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Kenneth McCaleb's legacy to live on

By Jacob W. Brower
Associate Editor
The Chart

Though Kenneth McCaleb died in 2002, his legacy at Missouri Southern is expected to live on for years to come.

An alumnus of Joplin Junior College, the precursor of Southern, McCaleb founded The Chart as a student in 1939. He said he thought the name fit, because he envisioned the newspaper serving as a graph of the College's progress.

"The school newspaper was an extracurricular activity in those days," said Margaret McCaleb, Kenneth's wife. "He was always fascinated with words and was interested in newspaper work at that time. I think that's what he wanted to do for a living. He never really forgot about words and newspapers, though."

After graduation, McCaleb's career goals changed. He was drafted into the Army in 1941, five days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He was a navigator on bombing missions over Germany during World War II, and then later became a mechanical engineer for NASA and the University of Oklahoma. He retired from the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala., in 1982.

McCaleb's passion for journalism and the printed word never changed, however. According to Margaret, he was an avid reader of literature and would question neighbors who did not subscribe to a newspaper.

Dr. Chad Stebbins, head of the Institute of International Studies and adviser for The Chart, said McCaleb took an active role in The Chart until his death.

"He felt ownership of The Chart," Stebbins said. "Obviously, he gave birth to it. The McCalebs would usually come back to campus every homecoming. Whenever he came back, he always made a point of talking to the editor."

Fittingly, visiting the Southern campus was one of the last things he did. The couple attended the Gockel Symposium Sept. 26, and McCaleb became ill upon returning to his home in Huntsville, Ala. He died Oct. 8, 2002.

McCaleb’s experiences in the war gave him an exceeded amount of appreciation for peace. While flying a mission over Germany in Oct. 14, 1943, McCaleb's plane was shot down. The Germans held him and his entire crew as prisoners of war until April 29, 1945.

James Harris of Little Falls, N.Y., the lone surviving member of the mission, recalled the uncomfortable conditions the soldiers were forced to endure that year and a half.

"We weren't fed too good," said Harris, who was a tail gunner in the mission. "We had a sanction of eight bunks and no heat. When we were released, the first thing I thought to do was just get home. It was very good to be out."

Harris said he and McCaleb became close while in the service.

"I miss him," he said. "Betty (Harris’ wife) and I miss him. He's been here with us, and we visit them in Alabama. We were quite close friends."

Harris said McCaleb got him out of several jams while they were together in the service.

"It's 40, 50 below zero up there," he said. "Our pilot forgot his boots one time, and I let him wear mine and froze my feet. Kenneth put my feet under his armpits, and did the same thing with my hands.

"I wouldn't say he saved my life, but he sure as hell helped."

Initiative for Peace

After retiring from Marshall, McCaleb decided to devote a great deal of effort to the cause of peace. In 1998, he donated 2,000 shares of Time-Warner stock, valued at $150,000, to start the McCaleb Initiative for Peace. The Initiative allows students to travel to sites of former wars and publish their findings in The Chart.

The Initiative gives students $5,000 grants to each student for their projects, which is interest on the stocks, Stebbins said. He said the Initiative is supposed to run "indefinitely."

"The Initiative has given [Southern] another area of distinction," Stebbins said. "It's the largest grant available to a student on campus, and it's enhanced Missouri Southern's national and international reputation. The students that have been selected have each produced a body of work that some have [compared] to a master's thesis.

"It's a great addition to The Chart. The Chart is providing information to the students that other [college] papers can't even begin to think of doing."

Ginny Andrews, a 2000 Southern alumna, was the recipient of the first McCaleb Initiative grant in 1998. She went to Germany and wrote about the aftereffects of World War II.

She said she found the experience to be rewarding.

“I think that it gave me a sense of history that very few people in my generation, our generation, have had the privilege of experiencing,” Andrews said.

She kept in touch with the McCalebs during and after her mission. She said she had a great deal of respect for them.

“I just really feel The Chart is really fortunate to have a man like Mr. McCaleb in its past,” Andrews said. “There is a lot that can be learned from the way he and Margaret lived their lives and the way they gave to things they believed in. To do what they did with their money says a lot about their values.”

Monicca Shanthanelson, senior biology, chemistry and pre-medicine major, visited India in December 2001 with the grant. She said she was impressed with McCaleb’s personality and dedication to the Initiative.

"He was extremely humble for a man of his intelligence," said Shanthanelson, who met the McCalebs at this year's Gockel Symposium. "I'm really thankful to him for letting me do that. The financial help was great. Not many schools have things like this.

"He was a great man, and I'm really glad I got to meet him. It was an honor."

Amanda Tweten, senior general studies major, traveled to Boston with the Initiative in the summer of 2001. She said she believes the Initiative gives students a great opportunity, and is a valuable service to the College.

"I think the idea behind the scholarship is a good one," she said. "It gives students an awesome opportunity to do an in-depth study on something that interests them. Who wouldn't want an opportunity like that?"

Tweten said she believes the Initiative gives Southern an advantage over other institutions of higher learning.

"I've never seen anything quite like this scholarship at any other institution," she said. "For the most part, the scholarship does provide students pretty free reign to do or study whatever they want."

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