Ewing Kauffman served in the Navy during World War II. When the war ended, he worked as a pharmaceutical salesman for a couple of years, then created Marion Laboratories in 1950 with operations starting in the basement of his house. His foundation started in the mid-1960s and has since impacted countless lives funding entrepreneurial and education-based grants. And in 1969, Kauffman brought major league baseball back to Kansas City with the formation of the Royals.
Today would be Mr. Kauffman’s 102nd birthday. Happy birthday, Mr. K!
Next Friday, Clif is throwing out the first pitch at the Royals game as the Royals are hosting the first ever Missouri State night at the K.
“I feel pretty good about the first pitch. I’ve thrown one at Hammons Field for the Bears and at Busch Stadium and didn’t bounce either one. But, I don’t wanna get cocky.”
Baseball was the only sport Clif played as a kid.
“I usually played second base, occasionally shortstop. Growing up in Arkansas, I remember listening to Cardinals games on the radio. When I was about 12, my parents let me cut loose to go see a doubleheader; it was only a dollar to sit in the bleachers. And then I coached my kids for about 8 years when they played. Currently, I really love what Luke Voit’s doing and can actually see myself rooting for the Yankees in the postseason for the first time. I have really fond memories of the game.”
Clif is the 11th president of Missouri State University beginning his tenure in the summer of 2011.
“I promote and advocate for the university and occasionally try to solve problems.”
Under his leadership, MSU has set new enrollment records as well as increased retention and graduation rates. He’s not afraid to embarrass himself for the good of the school as he has agreed to appear in a variety of hilarious videos promoting life at Missouri State University. From modeling the red boots from Kinky Boots to welcoming students with the Shiggy Challenge video.
“The Shiggy Challenge video is by far the most popular video I’ve done, but auditioning for the role of Jack in The Titanic was a lot of fun.”
Occasionally, Clif does turn down video requests.
“I’m not willing to be in a dunk tank. I don’t want to do things that demean the office of president.”
I am a proud alumnus of Missouri State, graduating from the Honors College five months after Jamie and I got married. I would love to work at MSU, but have no idea where a catch-playing storyteller fits in. The faculty at MSU are highly accomplished, from writing NY Times best-sellers to cutting edge biotechnology research with multiple countries to winning national championships in all kinds of programs.
“What I appreciate most about our faculty is that the great majority of them love to interact with our students. They help the students from connecting to new internships to getting the job after graduation.”
I simply told Clif that if the school ever needs a storyteller or someone to sit on the quad and offer to play catch with students as a stress release during finals, I was available.
We walked down the stairs from his office and out the front doors of Carrington Hall and were immediately greeted by two students.
“Hey! You’re President Smart!”
“Just heading out for a game of catch,” he replied.
Both students were seniors and Clif introduced himself, shaking their hands, and asked them about their plans after graduation. They both shrugged their shoulders. He smiled and encouraged them to enjoy this stage of their lives.
I paced off 60 feet, 6 inches and we talked while a federal security helicopter circled above us as President Trump was in route to MSU for a campaign rally. True to his word, Clif did not bounce a single pitch.
I asked for his best advice for helping high school seniors choose which college to continue their education.
“They will know what feels right. Go on the official visits and they will get a sense of the college. Are the people friendly? Do they have the major you want? Kids know where they will fit in best if they trust their instincts. Go where you feel you’re going to fit in.”
And then I asked for his best advice for parents whose oldest child will all too soon leave for college.
“Let them become independent. Give them some space to make decisions on their own. And let them trust their heart and study something they really love.”
I’m hoping I can make it to the K next Friday to cheer on his first pitch in person.
Good luck and go Bears and Royals!