Each year, the Boone County Historical Society recognizes those who have made a lasting contribution to the county through their professional or philanthropic lives, inducting into its Hall of Fame one individual posthumously, one business or organization and one living individual.
The society announced in a news release its 2022 enshrinees are Henry Kirklin, Columbia College and Cindy Mustard. The three will be honored and celebrated at the Boone County “History Makers” Gala on Oct. 14 in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall at Stephens College.
Henry Kirklin changed the landscape
Kirklin, the 2022 posthumous inductee, was a prize-winning horticulturist, entrepreneur, and educator. Born into slavery and denied a formal education, his techniques for growing fruit and vegetables were nationally acclaimed. Consulted by many, including Booker T. Washington, he would become very successful.
It’s widely believed Kirklin was the first African American to teach at the University of Missouri, though in an unofficial capacity. Joseph Douglass, a local greenhouse and nursery owner with ties to the university, employed Kirklin at a young age, which led to a position at MU’s horticulture department as a greenhouse supervisor and gardener.
“Kirklin’s skills at managing plants were striking, and he was quickly given the role of teaching students practical gardening skills,” the society stated in the release. “But despite his obvious talent, he was forbidden from teaching inside in a classroom and was never given an official faculty position.”
An almost immediate success, Kirklin started a farm in Columbia after his time at the university. He was known to mentor and financially assist young Black students who wanted to go to Lincoln University, the only local university open to Black students at the time, according to the release.
Kirklin and his wife, Martha, are buried at the historic Columbia Cemetery. In 2020, community members raised funds for a monument for the couple. The following year, the university dedicated its new Plant Sciences Laboratory to Kirklin.
Columbia College owns a wide educational footprint
The Missouri Legislature in 1851 granted a charter to Christian College, which would become Columbia College. Advertised as the first women’s college west of the Mississippi River, Columbia College emerged as virtually a sister college to the University of Missouri, sharing leadership, faculty and curriculum in the early days, according to the release.
Christian College in 1970 transitioned from a two-year, all-female school to Columbia College, a four-year, co-educational institution. That decade also saw the college become one of the first on military bases nationwide, following a request by the US Armed Forces, a presence that continues today.
“Its national footprint spans from the State of Washington to California, from Florida to Illinois, and all points in between,” the society stated in the release. “Columbia College was also one of the first institutions in the country to begin offering online courses, beginning in 2000.”
Cindy Mustard dedicated career to others
The society’s 2022 living inductee is a Boone Countian who has dedicated her career to helping others. The list of local awards given by civic and governmental agencies to Mustard includes the Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year and Athena awards, MU Outstanding Faculty-Alumni, League of Women Voters Citizen of the Year and Columbia Public Schools Foundation Hall of Leaders.
In 1965, Mustard began working in social services, according to past Tribune reporting. Twenty years of her career were spent at the Voluntary Action Center, where she retired as executive director in 2011, after serving for 18 years. During her tenure, services offered by the organization widely expanded.
Over the years, she has distributed lunch to school children, organized school supply drives and started a scholarship. The VAC Lunch in the Park program for children began during her tenure. She worked to find funding for leaky roofs, broken hot water heaters and other needs for many low-income families.
She currently serves as president of the Board of Directors for the Columbia Public Schools Foundation, is a Chamber of Commerce ambassador and a member of the Columbia Downtown Rotary Club. Mustard has devoted her life to serving others, according to the release, which quotes Peggy Kirkpatrick, former executive director of the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.
“She’s almost an institution unto herself,” Kirkpatrick said.