Hall of Leaders - 2015

Patty Kespohl

Patty Kespohl became the first coach of the iconic Golden Girls at the University of Missouri-Columbia in the 1960s. Her love of the University and the community, as well as her passion for dance and watching young women grow and mature, have been driving forces in her life.

-Attended Jefferson Junior High School and Hickman High School, where she was the band’s majorette.

-While in high school, Patty formed a baton-twirling studio providing group and private baton lessons to literally thousands of Columbia children. Her groups performed in parades and public events for more than 25 years.

-Bachelor of arts, music education, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1968

-In 1964 Patty was selected as the MU feature twirler and began working closely with the other twirlers who had recently taken the name the “Golden Girls.” She soon became the coach of this group and they transitioned to a dance line in 1974. The Golden Girls won their first National Title in 1987 under Patty’s direction, and this fall celebrated their 50th anniversary.

-In 1993, Patty transitioned from Golden Girl coach to MU Spirit Squad Coordinator, overseeing the Truman the Tiger mascot and the University Cheerleaders.

-Patty retired from MU to become the office secretary at Trinity Lutheran Church, of which she has been a member and organist since 1959.

-Patty continues to be involved with dance and young people in the community.

When my family moved to Columbia in 1959, we had a rooming house on Hitt Street, so immediately we were part of that campus life. That fall when I attended my first football game, I was awestruck by the event with all of its excitement and pageantry. I knew immediately I wanted to be a part of it! I couldn’t imagine a life having not attended the University of Missouri and living in Columbia. The experience has given me so much: a degree, my husband, a 34-year career, my closest friends and endless memories. I can still remember that first game my freshman year in 1964 marching down the field to the Missouri Waltz. I will always be grateful to the University for the opportunities I was given. What began as a volunteer position later turned into a part-time position that truly became a family affair. I was surprised that the Golden Girls became what it did. It never occurred to me to ask to be paid. How can you ask to be paid for something that you love to do? It just never seemed like work.

From my earliest days at Columbia Public Schools, the faculty of the music department at Hickman High School gave me so many opportunities and nurtured and encouraged my love of performance. The platform at Hickman gave me an opportunity to do the things I love in a supportive environment. The education and activities in this district prepared me for my experience at Mizzou and for the rest of my life. I will always be grateful to the education community in Columbia for their influence in the person I am today.”

– Patty Kespohl

James Nunnelly

James Nunnelly has been a leader in building healthy communities through his work with public health programs and mental health, prevention and substance abuse treatment. He has presented more than 25 major seminars in health and healthcare management, and has been nationally recognized for his leadership in the field.

-Bachelor of arts, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1968

-Master’s in public health, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, 1975

-Currently serves as program administrator for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office/COMBAT, where he is responsible for administering dedicated tax proceeds for substance abuse programs, as well as administering and granting a network of 80 community, law enforcement and public health agencies

-Previously served as the chief executive administrator of the Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, family practice administrator for Trinity Lutheran Hospital, and surveyor for the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations

-Featured in Ebony Magazine and the New York Times for his work in substance abuse public health

-Keynote speaker at more than 125 events, including the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

-Honors include Kansas City Star’s 150 most influential Kansas Citians (1998); Kansas City Globe’s 100 most influential African Americans (1991, 1992); Distinguished Citizen, Missouri Association of Welfare (1999); Distinguished Service by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (2002)

-Board member, Prime Health Foundation

Said of James Nunnelly:

Jim Nunnelly has more than 30 years of commitment to building healthy communities through the creation of cutting-edge public health programs. He also seeks to enhance youth services through building the necessary infrastructure to support pro-youth public health strategies, programming and initiatives. Mr. Nunnelly has positively changed the face of mental health, prevention and substance abuse services in Jackson County. Through his leadership, policy and programing in substance abuse, treatment and prevention have become more in-line with best practices and national models. Innovation strategies that combine treatment, prevention and/or law enforcement have received national recognition and commendable results.”

© 2020 Columbia Public Schools Foundation