By Kevin Wilson
Special to The Globe
GOODMAN, Mo. —
Missouri Southern State University’s 75th anniversary is a milestone celebrated by every person who, in any number of ways, embraces MSSU as part of their identity.
There are many who have been a part of the Joplin community their entire lives, and for them I would have to surmise the significance of this historical achievement is more deeply felt than for someone like myself who has only recently been transplanted to this part of the country.
Nevertheless, as a nontraditional student who has this very year put the half-century mile marker in her back pocket, I feel a deep appreciation for the significance of the milestones and the landmarks that brand a lifetime.
I am about 30 years late starting on my degree, and academia has changed considerably in the past three decades. I had no clue of how to be colleagues with young people or how to receive instruction from teachers who are young enough to be my children, but in each classroom and in the library and even the Lion’s Den, I have met young people who did not look upon the outside but who reached out to me as an individual, as a contemporary, as someone to share ideas and collaborate with. It has been a refreshing, eye-opening experience. It is also my experience that people of my generation (including myself) are much more close-minded and less accepting of someone who is different. Many of my fellow students have taught me a great deal about tolerance and acceptance.
As part of the Missouri Southern student body, I have tried to actively participate in the events that have been scheduled to commemorate the 75th anniversary. I must admit that in the previous two semesters since transferring to Southern from Crowder College, I did little else than attend classes and make the long drive each way to my home in Goodman.
Throughout the course of this semester, I have noticed the date 1937 posted around campus. I began to wonder what other things shared this inaugural year with Missouri Southern. My curiosity led me to online research for other culturally and historically significant events that took place or were instituted in 1937. These are some that I found interesting.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for his second term on Jan. 20, which from that year onward became known as the official Inauguration Day. All presidents since have been sworn in on Jan. 20.
I discovered that Krispy Kreme Donuts was founded in 1937; this is significant to so many people for so many reasons ... enough said. Another well-loved food, the luncheon meat Spam, was introduced into the market in 1937.
The Walt Disney Co. released “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” its first full-length animated feature in color and with sound. This movie has been embraced by each generation of children since 1937 and has become a part of our American identity. Also in theaters: “Captains Courageous” (Spencer Tracy), “Way Out West” (Laurel & Hardy), “A Day at the Races” (The Marx Brothers) and “The Prince and the Pauper” (Errol Flynn).
Books published that year include “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “To Have and Have Not” by Ernest Hemingway, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” by Dr. Seuss. Margaret Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for “Gone with the Wind” in 1937. Prince Valiant was introduced to comic pages; the strip appears weekly in more than 300 American newspapers, including the Joplin Globe. The first Sadie Hawkins Day Race was announced on Nov. 16 in Al Capp’s comic strip “Lil Abner,” starting a tradition that would outlast the original printing of the daily strip, which ended in 1977.
There was much significant advancement in the area of aviation in the years surrounding 1937. Transatlantic flight records were set. Bigger, better, more reliable passenger planes were in development and production, but the loss of Amelia Earhart, who disappeared with her airplane over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, was a setback and remains a mystery today.
There was another event in aviation history in 1937 that revealed rapid technology growth developed at the high cost of human lives. The German airship Hindenburg burst into flames while attempting to moor at Lakehurst, N.J.. There were 35 fatalities among the passengers and in-flight crew; there was also one death among the ground crew. This explosion ended pursuit of the dirigible as a viable means of passenger air travel. As a nation, we continue to advance technologically and most often, we learn from our mistakes.
Other significant technological milestones in transportation in 1937 include the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in California and the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City.
As Joplin Junior College began its quest to provide the best instruction and preparation for those who sought higher education, the U.S. had just begun to show the world a hint of the superpower it would become. Missouri Southern creates an environment to facilitate social interaction, clear communication and effective motivation. These are the elements that produce the graduates who are aptly equipped to take us into the next 75 years, those who are the hope of an even stronger America.
Robin Fjelstad attends Missouri Southern State University and is a communications major. She lives in Goodman.