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May 6, 2021

Northwest legacy inspires couple’s gift to ALC, continued support


The pull of the Northwest Missouri State University family rings true for Dell and Janet Kelley Epperson. Nineteen members of the Kelley family call themselves Bearcats, and that legacy has inspired the couple to support Northwest through their monetary gifts, including a recent gift toward the Agricultural Learning Center.

With their gift, the Eppersons have joined the Homesteader Society, a group of more than 50 public and private donors providing gifts of $25,000 or greater toward the project.

“My wife and I are strong supporters of Northwest Missouri State and, in particular, the agricultural programs, which are applicable to every walk of life,” Dell said, noting Jan’s mother, Shirley Alden Kelley, a 1952 graduate, still owns 240 acres north of Maryville near Hopkins, which Jan’s late father, Bobby Kelley, a 1953 graduate, purchased after retiring from a career in education. Today the farm is managed by Jan’s brother, Keith Kelley, a 1984 graduate, and nephew, Sam Kelley, a 2016 graduate. “We have a vested interest in continuing to support everything related to agriculture with Northwest. It’s a family affair.”

When finished in July, the 29,000-square-foot, $11.4 million Agricultural Learning Center will be a linchpin addition to the University’s R.T. Wright Farm and enhance the School of Agricultural Sciences by providing laboratory, kitchen and exposition space as well as classrooms and offices while helping the School meet the needs of enrollment and program growth.

The facility also will allow for research and scholarly activities centered on crop, soil and livestock resources as well as space for processing agricultural products. It will include space for public and private functions such as producer and agricultural industry meetings, workshops, shows and career development events. It will serve as a resource that enables innovation and partnerships while addressing best practices for the Northwest campus and agricultural sciences.

Additionally, the Eppersons have named the University as the beneficiary in their wills.

“We believe our formative years at Northwest shaped our personal and professional lives,” Dell said. “Jan majored in education. I was first a radio announcer, then served in the military. Giving back to where we met and began our lives together was the logical choice, providing opportunities for the next generation of Bearcats.”

Dell graduated from Northwest in 1975 with a degree in speech with a broadcasting emphasis but made his career with the U.S. Navy. He retired in 2012 as a captain in the Surface Warfare Office after a 30-year career that included assignments in San Francisco; San Diego; Washington, D.C.; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and London. He served as commanding officer of the USS Fletcher (DD-992), the Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific and the Auburn University-Tuskegee University Consortium, for which he also was a professor of naval science.

Prior to embarking on his military career, Dell worked in radio, first as an announcer at KWIX-KRES in Moberly, Missouri, and then as a program director and morning announcer at KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa.

Janet graduated from Northwest in 1975 also with a degree in elementary education and was a member of the Bearcat women’s basketball team. As part of a lineage of educators that includes both of her grandmothers, her father and two brothers, teaching was a natural career path for her. She sustained her teaching career while moving with Dell throughout his military career, which included living in eight states, and she retired in 2015 as a sixth-grade instructor after Dell’s final tour in Hawaii.

Today, they reside in Columbia, Missouri, and Dell is a member of the Northwest Foundation Board of Directors. 

“Dell and Jan are such amazing people and the support they provide to Northwest shows that they are Bearcats through and through,” Sam Mason, a major gift officer with Northwest’s Office of University Advancement, said. “They both acknowledge that the time they spent as students greatly impacted the course of their lives. They truly understand that the best way we can give back to their alma mater is by making an investment in our students by providing much needed funds for scholarships and facilities.”

For more information about the Agricultural Learning Center, to make a gift to support the project, or to name Northwest as a beneficiary in your will, visit www.nwmissouri.edu/ForeverGreen/AgCenter/support.htm, call 660.562.1248 or email advance@nwmissouri.edu.


Media contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704