The professor who can and does
When University of Missouri Professor Emeritus Dave Wollersheim turned 70 last year, a small group of former students turned-lifelong-friends threw him a surprise party-dinner and a dance. Without consulting the guest of honor, the 3,000 invitations that went out suggested that in lieu of gifts, Dave would appreciate donations to his endowed scholarship fund. They know what Dave likes.
The Dave Wollersheim Scholarship was seeded in 1991 with half of the $10,000 stipend he received as recipient of one of MU’s first William T. Kemper Fellowships for Excellence in Teaching. Over the past 17 years the scholarship fund has grown to $145,000 through Wollersheim’s continued contributions and those of friends and family members honoring birthdays and other occasions. Gifts to the fund in lieu of financial recompense to Wollersheim for random acts of kindness and unending generosity also figure into the sum. His birthday bash last October turned out to be a great party and also netted $17,000 for the fund.
“Dave treats everyone like family,” said Julie Rollins EDUC ‘79, a member of the party planning committee and wife of Myron Rollins BS EE ‘74, a member of the Engineer’s Club when Wollersheim was the organization’s sponsor. Both are members of a close-knit group of friends-classmates and a certain professor emeritus-who for 30 years have shared a lake house, vacations, adventures, tailgates, personal highs and lows, family milestones, and more. “He does things for people in an unassuming way-simple acts that often make a huge difference. He’s a special human being,” said Rollins.
Another on the party crew, former student and close friend Dave Hollabaugh BS EE ‘76, MS NE ‘78, recalled what a great teacher Wollersheim was, and what an influence he’d had on students-including himself-as the advisor to the Engineer’s Club. “I met him in 1969. He was the person who showed me around campus when I first came to visit. He was so enthusiastic. And he loved teaching,” said Hollabaugh. The two have been friends ever since.
Between 1968 and 1998, Wollersheim was recognized as an outstanding professor 29 times by engineering students. Over the course of his distinguished career he earned numerous accolades and awards for teaching and for his many years as an undergraduate advisor. Yet he finds it difficult to articulate what made him so successful with students.
“What I knew, I could teach,” Wollersheim said of his 30 years as an instructor in the Mechanical Engineering Department. “I spent my entire career with young people who were above average in ability motivating them to work to their potential.”
“I had high standards in the classroom,” Wollersheim surmised. “I believe if that’s the expectation, then that’s the result.”
“I think the day they walked into my classroom and gave me one of the first Kemper awards was the pinnacle of my career; that was a good day,” Wollersheim said with a big grin.
“If people only realized what that scholarship fund means-it’s the kids that are the real winners,” he said shaking his head. “It will provide scholarships $1000 at a time from now until forever. That’s a lot of scholarships.”
The Dave Wollersheim Scholarship is a tribute to the teaching legacy of a thoughtful, generous, and award-winning Mizzou Engineering professor. The scholarships it funds will influence the success of engineering students for generations. That was the expectation, and that will be the result.