When Montira Suraprasert asked a guy in class to tutor her, she never could have imagined she was setting herself up with her future husband.
Montira, an international student from Thailand, returned to MSU for her senior year a week late. She found she couldn’t catch up on her own.
“I shouldn’t have come back late,” she said. “That was bad news in a senior-level class.”
Montira asked a fellow student who knew all the answers to help her study. That student was Drew Clippard, now Montira Clippard’s husband of 18 years.
Falling in love at first byte
Drew and Montira, both computer information systems program graduates, began dating shortly after their first tutoring session.
“I fell in love with his brain and his intellect,” Montira said. “We would always talk about bits, bytes, computers and code, and not too many people can speak those languages.”
During their time on campus, Drew and Montira poured much of their time into university activities.
Both were involved in the Data Processing Management Association. Drew also participated in intramural track, while Montira helped grow the Association of International Students, or AIS. Their
first official date was to the AIS banquet in 1995.
“OUR SECOND DATE WAS TO TACO BELL, BECAUSE IT’S ALL I COULD AFFORD,” DREW SAID.
Montira planned to return home to Thailand after graduation. Her relationship with Drew altered her path.
“Our dating was challenging because I didn’t know if my parents would be OK with it,” Montira said.
Her parents were going to allow her to stay in America for a year after graduation, if she found a job.
“That year turned into never coming back,” Montira said.
In the midst of their early careers, Drew and Montira got married. Their first wedding was held Sept. 30, 2000, in the United States. On Jan. 3, 2001, they were married again in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I was very jet-lagged during that wedding,” Drew said. “It was nice though, because I got to meet Montira’s extended family and I had never been to Thailand before.”
Working at the same company
After graduation, Drew and Montira both secured jobs at Cerner. That company, which has its world headquarters in the Kansas City area, develops technology solutions for the health care field.
Drew started as a software engineer in June 1996. In July, Montira became a software engineer in a different department.
“Our careers started to grow very fast because the company was growing at such an exponential rate,” Montira said.
Drew worked on a wide array of projects during his time in software development. He helped implement technology for electronic health records, bedside medical devices and Cerner’s first set of web services. At the end of his time in development, he was helping Cerner introduce Java technology into its mix.
He was promoted to executive, which began his journey with management and security.
“I’m a senior director now, and I’ve been exposed to a lot of different areas,” Drew said.
Montira was part of Cerner’s first group of international hires. The company brought on around 12 foreign nationals at the time she started her career. She also received an executive master’s in business administration degree with a concentration in finance from University of Missouri-Kansas City in 2009, while working at Cerner.
Montira performed various roles as she moved up the ladder in the company.
“I called it wearing multiple hats,” she said.
By the time she retired from the company in 2012, she was the engineering director for seven different departments: software testing, development operations, quality assurance, quality control, globalization, technical writers and client communication.
Making more time for family, MSU
Montira retired from Cerner to spend more time with their son, Will, who is now a teen, and her aging parents. She began day-trading and volunteering for various education programs.
“One thing I truly credit my success to is my education,” she said. “I spend a lot of time trying to make the system better for the next generation.”
Montira recently got in touch with Missouri State’s alumni program. She has connected alumni from Cerner and from her home in Thailand back to the university.
“We have 471 alumni actively working at Cerner, and more than 100 alumni in Thailand,” she said. “I think those connections are important because they can help graduates get jobs, shape MSU curriculum and expand the networks of students and alumni.”
She also visits campus to meet with international and business students.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I started spending time with college students,” she said. “I find they are eager and willing to learn, and they have big dreams.”
Staying active with the university is important to Montira.
“IT TAKES THE ALUMS TO COME BACK TO MAKE THE CAMPUS RADIANT FOR THE NEXT GENERATION,” SHE SAID.
Montira hopes to find more ways to be involved with AIS, an organization she feels connected to even 22 years later.
Drew and Montira both fondly remember their years at the university. They plan reunions with college friends at least once a year.
“I just think as you get older it’s easy to lose touch with people,” Drew said. “But at the end of your life, I think you’ll regret that.”
The Clippards visit MSU as often as they can, always saving time for a trip to the third floor of Glass Hall. They like to peek inside room 345, where their paths first crossed all those years ago.
As Montira used to tell their son when he was young:
“THIS IS WHERE OUR FAMILY STARTED, ALL BECAUSE MOMMY AND DADDY FELL IN LOVE.”