A special ribbon-cutting ceremony held Oct. 16 marked the dedication of the new LaFerla Academic Advising Center in the North End Zone Facility.

Don and Gloria LaFerla have provided generous support to Missouri Southern for more than 30 years, including multiple endowed scholarships, providing support for lecture rooms and labs and membership in the Lionbacker program.

Don is a retired executive with Leggett & Platt, while Gloria is retired from IBM. They have two sons, Mike and Jeff, who are both graduates of Missouri Southern. Don is a previous member of the Missouri Southern Foundation board. In 2019, the family was honored with the Spirit of Philanthropy Award during the annual Lantern Society Dinner.

“Over a year ago, Gloria and I were talking about ways we might be able to increase our financial support of Missouri Southern,” Don said. “We called Dr. Brad Hodson (executive vice president) and he brought over eight to 10 brochures for us to look at, and one of them was for an athletic academic support center.

“We had the opportunity later that fall to visit with (head football coach) Jeff Sims. We asked him, ‘If you had one wish, what would it be?’ He didn’t hesitate. He said, ‘We need academic help for our students.’ That pretty much convinced us this was the program we wanted to support.”

The room in the North End Zone building offers a space for student-athletes to work on their studies and receive support from academic advisers Jessica Heuertz and Rachel Jennings.

“This is an extraordinarily generous and impactful gift,” said university president Dr. Dean Van Galen during the ceremony. “It demonstrates a true commitment to the core of why the university exists, and it sends a wonderful message that we are committed to helping our student-athletes succeed in all aspects of their lives – whether on the field or in the classroom.

“Our campus would not be the same without Don and Gloria and their wonderful family. I know I speak for countless students, faculty, staff and the Board of Governors when I say thank you.”