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Class Feature: Mid-90’s Grads

Five classmates who graduated in the mid-1990s agreed to share their experiences as engineering students at MU for this class feature. They are: Mike Brekken BS CEE ’96; Carson Coffman BS CEE ’95; Paula (Day) Gough BS CEE ’95; Kristi Jo (McTeer) Gribble BS MAE, ‘94; and Rick Vogt BS ChE ’95.

In 1995, the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed and O.J. Simpson was acquitted of a double murder in what was labeled “The Trial of the Century.” That year Mel Gibson’s “Braveheart” won the Academy Award for Best Picture; “Seinfeld” was the top-ranking television show, and the Braves beat the Indians in the World Series.

Kristi Gribble had graduated the previous year and had gone to work at Hallmark—where she has worked for the past 13 years. Gribble recalled that a High School Weekend visit during her senior year first brought her to campus and cemented her decision to become an engineering student.

Now the Head of the MoDOT northeast district, Paula Gough’s first brush with Mizzou Engineering was at a summer welcome event where she met Professor Emeritus Jay McGarraugh. “I still send him Christmas cards,” said Gough. “He cared about his students and he cared about me as a person.”

Carson Coffman, who co-owns Socket Telephone and Internet in Columbia and serves as the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, echoes Gough’s observation about Dr. McGarraugh’s devotion to students. He ranks Professor Emeritus Dave Wollersheim on the same level. “They were teachers for the right reasons,” Coffman observed.

A structural engineer with Black and Veatch, Mike Brekken also held Wollersheim, who served as his advisor his freshman year and as his Engineer’s Club advisor, in high esteem. Brekken’s favorite professor was Dr. Michael G. Barker. “He taught structural steel and got me interested in heading down that route,” says Brekken.

Rick Vogt, now a self-employed IT consultant on the West Coast, says that Dr. Paul Chan was his favorite professor. “I don’t know if faculty members realize how much they shape the interests and aspirations of their students,” says Vogt. “All of the chemical engineering professors left a very positive impression—from Viswanath’s pep talks, to Storvick’s great stories; from Luecke’s soft hand at teaching complex theory to Marrero’s incessant motivation.”

Extracurricular Activities

In addition to class work, all five of the mid-90s graduates were busy beyond their demanding study schedules with extracurricular activities and/or with jobs. Gough worked in the MU admissions office and was active in the Mizzou Outreach recruiting program. In her junior year she served as a resident assistant in Jones dorm. “Challenging,” said Gough of the experience. “It was my hardest semester academically, and I was in charge of 41 freshman girls.”

During the time Vogt served on the Mizzou Engineering Student Council, the renovation and expansion of Lafferre Hall was completed. He and others on the Council perceived a need for tours and formed a committee that evolved into the present day Ambassadors group. “I always enjoyed meeting with other tour guides and coming up with a plan for highlighting our building,” said Vogt.

Gribble was also active in Student Council, serving as its president in 1993. She pointed out that for her, there were benefits beyond the ones of being active and getting involved. “That’s where I met my husband, Jon,” she said. The couple has remained active in alumni events together.

Vogt recalls that for fun he and study partners actually ventured out of the engineering library to study in Brady Commons, causing the group to develop cravings for Taco Bell and pizza. Gribble and her pals ventured to the Heidelberg for an occasional happy hour, and Gough’s Thursday night study group went out to Déjà Vu.

Campus Life

One of Coffman’s favorite college memories was the January 1995 record snowfall of 18 inches. “It was a blast,” he recalls. “We sledded all over town.”

Brekken enthusiastically recalled a warmer-weather campus activity—nighttime roller blading across campus at night.

All of the classmates had fond memories of Engineers’ Week celebrations.

“I came to a High School Weekend event during Engineers’ Week,” said Brekken. I got to see the St. Pat knighting ceremony out on the quad and from that point on, I was attracted to the St. Pat tradition.” Brekken was eventually a king candidate and also served on the St. Pat’s Board, as did Gribble.

“I loved Engineers’ Week,” Brekken said. “As students, we were always broke, but we would splurge and get a green tuxedo to wear to the Engineers’ Ball.”

In addition to their memories, the mid-90s grads took life lessons with them when they graduated. Coffman found team projects in upper-level engineering classes beneficial in work situations. “And surviving Physics 175 and 176 taught me I could survive anything,” he said.

“Balancing the intense workload and still finding time to be a real person was a challenge,” said Gough. “People who make it through engineering school have a leg-up on those life skills.”

“Engineering school prepares you for what you need to know,” said Brekken. “It teaches you how to think. I had a very balanced experience. I received a good technical background, had some fun, and graduated prepared the future.”

“There is something I’ve always remembered from a one-hour class taught by Associate Dean Paul Braisted my freshman year,” adds Brekken. “He told the class, ‘Anytime you read engineering documents, you have to read them six words at a time.’ I think about that every time I start to read. It was great advice.”



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