Tresa Ryun Roth, a national advocate for 9/11 victims and first responders, told a group of aspiring criminal justice students Friday to work hard and stay true to their dreams if they want to achieve a career in law enforcement.
Roth gave the presentation during Missouri Southern State University's Criminal Justice Day, which drew schools from around the region to tour the Mills Anderson Justice Center on campus and learn more about the programs offered. She was in Joplin to accept the university's 2019 Distinguished Alum Award on behalf of her late husband, Robert Roth, who graduated from the criminal justice department in 1986 and was among the first to respond following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"I have seen an exciting, interesting and rewarding life, and a camaraderie of brotherhood," she said, referring to both her career and her husband's career in law enforcement.
Tresa Roth grew up in Carthage and graduated from Missouri Southern in 1987 with a degree in education, working through her college years at Beimdiek Insurance in Carthage. The following year, she and Robert Roth married and eventually made their home in northern Virginia, close to where he had been raised.
Tresa Roth went on to work in the Directorate of Intelligence at the CIA, while her husband became a supervisory special agent with the FBI. He was the lead criminal agent on the anthrax case in 2001 and one of the first agents to arrive to assist after American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.
Robert Roth stayed on the scene for two weeks, spending considerable time at the crash site. In 2006, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma as a result of exposure to the air in and around the Pentagon after the attack. He died March 16, 2008, after 12 years of service with the FBI.
Tresa Roth has become an active advocate for families affected by the 9/11 attacks, including endorsing the approval of the 9/11 health program and the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund renewal. She also has promoted programs within the FBI and first responder community.
Despite her husband's death, she urged students Friday to pursue careers in law enforcement. She noted its challenges, but said it also is rewarding.
"Do something you love, and you will enjoy it," she said.
Roth encouraged students to pay attention now to how they behave, as careers in law enforcement will demand "impeccable integrity." She also asked them to set goals with an understanding of why they want to achieve them and to learn how to be a team player.
"You need to be living your life now so you can fulfill those dreams," she said.