Hall of Leaders - Alumni

Jeff Harris

Jeff Harris is a Columbia Public Schools graduate who has served in all three branches of Missouri government. Jeff was appointed to the 13th Circuit Court in 2016 and elected later that same year. In his position as circuit judge, Jeff presides over civil and criminal cases. Prior to his appointment to the court, Jeff served as the policy director for Gov. Jay Nixon. Jeff also was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, serving Columbia’s 23rd District, and served as both House Minority Leader and House Minority Whip. He was the first Boone Countian since the 19th century to lead either party in the Missouri House. He previously was a Missouri Assistant Attorney General and worked in private practice for the international law firm Bryan Cave.

Jeff is a graduate of Cornell Law School, where he was a member of the Cornell Law Review. Jeff received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University, magna cum laude, where he also played on the varsity golf team. He also completed the Senior Executive Program at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Hickman High Super Kewp Award. Jeff is a graduate of Jefferson Junior High School and Hickman High School, where his first leadership role was as the sports editor for the Purple & Gold newspaper. He and his wife, Katie, also a CPS graduate, have two children enrolled at CPS.

Jon McRoberts

Jon McRoberts is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri where, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation, he coordinates a large-scale white-tailed deer research project in Missouri. Jon has conducted wildlife research on giant pandas in western China for the Smithsonian Institute, has radio-tracked leopards in the Kalahari Desert for South Africa’s Centre for Wildlife Management, and conducted a multi-year wildlife investigation on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula—where his seven years of CPS Spanish classes were invaluable.

Back in the office, Jon has been the lead author of multiple peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, has given invited wildlife research presentations throughout the U.S. and Mexico, is a contributing author to Cornell University’s Birds of North America and Birds of the Neotropics, and has served as a consultant to Mexico’s federal wildlife authority.

Jon earned a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from the University of Missouri-Columbia, as well as a master’s of science and doctorate in Wildlife Science and a MBA, all from Texas Tech University. Jon attended Russell Elementary and then was in the inaugural first grade class at Mill Creek Elementary. Jon saw his second school opening when he was in yet another inaugural class at Gentry Middle school, and then attended Jefferson Junior High and Rock Bridge High School, where he received the W. Wayne Walker Outstanding Graduating Senior Award. The diversity of experiences offered by CPS have served Jon throughout his life. For example, the Critters program, sponsored by CPSF, helped foster Jon’s early interest in wildlife.  Jon and his wife, Katrina, also a CPS graduate, reside in Columbia.

Sara Parker Pauley

Sara Parker Pauley was appointed by the Missouri Conservation Commission in 2016 as the director of the Missouri Department of Conservation, making her the first female director in the department’s 80-year history. She previously served as the director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. She also has worked as a project manager for D.J. Case & Associates, a natural resources communications firm. She worked with federal and state agencies on policy development, marketing, and environmental compliance. She also served as chief of staff to former Missouri House Speaker Steve Gaw.

A lifelong conservationist and an avid hunter, Sara has been an executive committee and board member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. She was a member of the board of the American National Fish & Wildlife Museum, where she served as director of conservation programs. She has published a number of articles on wildlife and natural resources management and was honored with the Bass Pro Conservation Partners of the Year Award.

A native of Columbia, Sara received both her bachelor’s degree in journalism and her law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and did post-graduate studies in Australia as a Rotary Fellow. She is a graduate of Hickman High School.

Shana Farr

Shana found her love of music and theater growing up in Columbia, where she participated in church and Columbia Public School choirs and later attended the University of Missouri-Columbia. Shana continued her education and performance career on the East Coast, and also began a second successful career in the jewelry design business.

-Attended West Boulevard and Fairview Elementary, West Junior High and Hickman High School

-Bachelor of music, magna cum laude, Pi Kappa Lambda, Boston University School for the Arts

-Gemological Institute of America, Diamond Certificate

-Performance appearances including: Feinstein’s at the Regency; New York City Center; Jazz at Lincoln Center; York Theatre; Symphony Space; 54 Below; Crazy Coqs (London); Pittsburg Civic Light Opera; Missouri Symphony Orchestra; South Shore Symphony Orchestra; Metropolitan Room; Laurie Beechman Theatre; Kranzberg Arts Center, St. Louis

-Debuted her album Out of the Shadows to a rave review in the Wall Street Journal

-Conducts Master Classes in Performance

-Recently on the Board of The American Songbook Project, a not-for-profit organization that takes Broadway and Cabaret performers into schools in the New York area.

-Founded Shana Farr Designs, New York, in 2009. Designed, developed and introduced a line of silver and genuine gemstone fashion jewelry into the direct-to-consumer market; completely recouped initial investment within the first year.

-Served as Director of Merchandise for The Aaron Group, New York, Vera Wang Project, and in various high-level capacities for Harry Winston Inc., New York.

