Many people supported James B. (Jim) Wingfield’s quest for an education:
His dad, also named Jim, instilled the importance of a strong work ethic through managing the family’s cattle business on their farm in Goodman, Missouri.
A teacher at the two-room country school of his youth went out of her way to pick up four students to ensure they could make it to class.
James Payne, an English teacher and 1954 Missouri State graduate, whom Wingfield met while earning an associate’s degree at Crowder College in Neosho, led Wingfield to Missouri State University “because he knew political science was my area of interest.”
MSU legend Dr. Alice Bartee, a beloved political science professor, became his advisor and encouraged Wingfield to explore professional degrees beyond his bachelor’s in public administration.
However, Billie B. Wingfield, his mother, was the most influential person in Jim’s pursuit for higher education. She grew up during the Depression in rural southwest Missouri.
“She always wanted to go to college, but wasn’t able to financially,” said Wingfield.
She worked as a principal’s secretary for 36 years, and highly regarded education and the impact it could make on a person’s life.
Consequently, his mother’s name will appear alongside Jim’s in the title of the endowed scholarship he established through a planned gift.
Just as scholarships provided Wingfield the financial support to receive a higher education, he hopes this scholarship in his mother’s honor will help students from a similar background.
“She was one of the smartest people I ever knew,” he said, “so I wanted to do this for her, and also give back to students who don’t have a lot – because I didn’t, and we didn’t.”
A career in politics, business – and cattle
Wingfield has fond memories of Missouri State: “This place launched me, as a person and academically. My experience rounded me out and gave me confidence.”
After graduation, Wingfield became a government grant writer for a year, serving 10 counties around Springfield assisting “smaller towns to get funding for their needs.” During that time, he saved money in order to fund a juris doctor degree, which he completed in 1982.
In the years following law school, Wingfield worked in the Missouri legislature for Tom Villa, who was the majority floor leader of the House of Representatives.
Wingfield eventually left state government to work for a transportation company based in Joplin, Missouri, starting his career in risk management and insurance. The company specialized in moving weapons and nuclear cargo around the nation for the government, including for the Department of Defense.
The job allowed him to live close to his parents and help his dad with cattle.
“I’d like to get back into the cattle business again – it never leaves your blood. There is something so serene when it’s 10:30 at night, you’re out there feeding cattle in the snow, and there’s a full moon. You look under the cedar trees, and there’s deer under there, and they come out to eat with the cattle. You can just sit there and take it all in. It’s a very calming experience.”
Wingfield currently serves as the VP of Operations for Nova Corporation, a chemical production company, in Bayport, Texas. In addition, he is responsible for Safety & Risk Management for the company’s operations in Texas, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Planned gift will create endowed scholarship
The elder Jim Wingfield passed away in 1989, and Billie B. followed in 2009.
Wingfield, who is on the board of trustees of the Missouri State University Foundation, decided he wanted to do something in their honor. He recently made a planned gift that will yield a scholarship that will include his mother’s name.
“She supported me all the way, she and my dad both,” he said.
His award will go to students pursuing degrees in public administration, political science or history, with a preference for students from rural or farming backgrounds who value hard work and good grades.
“It’s my privilege to help someone who needs it and give back to an institution that is doing great things,” Wingfield said.
“I think my mother would feel good about having her name associated with this scholarship.”
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