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(Springfield) (AP) – A decade after being rebranded Missouri State University, the new moniker is widely credited with raising the profile of Springfield’s largest higher education institution.

It also has been credited with fueling the university’s ongoing push to grow and diversify enrollment, expand academic offerings, and increase private giving – which, in turn, helps pay for better buildings, the Springfield News-Leader ( http://sgfnow.co/1GvjM8t ) reported.

“I don’t think you can overestimate how important this was,” said MSU President Clif Smart. “This was the catalyst that has changed the profile of the university. It would be hard for you to pick a factor that the name change didn’t impact.” The old name, Southwest Missouri State University, focused on the region while the new name emphasizes statewide reach.

Smart said the hard-fought battle to change the name 10 years ago has paid off with greater prominence – the ability to develop more partnerships, lobby for legislative change and attract more talented students and faculty.

“Students now view us differently, not as a regional university anymore,” Smart said. “The interest from St. Charles County, from the greater St. Louis area, from Kansas City – all over the state – is different. It is also different in recruiting international students.”

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce has long recognized the role MSU, and other higher education institutions, play in attracting businesses and families to the city. Matt Morrow, president and CEO of the chamber, has described the university as a critical part of the economic engine and contends the institution’s leverage has only grown with the new name.

“It has meant a lot to the city and to this whole part of the state,” he said.

The largest higher education institution headquartered in Springfield traces its roots to 1905 but has only been known as Missouri State University since 2005. In recent months, the campus has celebrated the milestone and reflected on what the change has meant.

“One of my themes the last four years has been `Let’s act out our name,'” Smart said. “We’re not a regional campus anymore. Let’s think bigger, let’s be bolder.”

Jim Baker, vice president for research and economic development and international programs, said the university boasted a “significant” number of students, graduate programs and private donations as Southwest Missouri State University but has grown in each of those areas more rapidly after dropping the regional “southwest” from the name.

“There is a status attached to the name. There is a pride that goes with it,” Baker said. “I don’t think we’d have 24,000 students now if we didn’t change the name.”

Pressed to say how much impact the new name has made, Baker said: “I’d say we’re 50 percent better off than we would have been, but it’s hard to judge.”

Baker said he believes there is more pride among students, supporters and alumni but that is harder to quantify. He contends “Bear Wear” – maroon clothing carrying the MSU name or logo – appears to be “everywhere,” which wasn’t the case when he joined the university’s staff in 1995.

“The changing of the name created more buzz than anything,” he said.

One of the biggest changes is MSU’s strong, collaborative relationship with the University of Missouri system. In the years before the name change, the two were more adversarial and Mizzou supporters, in the General Assembly and beyond, were vocal about opposing the new name.

In fact, the proposed legislation to change the name at MSU – and a few other higher education institutions – was only approved after MSU agreed to a series of concessions aimed at protecting Mizzou’s dominance in key areas.

“Now we are closer to a partner,” Smart said. “We are a statewide university and they’re much more comfortable interacting with us.”

That collaboration was on display during recent legislative sessions, when MSU and Mizzou jointly lobbied lawmakers and Gov. Jay Nixon. United, they were successful in securing funding for MSU’s new occupational therapy program and Mizzou’s new Springfield clinical campus, which will train doctors at Mercy Springfield and CoxHealth.

Morrow recalled a time, at the height of the debate over MSU’s name change, when the two institutions working together seemed impossible. “Today it is a different environment and a lot of that has to do with the leadership,” he said.

He said had the two not tied the proposals together and fought for each other’s projects, “they would have been competitive and there would have been a winner and a loser. Instead, we have a win-win and it’s all here in Springfield.”

Smart said he’s proud of the progress and the new identity of the university.

“We are a different university now than we were 10 years ago,” he said. “The result of that is the state is better, we’re better, our relationship with the University of Missouri is better.”

(Sunrise Beach) (AP) – A 27-year-old man has drowned while swimming at the Lake of the Ozarks.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol identified the victim as Torrance Chatman of Osage Beach. He was in a boat Friday when he got out and began swimming toward a dock at the Welcher Hollow Cove. The patrol says he began experiencing difficulty and went under water.

His body was taken from the lake to a funeral home.

(Jonesboro) (AP) – The family, friends and colleagues of a former Arkansas State University journalism instructor have endowed a memorial scholarship in her honor following her death.

