Harry and Berniece Gockel were among the most beloved members of the Missouri Southern family. As a faculty member, Harry Gockel's career spanned the history of the College itself; he came to Joplin Junior College in 1939. Through the years he was an integral part of the evolution of the institution into a four-year college and he served as the first chair of the new social science division of the College. He retired in 1972 but continued to visit campus, keeping in touch with colleagues and students. Harry taught history, economics and geography courses, challenging his students with high standards and strict discipline. New students might easily have been frightened by him but they soon came to know him as a generous man with a grand sense of humor. He is remembered by alumni as a truly great teacher.
Harry Gockel's teaching of geography was enhanced by his many travels with his wife Berniece, who was a teacher in the elementary grades. Together they traveled all over the world. Almost every summer they were trekking to another continent, including a 58-day world tour in 1964. Berniece was an ardent supporter of the College, and after Harry's death in 1984 she continued to visit campus and attend College functions. She donated the bricks which form the base of the veteran's memorial at the campus flagpole. Part of the backyard patio at their Carthage home, the bricks were originally salvaged when the old junior college at Fourth and Byers was razed.
At their deaths they left an estate which provides funds for MSSU to hold an annual symposium.
Their wish was that "the symposium or conference. . .discuss international affairs, governments and politics, including issues of historical, economic, geo-political, social or current affairs. Authorities in these disciplines shall be invited to the symposium or conference to lecture and discuss these issues with the students, faculty, and people of the region. . . ."
Responsibility for developing the Harry and Berniece Gockel International Symposium was assigned by President Julio León to the Institute of International Studies in 1997.
About Harry and Berniece Gockel, let it be remembered that more than bricks and a page in the history book, their true legacy is one of great enthusiasm for learning about and understanding the world, which is now borne out in this symposium which bears their names.