Alumni Recognized in Hall of Honor

HoH-header.jpgAs part of the Homecoming festivities for 2021, three of Central Methodist University's highest-achieving alumni were recognized for their global contributions as the first class in the Hall of Honor. The award is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon CMU alumni, with busts of each honoree specially cast and displayed on campus forever.

This year's recipients were Glenn Cox '51, Bishop Abel Muzorewa '62, and Dr. C. Fred Bergsten '61.

Glenn Cox Still Flying High at Age 92

Bartlesville, Oklahoma reveres its past. And its heroes. And Central Methodist University does the same.

The town and the college have one person in common. And they love him very much. His name is Glenn Cox, ’51.

Cox, 92 years young, is the former president of Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville. Much of his career was spent in Bartlesville leading the international oil giant and jetting around the world representing his company and the United States.

But he never forgot his humble beginnings in Sedalia or the Methodist minister, Homer Ulysses Campbell, who convinced him to be the first one in his family to go to college—at Central. He spent two years in Fayette studying on the Central Methodist campus, where he is also revered. Cox loves Central to this day, and it shows not only in his generosity, but also in his leadership. He spent several years as chairman of the board of trustees.

Cox’s impact on the world and on Central has left such an impression that Central honored him on Homecoming weekend as one of the inaugural members of the Hall of Honor. Selection to this esteemed group is the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon an alumnus of Central.

“Central played such an important role in my life,” Cox said. “The imprint was substantial.”

So substantial that Cox not only remembered Central but joined the board of trustee and served as its chairman until 2014.

“There were so many important things going on in those days,” Cox recalled. “One was the new student center. Funding that building was going to require a lot of money and a lot of commitment. I’ll never forget [President] Marianne Inman taking an sledgehammer to the old building to get the project started.”

Another memory of Cox’s time on the board was the battle over Classic Hall. Some wanted it torn down; others wanted it restored, he said.

“It was in disrepair,” he said. “The only use for a while was the flock of pigeons living inside. I do remember taking a Saturday morning accounting class there.”

The project went on to be a resounding success, with the principal occupants being the music program.

“But I can still see Joe Geist and the friendly struggle to make sure the building provided space for the art gallery,” Cox said. “I think we’re all pleased with how things came out.”

Just like his time at Central, Cox has memories of his leadership time at Phillips Petroleum. And sometimes, the responsibilities of his work life and his Central life came at a personal cost.

“There was definitely some time away from the family,” he said.

To minimize his travel time to Fayette, Cox relied on his training as a military pilot and flew his own plane to Central board meetings.

“I’d fly into Boonville and get picked up for the board meetings,” he said. “It worked out pretty well unless the weather wasn’t cooperating.”

When Cox assumed his role as president of Phillips, he said the biggest challenge he faced globally was the rapid fall in oil prices.

“I can remember $10 a barrel,” he said. “It’s not a number you want to live with for very long.”

But that struggle, he said, paled in significance to the challenges that occupied his time for a three-month period in 1984 and 1985. That was when he dealt with not one, but two hostile takeover attempts.

“Corporate America has frequently seen this,” he said. “T. Boone Pickens was the first, and after successfully repulsing that effort, it was Carl Icahn.”

But when he looks back over his career, he thinks of the positive accomplishments.

“We were successful in completing a number of projects,” he said. “Like polyurethane. It was using up our storage space everywhere, until the Hula Hoop was produced. That emptied out the warehouses pretty quick.”

There were day-to-day multi-million dollar decisions, like choosing how much to invest in exploration and production, supporting refineries, or looking at new chemical plants.

Cox always stressed focus on the goal and helped those who would stray to get them back on track. His priority was always compliance.

“Rulebooks are filled with requirements under which corporations must conduct their business,” he said. “I wanted to make certain we were in compliance with the rules. There were always those who were watching, ready to [criticize] your missteps.”

It is no surprise that his children remember his leadership style as a parent, and they chuckle now at a phrase they heard from him all too often – “Nose to the grindstone.”

That was his way, he said, of keeping them focused on the tasks at hand, like studying and getting into college. He says they’re all very successful adults. And the kids say the nose to the grindstone phrase falls far short of capturing their father’s style.

