Hank Foley, Interim Chancellor of the University of Missouri, announced Friday that MU alumni Barry and Marge Slayton donated $2.65 million to the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR). The gift will support beef genomics and nutrition research, aiming to improve the nutritional quality of cattle and the reproduction practices of beef farmers.
The announcement took place at Jesse Hall on MU’s campus, following an introduction from Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Relations Tom Hiles. Chancellor Foley said this donation marks an important time for philanthropy at MU, as gift announcements offer inspiring possibilities as well as an affirmation of the work of the University.
“Today is especially special, because the gift matches the donors’ passion with an area of strength for Mizzou, and reasserts the donors’ pride in MU during what are rather challenging times,” said Foley.
Barry Slayton, a former banker, graduated from MU in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences. Marge Slayton graduated in 1972 from the College of Education, and received a Master’s degree in extension education. The couple currently resides in West Plains, Mo. They have been planning this donation for over two decades.
“We had planned [for our gift to the university] several years ago in the early '90s, and our ability to give has increased,” said Barry Slayton. “Marge was interested in nutrition. I was interested in beef production, genomics in particular, because it’s a new science discovering all uses of the genes. And we just thought that [CAFNR] was a good place where we could contribute the money and cover both areas of interest at the same time.”
Marge Slayton added that the couple feels confident that their donation will be put to good use at the University. “What we wanted to do with our donation is reach as many people as we can, and in the future, this is going to help,” said Marge Slayton.
Missouri is ranked second for beef cattle production in the nation, behind Texas. The animal sciences division at MU ranks as one of the top animal science research and education programs in the world. The Slaytons’ said they believe their donation will result in economic improvements for beef farmers around the state and country.
“If we can increase the quality of our nutrition, and beef is a good quality protein, that will help the general population,” said Barry Slayton. “In the state of Missouri, from an agricultural standpoint, that also increases the ability to sell beef, which helps the farming community overall and helps the agricultural economy.”
Vice Chancellor and Dean of CAFNR Thomas L. Payne outlined how the university will benefit from the donation. A portion of the donation will support animal sciences faculty members Dr. Allison Meyer, who is working to establish a center for maternal neonatal nutrition, and Dr. Monty Kerley, who is researching using nutrition to improve beef cattle production. Funds will also support faculty members who are conducting genetics research that would enable producers to better identify cattle that will offer increased value. Payne said the donation will also fund animal sciences undergraduate scholarships and graduate student fellowships.
The Slaytons’ gift is tied to a significant increase in endowment, one of the priorities of the Mizzou: Our Time to Lead fundraising campaign. The $1.3 billion campaign, established October 8, 2015, aims at transforming the university by 2020 through endowment, signature centers and institutes, and campus renaissance.