Hall of Leaders

Wanda Brown

Wanda Brown retired in 2012 after 34 years with the Columbia Public Schools (CPS). She served as the district’s assistant superintendent of secondary education for seven years. Prior to that position, she served as principal of Hickman High School, principal of Smithton Middle School and assistant principal of Hickman. She also served as the director of multicultural education and middle school coordinator for CPS. She began her CPS career as an English teacher at Hickman.

Wanda holds a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in speech/theatre from William Woods. In addition, she has a master of education degree in educational administration, an educational specialist degree in educational administration, and a doctorate of education in educational leadership and policy analysis, all from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Throughout her tenure with CPS, Wanda served on numerous district and community committees and boards to plan and implement best practices for the schools. She was the leader of the Design Committee for Muriel Williams Battle High School and the Secondary Reorganization Committee, and co-founder of the Minority Achievement Committee (MAC) Scholars. Among her many honors and professional achievements, Wanda is the recipient of the Outstanding Service MLK Award, the Community Champion Award, and the NAACP Outstanding Educator Award.

Wanda’s son, George Galbreath, was honored as an Outstanding Alumni in the 2018 Hall of Leaders, making them the first mother-son pair to be inducted into the Hall of Leaders.

Craig Adams

Craig Adams retired in 2018 after a 30-year career with the Columbia Public Schools (CPS). During that time, he served as a technology education teacher at Jefferson Junior High, where he also was head coach in boys’ basketball and girls’ track. He spent five years as the information technology specialist and six years as the practical arts coordinator for CPS. As STEAM coordinator and STEAM bus driver for the district, Craig created a nationally-recognized STEAM program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) with a 99 percent positive staff rating. The STEAM bus, a custom-designed full-size school bus, traveled to schools and programs to provide students with a lab and access to technology not available in the schools.

Craig is a founding member of the Columbia STEM Alliance, a local network of educators, business partners and volunteers that inspire interest in and provide support for STEM in the Columbia area.

Craig is part of a family of CPS educators: his wife, Susie, retired from Battle High School in 2023, son Jacob is currently the principal at Jefferson Middle School, daughter-in-law Samantha is an assistant principal at West Boulevard Elementary, daughter Whitney is a teacher at Parkade Elementary, and son Taylor is a former teacher at West Middle School.

Colonel Matthew Peach (posthumous)

Matthew “Matt” Peach was born in 1928 in McBaine, Mo., and attended a one-room schoolhouse during grade school. He graduated from Douglass High School in 1946. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from Tuskegee Institute and a master’s degree in personnel management from Troy State University. Matt was Columbia’s first African American military aviator promoted to the rank of Colonel in the U.S. Air Force.

Col. Peach earned his pilot wings in 1957 and became a command pilot in 1972. During a thirty-year career with the U.S. Air Force, Col. Peach flew missions all over the world, undergirding a love for international travel. While serving in Vietnam, he was rescued in Laos after a reconnaissance mission. His many military awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. In 2006, he was recognized as an honored guest by the Salute to Veterans Corporation air show in Columbia.

Upon retirement from the Air Force, Col. Peach began a second career as a certified financial planner. He served as treasurer of the Heart of America Chapter/Kansas City of Tuskegee Airmen, Inc., for nearly two decades. He passed away at age 88 on April 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo.

Adam Beckett

Adam Beckett attended West Junior High School and is a graduate of Rock Bridge High School. Adam earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his medical doctor degree from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, followed by a residency at Resurrection Hospital in Chicago. Adam served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1995-1999 and served as an infantry platoon commander in the First Marine Division. He has been an attending emergency room physician at the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics since 2006 and an attending physician at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital since 2020.

Adam is the founder and president of Global First Responder (GFR), a nonprofit international medical relief organization. Global First Responder connects medical professionals in the U.S. with international services and medical care in places of critical need. Since its founding in 2011, the all-volunteer organization has provided healthcare and humanitarian services to more than 50 countries including Haiti, Kenya, Cambodia, Jordan, Ethiopia, India, the Congo, Morocco, Liberia, Ukraine and Turkey, among others.


There were no Hall of Leaders in 2022 as CPSF celebrated its 25th anniversary!


There were no Hall of Leaders in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


There were no Hall of Leaders in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jan Mees

Jan Mees served the Columbia Public Schools as a library clerk for four years at Fairview Elementary and then as a library media specialist for 17 years, including as the media director at Hickman and as the specialist at Lange and multiple elementary schools. Following her retirement, she continued to serve the community and the schools. Jan was elected to the Columbia Public Schools Board of Education in 2007 and served four terms, including three years as president of the school board.

She holds a bachelor of arts degree in French secondary education from Purdue University and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Jan also is past president of the Missouri School Boards Association and has been a delegate to the National School Boards Association. Among her honors, she is the recipient of the Columbia Fund for Academic Excellence Award as the Outstanding Educator in a Specialized Area and as the Columbia Community Teachers Association Award for Secondary Educator of the Year.

Lisa Fritsche

Lisa Fritsche began volunteering for the Columbia Public Schools the day her oldest child entered kindergarten in 1990. She remained a tireless volunteer through the day her fourth child graduated in 2012, and today still volunteers weekly in a fifth-grade classroom at Paxton Keely Elementary. She has also volunteered at Fairview Elementary, Smithton Middle School, West Junior High School, and Hickman High School.

Lisa has served on the PTSA board at Smithton Middle and Hickman High Schools and as a three-time co-chair of the Senior All Night Party for graduating seniors.

In addition to her work on behalf of the schools, she has been a troop leader for three different Girl Scout troops. She also is a member of the Children’s Grove board and serves as the Kindness Library Chair. She serves the Columbia Public Library as the co-manager of the Friends’ Children’s Books. A history buff, she appeared as a contestant on the television game show “Jeopardy” in 2008.

Marilyn Skipper

Marilyn Skipper spent 27 years teaching at the Columbia Public Schools, including 20 years at Russell Elementary teaching second grade. She also taught third and fourth grades and assisted with student music and drama performances, including directing plays and musicals for all the classes in the grade levels. She also supervised many student teachers and aides throughout her teaching career.

She holds a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary education and a master’s in elementary administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Marilyn has been very active in the Columbia Community Teachers Association and was selected as Elementary Teacher of the Year in 1991. She has also been active with the Missouri Retired Teachers Association and has served in leadership positions on the executive board for 18 years. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma and Alpha Delta Kappa, international honorary organizations for women educators.

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