Said of Shana Farr…

“Lots of students have a high level of talent and a love of the great standard songs of American music. What one does with that talent is a totally different thing. Shana MADE her career. And she not only MADE a singing career, she made a second artistic career as a jewelry designer whose work is sophisticated, beautiful and sells very well. What does it take to accomplish TWO major careers in New York City where the competition is so extraordinarily keen – and often cutthroat? It takes guts, talent and a foundation that is grounded in Midwestern pluck, confidence and VERY HARD WORK. The arts – and particularly the performing arts – are very difficult to break into. I think Shana’s deep belief in her talent kept her going through the years it took her to receive the recognition from the New York critics and the public she aspired to. How often do you hear critics talking about elegance, beauty, humor and clarity in describing contemporary pop singers? Yet those are the qualities that are remarked on time after time in reviews of her work.”

James M. Miller, Professor of Theater, University of Missouri

Mitchell Humphreys

Mitchell Humphreys is a physician and professor of urology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Az., who attended Columbia Public Schools and the University of Missouri-Columbia for his undergraduate and medical degrees. Among his many career successes and medical advances, Dr. Humphreys and his colleagues pioneered the first minimally invasive surgery for prostate cancer.

-Attended Grant Elementary and West Junior High

-United States Air Force Academy graduate, Biology, 1994

-Bachelor of science degree, magna cum laude, College of Agriculture, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1996; Member of Honors College, University Scholars, Gamma Sigma Delta (honors fraternity) and recipient of multiple scholarships

-M.D., School of Medicine, University of Missouri-Columbia, 2000; recipient of Ian Thompson Memorial Urology Award, Jerome McCullough M.D. Scholarship and the Elmer C. Pepper Scholarship

-Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine Internship, General Surgery, 2001; Resident, Urology, 2006; Chief Resident and Instructor in Urology, 2006

-Indiana University School of Medicine, Fellow, Laparoscopic Endourology, Mayo Foundation Scholar, 2007

-Presently serves as a consultant, professor of urology, and the fellowship director of Endourology and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Az., with full faculty privileges in clinical and translational science at the Mayo Graduate School.

-Honors include the Patients’ Choice Award, given to the top five percent of national physicians based on patient ratings and feedback, 2011-2013

-Outstanding Young Physician Award, Alumni Association, MU School of Medicine, 2012

-Board member, Columbia College Board of Trustees, Columbia, MO.

Said of Dr. Humphreys:

Through teaching, researching and practicing medicine, Mitchell Humphreys enjoys a career marked by successes. He and his colleagues pioneered the first minimally invasive surgery for prostate cancer. He belongs to a multi-institutional NIH-funded group study designed to detect and treat kidney stone diseases. He helped found an international research consortium that addresses pressing clinical research questions and founded a non-profit group to deliver medical care to places in need globally. Humphreys has not forgotten his Columbia heritage. He is a member of the Columbia College Board of Trustees, where he is valued for his innovation and insight. Humphreys embodies the very spirit of Outstanding Alumni Award, as well as CPS Foundation goals of enhancing academic excellence in public schools.”

– Dr. Scott Dalrymple, President, Columbia College


Lora Lynn Iannotti

Lora Lynn Iannotti is an assistant professor at the Washington University George Warren Brown School of Social Work, where her current research focuses on program evaluation and impact modeling of undernutrition, infectious diseases, and poverty. In project sites in Haiti and East Africa, she is studying the combined effects of interventions designed to prevent undernutrition, improve water and sanitation, and foster economic development.

-Attended Parkade Elementary School, Jefferson Junior High, and Hickman High School

-Bachelor of arts in political science, University of Missouri-Columbia, 1990

-Master of arts, foreign affairs, University of Virginia, 1992

-Ph.D., international nutrition, The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg

-School of Public Health, 2007

-Worked on global hunger and undernutrition issues for more than ten years for various organizations, including the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, USAID/LINKAGES project, the U.S. Congressional Select Committee on Hunger in Washington, D.C., and several non-governmental organizations.

-Joined the faculty of the Brown School/Institute for Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis in 2009, where she teaches and conducts research in Haiti, Ecuador and Kenya on micronutrient deficiencies in young children.

Through my life adventures, I have been buoyed by the education and friendships received at Columbia Public Schools. Sometimes when I write, I hear the voice of a beloved English teacher correcting my sentence structure, or as I carry out statistical analyses, feel the soothing logic of algebra and computer science lessons learned long ago. And then, of course, there are the warm memories of time spent with dear friends who remain in my life today. Nothing has been important than this foundation. I recognize that I am privileged to pursue my passions and know that at the base of this was a childhood and education received in Columbia.”

– Lora Lynn Iannotti

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.”

David Wilson

Tom Weaver

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