The university this week announced the Bonnie Thrasher Memorial Scholarship. Thrasher was a longtime multimedia journalism instructor who died suddenly in March. She also served as adviser to the university’s student newspaper.

Thrasher joined the A-State faculty in 1993 and taught news reporting, editing and design.

The annual award is based off of earnings from the endowment and will go to a full-time journalism student who has completed at least 30 hours at the university.

by Jim Salter, AP

FILE - This June 25, 2015, file photo shows the words “Black Lives Matter” spray painted on a monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. Confederate monuments in a half-dozen places this week have been defaced _ a telling sign of the racial tension that permeates post-Ferguson America. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

FILE – This June 25, 2015, file photo shows the words “Black Lives Matter” spray painted on a monument to former Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va. Confederate monuments in a half-dozen places this week have been defaced _ a telling sign of the racial tension that permeates post-Ferguson America. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

(St. Louis) (AP) – Vandals have targeted monuments dedicated to the leaders and soldiers of the Confederacy, painting the slogan “Black lives matter” on memorials in a half-dozen states where the landmarks stand tall in parks and outside government buildings.

The graffiti reflects the racial tension that permeates post-Ferguson America, more than a week after a white man was accused of shooting and killing nine black congregants at a Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Michael Allen, a lecturer in American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, compared the vandalism to the toppling of statues in Russia at the end of the Soviet empire.

“If the monuments are strong statements of past values, defacing them is the easiest and loudest way to rebuke those statements,” Allen said.

Confederate symbols including the rebel battle flag have been the subject of resentment for years. The anger boiled over after last week’s massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The suspect, Dylann Roof, posed in photos with the Confederate flag.

Politicians throughout the South are taking steps to remove the flag from public places. Black activists say the monuments should meet the same fate.

One of the defaced monuments was the Confederate Memorial in St. Louis’ Forest Park, 10 miles from Ferguson. The same graffiti was reported on memorials in Charleston; Baltimore; Austin, Texas; Asheville, North Carolina; and Richmond, Virginia. No arrests have been made.

Racial wounds in the U.S. were torn open last August, when a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed. Officer Darren Wilson was cleared of any wrongdoing, but the shooting raised new awareness about the treatment of blacks.

“Black lives matter” became a rallying call in protests that followed police shootings of black men in other cities, too. With the Charleston shooting refocusing attention on Confederate symbolism, experts said, it isn’t surprising that some people would take out their anger on monuments to those who fought on the side of slavery.

Elizabeth Brondolo, a psychology professor at St. John’s University in New York who studies the effects of race on mental and physical health, said the defacing of memorials reflects a “consensus that there’s been a very serious failure of empathy, a failure to understand what these symbols might mean to people who suffered from slavery and ongoing aggression.”

Defaced monuments at the University of Texas in Austin and in Richmond honor Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Asheville monument pays homage to Zebulon Vance, a Confederate officer and later a governor and senator. Others, like the St. Louis memorial, are more generic tributes to those who fought for the South.

The future of the 32-foot-tall, 101-year-old statue in St. Louis was already in doubt. In April, Mayor Francis Slay ordered a study of what to do with it and asked for the review to be complete by the end of the summer. Options include altering the wording of the plaque, moving the monument out of Forest Park or removing it entirely.

The University of Texas in Austin is weighing options for its statues of Davis and other Confederate war heroes, with a decision expected by Aug. 1. Three of those statutes were damaged this week.

In Kentucky, both candidates for governor, along with other prominent political leaders, are calling for the Jefferson Davis statue to be removed from its prominent place in the statehouse rotunda and placed in a museum.

Efforts have also begun to seek removal of Confederate monuments in Nashville, Tennessee; Shreveport, Louisiana; Orlando, Florida; Portsmouth, Virginia; and Birmingham, Alabama.

Darrell Maples, commander of the Missouri chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the “citizen-soldiers who fought for the Confederacy personified the best qualities of America.”

He said altering or removing monuments is “divisive and unnecessary.”

Brandi Collins of the civil rights group ColorOfChange.org said the effort isn’t about revising history.

“It’s about saying that if we are truly about equity, about moving forward, we have to respect everybody who lives in and built this country,” she said.

(West Plains) – Oz-Con 2015, a gaming, cosplay and anime convention, is taking place June 26-28 at the West Plains Civic Center.

