messick-shot-full-adjustedSome teachers are popular. Some are very gifted. But a far fewer number become “institutions” in and of themselves.

Dr. John Messick, longtime professor of Biology and Environmental Health, is one such faculty member. For nearly three decades, the tall and thin Dr. Messick has moved with speed and purpose on the Missouri Southern campus.

Upon his retirement, at the end of the spring 2013 semester, he was named “Faculty Emeritus” by the MSSU Board of Governors, an honor he shares with only ten other retired faculty members, including Enid Blevins, Betsy Griffin, Duane Hunt, James Jackson, Virginia Laas, Julio León, William Livingston, Richard Massa, J. Merrell Junkins and the late Melvyn Mosher.

Dr. Messick arrived at Missouri Southern as a faculty member in 1984. He was named Biology Department head in 1989. In 2000, he took over as Dean of Arts & Sciences, serving in that position until 2008, and then served as Vice President for Academic Affairs from 2008 – 2009.
Over the years, he has earned a well-deserved reputation for his hard work, professional expertise and student involvement.

Dr. Messick says students are essentially the same today as they were nearly three decades ago, but their time may be more divided.

They may have specific goals or careers in mind, or at least recognize that a college education has inherent value. But for many, school work more than ever before competes with full-time jobs, complicated family responsibilities and other activities that didn’t exist 20 or 30 years ago.”

Dr. Messick says he has embraced technology because, in his opinion, the benefits greatly outweigh the drawbacks.

“Classroom projector systems enable instructors to present organized lectures and use a wide variety of supplements from the Internet and other sources.  Communications by email, and calendar systems have many benefits.  I’ve used data loggers to collect temperature and other environmental information that is downloaded to computers for display and analysis.”

Dr. Messick says Geographic Information Systems (GIS) provide elegant ways of analyzing the spatial distribution and interaction of organisms. The new laboratories in the Ummel Technology Building feature an integrated digital microscopy system that allows what one sees through the microscope also to be displayed on a computer monitor.  The instructor can choose any microscope in the class to display on all monitors and the screen.    

Even so, Dr. Messick says the traditional approach also has its benefits.

“I feel lectures presented on a screen in Power Point format may sometimes discourage deep learning.  It usually is not enough to just read through the notes.  Instead, students need to synthesize the concepts by writing the notes from memory to re-present the lectures to each other.  Quantitative concepts are best learned if students see the work unfold as the instructor works through the problem on the chalk board.  Technology can mimic this kind of presentation but we as instructors have to work extra to make it happen.”

Dr. Messick is well-known on campus as a runner and bicyclist.  He says his physical activity will continue, with a few changes.

“Sometimes running and cycling and both give you a good opportunity to think and work through issues.  As a graduate student I planned sections of my dissertation while jogging or cycling.  I developed arthritis in a knee so running and cycling are becoming somewhat painful and I certainly go a lot slower than just couple of years ago.

“Walking is a good substitute.  My wife Nancy and I have always enjoyed walking and I see more of that in the future.”

Nancy Messick served for many years as Secretary to the President and to the Board at MSSU. Dr. Messick says his life proves that behind every great man, there is a great woman.

“Nancy supported and encouraged me throughout my career,” he says. “She has always been patient, because I am a person that can sometimes get preoccupied with work.  We married a little later in life and we don’t have children, but we enjoy spending time together and down the road we will probably do some traveling.” 

Dr. Messick says his jobs in teaching and in the administration as Department Head and VPAA have been challenging but also rewarding.

“That range of experiences helps me understand the challenges that the administration faces with expectations to do more with fewer resources,” Dr. Messick comments. “Administrators must be able to delegate and realize that most decisions will be met with criticism from some. I’m not sure one kind of job is more difficult than the other; the work is just different.”

“We need to remember that the overall goal is to provide the best learning environment we can for students.  Our custodians, grounds crew, secretaries and everyone on campus contribute to that end. Every job is significant.”