They say the leader of a corporate giant, who served as chairman of the board at Central, has an enormous heart filled with charity, service, and philanthropy.

His gifts and volunteerism at Central are legendary, as they are in Bartlesville.

Cox couldn’t have done it, he said, without his church and his wife of 67 years, Veronica “Ronnie” Cox, who passed away in 2020.

“She did it all,” he said. “I’m so proud of what we did together. When I got the job as president, we had a talk with the kids about how they might experience some criticism and hear some things in Bartlesville. But Ronnie had all these guests at the house so often. We were constantly entertaining people from other countries. It was her labor of love.

“There were definitely some parts of my work she didn’t like,” Cox said. “Like all the transfers. One in particular troubled her – when we moved from Tampa, Florida to Columbus, Ohio. She cried. It just got to her.”

Yet in the long run, Ronnie and the kids took it in stride.

Now the kids have entered a new part of Glenn’s life.

“At age 92, there are a lot of things that used to be very easy for me to complete, and now they are more difficult,” he said. “So I really appreciate the support I have received from them. They’ve become my new helpers.”

In a way, their nose is still to the grindstone—for their dad. Like always.

Unifier, Servant Leader, Political Giant

Not many colleges can claim the leader of a country as an alumnus.

But Central Methodist University can. The institution is quite proud of the legacy of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, ‘62, former prime minister of Zimbabwe.

Muzorewa, who passed away in 2010, left such a legacy in the world that Central honored him posthumously over Homecoming weekend as one of the inaugural members of the Hall of Honor. Selection to the Hall of Honor is the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon alumni of Central.

Honorees demonstrate outstanding achievement in their field and reflect the University’s creed to seek knowledge, truth, and wisdom; value freedom, honesty, civility, and diversity; lead lives of service and leadership; and take responsibility for themselves and the communities in which they live.

Muzorewa was a peace maker, national unifier, politician, author, and preacher. He was popularly elected in 1979 to lead his nation of Zimbabwe (former British colony called Rhodesia) through the nation’s political struggle for independence.

“When I reflect on my father’s life, one word comes to mind: unity,” said the bishop’s daughter, Charity Muzorewa, ’92, of San Antonio, Texas. “He unified our immediate family, he was the glue to our family; he unified the church; and he unified the warring nationalists so that our nation could have democracy.”

Following his theological studies and spending five years as a “circuit” preacher, Muzorewa was sent to further his education at Central Methodist College in Fayette. There are residents of Fayette who still remember Muzorewa and said he was “quiet, deeply religious, and intense.”

Yet, Muzorewa was described in news reporting as a powerful orator and tough negotiator.

Those qualities, along with many others, Charity said, led to one of his greatest accomplishments, the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979. He brought the British, frontline states, and armies all together to broker a deal for Zimbabwe’s independence.

“He was an advocate for democracy, a man of integrity, and a servant leader,” Charity said. “Anybody who got to know my father and know his heart are very proud of him.”

Due to his statesmanship, Muzorewa preferred to relinquish his premiership after only six months rather than prolong the guerilla war that ravaged the country. Yet, he still maintained hopes and dreams of “a truly independent Zimbabwe, a multiracial nation, a nation of social justice, and a democracy just like the United States,” Charity said.

His church leadership is still widely remembered in Zimbabwe. Muzorewa was known for his inspirational messages to get youth involved in the liberation of the country. He led the nationalist movement at the time when most nationalists had been locked up by the white minority regime.

Muzorewa and his wife, Maggie, were married in 1952. They had five children, including their one and only daughter, Charity Rufaro.

When Charity was growing up amid some of the turmoil, she remembers “a very scary time. I remember when a bomb was thrown at our house. And he survived several bomb [attempts] himself.”

Her father was ultimately jailed by his political opponents and earlier had been banned from entering black tribal areas where half of his church members resided.

“As a Christian leader, he may have been afraid,” Charity said. “But it was evident that God was his ultimate protector.”

To honor his never-ending advocacy for human rights, Muzorewa received the United Nations Human Rights Award in 1973. Muzorewa received an honorary doctorate from Central in the 1970s and wrote his autobiography, Rise Up & Walk, in 1978. He returned to campus to lecture in 1985. Rise Up & Walk is still available in Central’s library.

