When Mike Oldham began attending Missouri State after a stint in the U.S. Navy, including serving in Vietnam, his mentors were fellow war vets who served in World War II and Korea.
Now, he is giving back to the veterans who will come after him.
Creating ‘base camp’ on campus
A veteran student services office opened in Carrington Hall about 10 years ago with one person helping veterans get certifications.
Since then, the needs had grown, the staff had grown and the space needed to grow. Oldham made a donation to MSU to make it possible to provide a world-class veteran student center.
The Oldham Family Veteran Student Center, located in Meyer Library, was dedicated in March 2017.
It has offices for three full-time staff members, as well as a lounge and study area for veterans and their dependents who are students at MSU.
Here, veterans can get a cup of coffee, study, have their questions answered or make friends.
“This center will serve as a ‘base camp’ where these students will be comfortable and welcome,” Oldham said at the grand opening.
“A place where they can get information about VA benefits they have earned. Maybe they can get advice or mentoring from staff or other students, or just shoot the breeze, share experiences and tell stories that only other veterans can relate to and appreciate.”
That is just what Adam Ray, an electrical engineering student and a U.S. Air Force veteran, finds there. As he poured a fresh cup of coffee, Ray sat down to study.
“It offers so much,” he said of the center and its staff. “If I have any questions, they always have an answer.”
Jared Blau, a U.S. Army veteran, said returning to school was challenging.
“Getting reacclimated with civilian life was hard. I was older than most people in class and it was hard to make friends.”
All that changed when he discovered the veteran center.
“Here, everyone has that in common,” he said.
Finding mentors at MSU
Oldham learned a lot in the Navy, including the importance of getting a college education.
When he returned home to Springfield, he enrolled at MSU to study business and finance.
“I had my G.I. Bill and I had security, maturity and focus,” he said.
He fulfilled another dream when he got on the wrestling team — he did some wrestling in the fleet — and wound up as team captain and a conference champion.
But his real passion was for business. While earning his bachelor’s in finance he took classes in real estate, insurance and other business fields. This helped him earn a sales job with Burroughs Corporation, then a manufacturer of business equipment.
He went on to get an MBA from the University of Colorado and earned the position of CEO of a company called OmniBus Systems. He later co-founded FrontPoint Advisors, a Denver-based management-consulting firm.
He learned the value of business and community while he was at MSU.
“One of my instructors was a guy named Ralph Manley,” Oldham said. “He was a World War II veteran. Ralph was probably my favorite instructor — a veteran and a business guy. He could have made a lot more money in a business career, but he was willing to give back as a community leader (Manley served on the Springfield City Council for 10 years) and on the faculty.”
In the 1970s, many of the faculty and coaches were war veterans, Oldham pointed out.
“A lot of people I looked up to who were successful were veterans.”
Now, Oldham has been named to the Missouri State University Foundation Board of Trustees.
He has also made another contribution to the university for a sales lab in Glass Hall, where he attended most of his business classes.
“Along the way, I developed the attitude that when I was able, I would pay a little bit back like those guys did.”