work together toward a common goal and to always keep in mind how one’s decisions affect students and student learning. He retired in 2003.
Asked by the Board of Trustees to become president at A.T. Still University, he took over on Valentine’s Day 2008, an auspicious day on which to continue his love story with education; and in keeping with his first love, he did not say yes to the board until Sue agreed.
Charged by the board with certain tasks—renewing the relationship between Kirksville and the University and achieving Higher Learning Commission accreditation— Magruder set about his new duties with his usual enthusiasm. He has succeeded tremendously well: ATSU’s relationship with the city is better than ever, and full HLC accreditation has been awarded.
During the short time he has been here, Magruder has led the way to “universitize” ATSU, one of the chief goals set by the HLC. He has placed academics under one leader and strategic initiatives under one leader as well; caused the formation of a universitywide faculty senate, student association, alumni association, and staff council; established the centrality of planning and assessment under one individual; asked for unification of our two libraries; and set in motion the crafting of a comprehensive strategic plan with far-reaching objectives, under a new mission statement and vision of the board—a plan that is already being implemented.
A sixth school is well under way to opening its doors in 2013, the Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health, which would not have happened without Magruder. And a major facilities plan has nearly been completed for both campuses, boldly addressing the needs for instruction, research, and learning.
Magruder himself reminds everyone that none of the progress that ATSU has made could have been accomplished without the dedicated and talented faculty and staff on both campuses, the wonderful students, the vision and support of the board, and the many friends of the University.
ATSU has benefited greatly from Magruder’s lifelong partnership with his wife, Sue, that first and enduring love story; for the second love story about education that is Jack Magruder’s would not have been possible without the first. We at ATSU are forever grateful.