August 30, 2010
Northwest said goodbye earlier this month to one of the longest-serving faculty members in its history.
Dr. Frank D. Grispino, professor and director of Northwest's doctoral program, retired after 45 years at the University.
"It's been a fun ride and I've really enjoyed it," Grispino said. "I felt very privileged to have this job and I got a lot out of it. I've said this before, but if you could love an inanimate thing, I love Northwest. It's quite a place."
After he completed his doctorate at the University of Kansas, Grispino joined the Northwest faculty as an assistant professor, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses and supervising interns.
He has served as chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, supervisor of the Horace Mann Laboratory School and on many community and state organizations.
He has coordinated the MU/Northwest doctoral program and was involved with its inception in 1996. Along with his daughter, Dr. Kristi Alexander, who is assistant professor in the educational leadership department, Dr. Grispino authored a book titled, "Finding, Hiring and Keeping the Best Teachers and School Staff: Methods and Management in a Time of Shortage." In 2007, he was awarded the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Northwest Alumni Association.
Interim Dean of the College of Education and Human Services Dr. Joyce Piveral said Grispino has served Northwest honorably and played an instrumental role in guiding the education department to where it is today.
"He has always been pro-Northwest and so supportive of things at Northwest," Piveral said. He leaves behind a legacy of helping others and advocating for faculty and staff. Knowing what came before, he has helped us decide the best route for the future."
Grispino cheerfully recalled being hired to teach at Northwest in 1965 by then-President Dr. Robert Foster. Grispino had three other job offers at schools in Illinois and New York, but was intrigued by the opportunity to stay close to his native Pittsburg, Kan.
"I told him about my other offers and he said, 'I want you to come here,' " Grispino said. "When I first came, we worked without a contract. It was President Foster's word and your word. That went on for a number of years."
Grispino admits he didn't anticipate staying in Maryville for more than a year or two.
"When I saw Northwest and I saw Maryville, I wasn't quite sure where it was," Grispino said. "I thought, well, it's a state college. It has a very strong teacher education program and a very strong administrative prep program. So then I came here and I liked the people I met. I liked the opportunity I was going to have for teaching involvement."
At that time, Grispino recalled, Northwest's enrollment was about 3,000 students. A number of the buildings standing on campus today - including Valk, Garrett-Strong and parts of the athletic complex - had not been built. The sidewalks were gravel.
Education students made up a large portion of the enrollment with as many as 700 aspiring teachers graduating from Northwest each year. However, the technology and screening devices, such as today's C-BASE and Praxis tests, had not been implemented.
"We have to prepare our people now more so than we did then to face a more critical world of education," Grispino said. "We also try to prepare them for the role that they play now. They're not only teachers and facilitators, organizers, presenters, but they're surrogate parents, they're counselors, they're medical people. You have to do all these things that people did not have to do 45 or 50 years ago."
With the changes in academic standards and students' learning habits, teaching curriculum has evolved to emphasize skills graduates need to be successful, especially technology. Today's students are more exposed to television, video games, the internet and travel. They are used to visual images accompanying the things they read and hear.
During his final weeks at Northwest, Grispino was teaching a course that engaged three separate classrooms - located in St. Joseph, Liberty and on the Maryville campus - through instructional TV. That was impossible when he arrived at Northwest.
"The internet has made a tremendous difference in what students can do and what they learn and access," Grispino said. "You used to have to go to a library and pull out a card. Then you had to go to the stacks. Then you had to find it. Then you had to check it out. Now you just get on a computer and you've got anything you could possibly want."
Piveral also has the unique perspective of learning from Grispino as a student teacher and graduate student.
"He very much was a participatory teacher," Piveral said. "He would say, 'Research this and come share your knowledge with others in the class.' He was a facilitator; he would bring in current publications and ask for reaction about different student perspectives. He liked for people to speak about their experiences and have that classroom sharing."
In retirement, Grispino will continue writing his column for Nodaway News Leader. He also looks forward to continuing his painting hobby, spending more time with his grandchildren and attending Bearcat sporting events.
"If you're looking for a higher education institution, this is one of the better ones," Grispino said. "It has all kinds of academic quality. We have well-prepared, trained and dedicated faculty. They care about your success and failure. We have classes where people know one another; it's not a huge class of 150 with a graduate assistant teaching it. And for a university town, people end up really loving Maryville."
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