Published on May 30, 2018
Updated on Sep. 27, 2021
Although Jim and Cathy Brazeal endowed their diversity scholarship in 2004, its inspiration dates back tot he United States Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v Board of Education ruling 50 years earlier. The decision rendered “separate but equal” public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. It also marked an inflection point in the life of Jim Brazeal, BA ’67, MBA ’69.
Before 1955, the year Springfield, Missouri, public schools were integrated, Brazeal’s interactions with African-Americans had been limited to sporting events at the Springfield Boys Club. “When I entered junior high school that year, integration was only one of many changes,” Brazeal says. “As I worked side-by-side with African American classmates and teammates, I got to know them as friends. After that, I never again thought in terms of stereotypes.”
Brazeal credits his undergraduate and graduate education at the University of Missouri for his success at Ford Motor Company and later as owner of Kansas City Power Products. As he and his wife, Cathy, began giving back to the university, increasing campus diversity became a primary goal. “When I was a student, I was immersed in my studies and was just not aware of the history of the university,” Brazeal says. “As I learned more about it, I became convinced that our gifts could best be used to promote diversity and inclusion at the university.”
The Brazeals established their scholarship to help the Honors College attract star students who might not have attended Mizzou otherwise. Emma Worgul, a senior accounting major from Kansas City, says the scholarship has been the highlight of her time at Mizzou. “I was looking at K-State and Washington University, but the Brazeal scholarship put me over the top in choosing Mizzou,” Worgul says. “I studied management and marketing in Italy two summers ago. Half of our class was Mizzou students, and half of our class was European students. We got weekends off for short trips, like going to Prague.”
The program has provided similar transformative experiences for 11 students to date, with more coming to campus every year. The Brazeals build relationships with the students by dining with them at least once a semester. “Whenever I have news to share, I call my parents, then I call my friends, and then I call the Brazeals,” Worgul says. “I just have to tell them.”