Charity said following her father’s footsteps and attending Central was a simple choice.

“I was walking on a campus that was hallowed ground,” she said. “The campus nurtured a politician, a political giant.”

Muzorewa retired in 1992, and in 2005 launched the A.T. Muzorewa Evangelism Foundation.

World-Renowned Economist Shaped by Days at Central

Dr. C. Fred Bergsten, ’61, has advised nine different presidents on complex global economic issues. He founded one of the most reputable economic policy think tanks in the world. And his formative years occurred in Fayette, Missouri on the campus of Central Methodist University.

Bergsten, the author of more than 40 books, is one of the inaugural members of the Central Methodist University Hall of Honor, inducted over Homecoming weekend on the CMU campus. The Hall of Honor is the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon an alumnus of Central.

Honorees demonstrate outstanding achievement in their field and reflect the University’s creed to seek knowledge, truth, and wisdom; value freedom, honesty, civility, and diversity; lead lives of service and leadership; and take responsibility for themselves and the communities in which they live.

Bergsten is one of the most influential economic policy advisers in the world and was once mentioned by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as the person who taught him everything he knows about economics.

“I’d like to think I played a very constructive role in the stunning success of the world economy,” he said in reference to his highly decorated career. “The world in the last 50 years has seen the most successful economic development in human history.”

But don’t begin to think Bergsten, now 80, has settled into a comfy retirement. He’s still as relevant as ever, having just penned an article on the Rise of China for Yahoo News and completed a new book on the same topic, U.S. vs. China: The Quest for Global Economic Leadership.

“I’m still quite active on a number of policy issues,” he said. “China [for instance] is already a global economic power. How the U.S. and the world handles the rise of China is going to be decisive to how we all live over the coming decades and maybe even the rest of this century.

“I do not fear China supplanting the United States and knocking us into poverty,” he said. “I do worry that if we mishandle China’s rise, and fail to accord it the position commensurate with its power and ability and clout it has achieved, we could have a clash—a cold war or even worse.”

Bergsten remains a nonresident senior fellow and director emeritus at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the think tank he founded and ran from 1981 through 2012. He was the most widely-quoted economist in the world for eight years.

His philosophy?

“I believe the underpinnings of my success have been intellectual integrity, intellectual ability, and a willingness to work hard,” he said. “You have to be objective, honest, balanced, and willing to criticize people in high positions when they are wrong.”

Bergsten remains proud to this day of two of his greatest policy accomplishments: helping President Bill Clinton move the Asia Pacific region toward free trade and helping the Reagan administration put together agreements to reestablish equilibrium in exchange rates to stabilize currencies in the world financial system.

Bergsten remains hopeful for the Asia Pacific region since China has sought membership and the U.S. may soon re-join. He was also very proud of his work to stabilize currencies, since “the international monetary system got so out of whack in the early 1980s.”

His strategy for success sounds simple. But the execution is far from it.

“I’ve focused on being credible and having substantive analysis and recommendations,” he said. “Everything runs off of substance. And you have to present your ideas in an effective and succinct way. You also have to be novel. So I developed a concept called responsible excess. You had to be a little beyond the margins, but be responsible and timely.”

Bergsten adopted that philosophy not only with his bosses in government, but also the media, and in Congress.

And while he was traveling the globe and the country fighting for economic freedom, his alma mater never really left his heart or his head.

“I’ve always preferred small, elite institutions,” he said. “Like Central. Like my institute. Central’s intimacy enabled me to have a breadth of backgrounds and a diversity of experiences that put me in enormously good stead as I got into a policy world. That kind of breadth and diversity is absolutely essential.”

The debate and public speaking courses at Central, along with drama, student government, fraternities, and of course baseball and basketball, shaped who he became.

His greatest accomplishment at Central, though, was finding his wife, Jenny, ‘59.

“I am enormously proud of her,” Bergsten said. “We’ve both been on the board, but she was a far better board member than me. She’s been wonderfully recognized--she was a distinguished alumna, received an honorary degree, and she is really a top fund raiser at Central.

“Her class, 1959, is the all-time record holder for class gifts,” he said. “They have 23 Hall of Sponsors scholarships.”

Together, they reminisce about their time together on campus and their lifelong friendships at Central. Memories never diminished by lives well-lived.

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