Kerry and Noma Montgomery are both alumni of the Missouri State University College of Education. Their story was recently shared in the spring 2021 issue of “Advancements” magazine, which is a publication of the Missouri State University Foundation. We are happy to share their full story here:
Noma and Kerry Montgomery can’t remember a time when Missouri State basketball wasn’t in their lives.
Noma’s dad, Donald Pollard, was born in 1914. He was the first person in his family to go to college when he attended MSU, which was then Southwest Missouri State Teachers College. “He had been an outstanding high school basketball player in Humansville, and played intramural basketball at MSU,” Noma said.
When her dad graduated, she remained a Bears fan. “I am 78, and I started going to games as a little girl. I don’t remember ever not going.”
Kerry has been a “rabid fan since the 1950s.” His dad, Lewis Montgomery, was also first in the family to attend college, and also went to then-SMS. His mother, Hazel, attended for two years before becoming a teacher.
Kerry went to his first Bears game in 1952, when he was 16. “I attended a small high school nearby, so it was a big deal to go to the college campus. I got to see one of the Bears teams that won the NAIA championship.” Both Noma and Kerry later attended the university, sealing their love for Bears athletics forever.
“My college days were just glorious”
Kerry was on campus from 1954-58. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education. “I was a member of the Kappa Alpha fraternity and really enjoyed that,” he said. “I am still very close with five or six of my brothers.”
Noma was at the university from 1960-64. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in English. Noma was a cheerleader for basketball and football, putting her close to the sports action. “I still remember which area was my ‘cheer corner’ in McDonald Arena, and who sat there.
“My college days were just glorious. They really were.” She made lifelong friends while at MSU. “What I probably cherish the most are the wonderful memories and lasting friendships I developed through my Tri Sigma sorority and other campus activities. I stay in contact with at least 15 or 20 of my sorority sisters. Some of them who are local, I see weekly.”
The couple didn’t attend the university at the same time, but they met on campus — and again, there’s a basketball tie.” Her boyfriend at the time was one of my best friends,” Kerry said. “We were sitting in McDonald Arena watching people come in during a basketball game. I saw Noma and said, ‘There’s a cute girl.’” Kerry’s friend replied: ‘That’s my girlfriend!’”
They officially met through that friend. When Kerry dated a friend of Noma’s, they even went on double dates — though not as each other’s dates! When those other relationships didn’t work out, they connected with each other. They married in 1966.
Building careers and a family
Both Noma and Kerry had careers after college. Noma taught school in Independence, Missouri, for two years. After marrying Kerry, she moved back to Springfield. She was an employment counselor, and retired from that to raise their two sons, Scott and Grant (who have given them seven grandchildren).
“When the children were grown, I worked in Branson for about 25 years as a tour guide.” She would meet groups at the airport, host tours on buses and take people to shows and attractions. “It was one of the most enjoyable jobs a person could ever have — like being on vacation all the time!” She retired about two years ago.
Kerry continued his education after MSU. He earned a master’s degree in secondary school administration from the University of Missouri, and then a juris doctor degree from MU’s law school. He worked for a law firm, then the prosecutor’s office, and next went into private practice. In 1991, then-Gov. John Ashcroft appointed Kerry to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District. Kerry worked there until retiring in 2003, and served one three-year term as chief judge in those 12 years.
He said his start at MSU set him up for success. “My professors and the academics in general were excellent. Dr. Duane Meyer (who later became the university president) was my history teacher. I sat in the first class he ever taught at SMS. What a wonderful professor. We later became friends, and I always had such respect for him.”
Supporting their teams for 40+ years
The couple kept many MSU connections through the years. In fact, Kerry served as Alumni Association president in the 1970s.
When the Missouri State University Foundation was started, Kerry and Noma were a natural fit to become some of its first supporters. Kerry, who is a huge proponent of exercise and fitness — “I still play golf almost every day, weather permitting” — especially wanted to give to Bears athletics. “I bought my first season pass to basketball games in 1965,” Kerry said. “Every year since then, I have had season tickets.
I think if you help one program, you are helping all of them — there’s more funds to spread around.”
They plan to continue giving as long as they can, he said. “We want to help any efforts to guide our school and make it the best it can be.”