Proceeds benefit the West Plains Bridges program, which provides for children in need in the West Plains and surrounding rural school districts.

Admission for adults is $20 per day, or $35 for the weekend; and $20 for kids 8-12 for the weekend, or $15 per day.

Gay rights advocates outside of the US Supreme Court on Friday. (AP)

Gay rights advocates outside of the US Supreme Court on Friday. (AP)

(Jefferson City) (AP) – Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision Friday to legalize gay marriage – upending Missouri’s constitutional ban on the practice – same-sex couples in the state applied and were granted marriage licenses.

The decision marks a sweeping end to the constitutional amendment enacted in 2004 to ban the practice, which was approved by about 70 percent of voters at the time. The state was the first to adopt a constitutional ban following a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court permitting gay marriage.

Despite that history, state and local leaders moved swiftly to ensure Missouri complied with the high court’s decision. The Supreme Court gave the losing side roughly three weeks to ask for a rehearing, but University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor David Achtenberg said it’s unlikely the justices will change their minds.

Attorney General Chris Koster on Friday dropped appeals of two cases fighting the state’s ban on gay marriage, eliminating legal questions and further clearing the path for marriages for same-sex couples. Gov. Jay Nixon also pledged to take “all necessary and appropriate actions” to ensure the ruling is implemented in Missouri.

“No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love,” Nixon said in a statement.

Some Republican lawmakers decried the ruling. Springfield Republican Rep. Sonya Anderson said the decision “should be left in the hands of the states and the people.”

“This decision stands in stark contrast to the will of the people of Missouri, who overwhelmingly support the traditional definition of marriage that is enshrined in our state Constitution,” Anderson said in a statement.

While Jan Jones – the president of an association of officials charged with issuing marriage licenses – said the issue might make some officials “uncomfortable,” she directed all counties to comply quickly with the decision.

Recorders’ Association of Missouri President Jones said some might experience technical delays because some software counties use might not have options for marrying two men or two women. But she hasn’t heard of any county recorders deciding to wait until the decision is final.

Some same-sex couples received marriage licenses within hours.

Laura Zinszer, 58, and her partner of about 20 years, Angela Boyle, 52, of Columbia, were watching online when the decision came down and were overwhelmed.

“We were crying,” Boyle said. “We were ecstatic. We were just out of this world.”

They immediately rushed to the Boone County Recorder of Deed’s Office, where they had submitted their marriage application a year ago. The office had placed it on hold while the courts battled the legality of same-sex marriage, and after attorneys reviewed the Supreme Court decision, they quickly received a license. Three out-of-town children surprised them and announced plans to fly in over the weekend so they, along with a child who lives in Columbia, can attend the couple’s wedding Monday.

“I am a little numb,” Zinszer said. “We are really emotional about this. For me, I’ve been holding my breath hoping that this would be a positive outcome, but there were no guarantees.”

Boone County Recorder of Deeds Nora Dietzel said the office phone “blew up once the ruling came through.” She said she has friends who will be affected, and she’s excited to be directly involved.

During a news conference at the American Civil Liberties Union office in St. Louis, ACLU attorney Tony Rothert said the ruling is clear, so county recorders of deeds and clerks must issue marriage licenses immediately.

Otherwise, he said, the ACLU will sue.

“Denying someone a marriage license today is a violation of the law,” Rothert said.

(St. Louis) (AP) – The effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour in St. Louis hit a potentially fatal snag Friday when the chairman of the committee that would consider the idea canceled all future hearings on it.

A measure filed earlier this month with support of Democratic Mayor Francis Slay would have potentially raised the minimum wage in the city to $15 an hour by 2020.

But the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Alderman Joe Vaccaro, acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, canceled all hearings on the proposal, calling it disingenuous to push the bill on such short notice.

The bill would have to pass before Aug. 28. That’s when a state law takes effect that forbids cities from raising the minimum wage higher than the state level, unless Gov. Jay Nixon vetoes it. Missouri’s minimum wage is $7.65 per hour.

Slay said a single alderman shouldn’t be able to end debate.

“Marriage equality, justice, access to quality education and a living wage-these are family issues that hold communities together,” Slay said. “The city has led the region and state on all of them. We want to be that different place.”

Two-thirds majority of aldermen would be needed to pull the bill out of committee, a tall task for a bill on such a hotly-debated topic. Meanwhile, aldermen go on summer break starting July 10.

“Without enough time to get all the facts it would be impossible to come up with what is fair and equitable for everyone,” said Vaccaro. He took over leadership of the committee after chairman Steve Conway recused himself over a conflict of interest. Conway is the chief financial officer of St. Louis-based pizza chain Imo’s, which would be affected by the rate increase.

FILE - In this March 11, 2015 file photo, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III announces the resignation of police chief Thomas Jackson during a news conference in Ferguson, Mo. Despite calls for him to go, Knowles is the last man standing in Ferguson city government after a Justice Department report highly critical of the city’s police force and court system prompted six officials to resign. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

FILE – In this March 11, 2015 file photo, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III announces the resignation of police chief Thomas Jackson during a news conference in Ferguson, Mo. Despite calls for him to go, Knowles is the last man standing in Ferguson city government after a Justice Department report highly critical of the city’s police force and court system prompted six officials to resign. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

(Ferguson) (AP) – Another effort to recall the mayor of Ferguson in the wake of last summer’s shooting death of Michael Brown has fallen short.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the St. Louis County Board of Elections says Ground Level Support was 27 votes short of the required 1,814 valid signatures needed to force an election to recall Mayor James Knowles III.

Ground Level Support says the recall election should move forward because the city missed a deadline in certifying the signatures. The group’s recall push also fell short in May.

Knowles, who’s white, was criticized for comments he made after last August’s shooting death of Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. In a statement Friday, Knowles says there’s still work to do “if one person signed the recall petition.”

by Jim Salter, AP

(St. Louis) (AP) – Storms with wind gusts up to 80 mph and torrential rains swept across Missouri overnight into Friday morning, leaving more than 150,000 homes and businesses without power and forcing dozens of water rescues.

Damage was widespread. Power outages were common in western Missouri – 107,000 customers of Kansas City Power & Light lost electricity Friday morning, and Independence Power & Light reported 42,000 outages. Downed power lines and trees were so common that many roads were closed. Fort Osage and Independence school districts canceled summer school classes due to outages.

In eastern Missouri, rain was the bigger problem. Up to 6 inches of rain fell in some areas.

Lincoln County, north of the St. Louis area, was especially hard hit. Rain came so fast and furious that the Cuivre River and several creeks flooded.

Lincoln County emergency management coordinator Jerry Daugherty said 31 people had to be rescued from homes and cars. About two dozen people had to evacuate their homes in the Winfield area. No injuries were reported. Shelters were opened in Troy and Winfield.

“In the last 2 1/2 weeks, we’ve had a tornado and this is the fourth flash flood,” Daugherty said. “I ain’t had a day off in a long time.”

Most maddening to Daugherty were the vehicle water rescues, since many of the drivers ventured past barricades and “Flooded Road” signs.

“They’ll move the barricade and drive into the water, then we have to go in and rescue them,” he said.

U.S. 61 was closed in both directions at the Cuivre River Bridge in Lincoln County. Dozens of roads were closed by flooding across northern and eastern Missouri.

Gov. Jay Nixon planned visits to Clarksville and Winfield on Saturday.

“The state is working closely with local officials and volunteers to see that they have all the necessary resources to recover and prepare for the possibility of additional flooding,” Nixon said in a statement.

The rain also caused standing water on St. Louis interstates, leading to several morning rush-hour accidents. There were no fatalities.

The storm also knocked out power in mid-Missouri, and created flash flooding along several roads in the Columbia area.

Rain over the past three weeks has swamped much of the state. The Mississippi and Missouri rivers were already above flood stage, and the National Weather Service said they’re going up again.

In Hannibal, flood gates were installed to protect the Mark Twain historic district downtown. The National Weather Service predicts a crest nearly 7 feet above flood stage on Sunday.

The Mississippi is expected to crest more than 9 feet above flood stage in St. Louis on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the weather service is calling for crests 6 to 9 feet above flood stage from mid-Missouri to St. Charles on the Missouri River.

(Seymour) (AP) – A man has died after being struck by lightning in a southwest Missouri farm field.

KYTV reports the 30-year-old Amish man died Friday morning along with two horses he was using to cultivate the field near Seymour.

The Webster County Sheriff’s Department says both horses also died.

The county coroner says he’ll try to determine whether the man was killed by the lightning or a secondary injury. The man’s name hasn’t been released.