My name is Charles (Andy) Newton. I’m a member of the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame, and I’m graduating this December after beginning my journey at Missouri State in the fall of 1971.
That’s right: 50 years later, I’m finishing my degree to fulfill a promise I made to my father, coaches, friends and family. On Dec. 17, I’ll get to celebrate with my loved ones at commencement at JQH Arena, which will be wonderful.
But let’s go back to the beginning, and how all of this got started.
Building a legacy
After two full years of not playing any games in either sport, I began my junior year with some hope that my dreams of being a Bear on the court would come true.
In the fall of 1973, I played my first basketball game as a Bear, which fulfilled a dream my dad and I shared. As it worked out, I started every game after. In the spring of 1974, my team played in the NCAA national championship game but lost to finish second in the nation.
I started every game for the next two years and became the only player in our school’s history to score more than 1,000 points and have more than 400 assists. In the fall of 1988, I was inducted into the Missouri State Athletics Hall of Fame. Coach Thomas, Coach Rowe, my father and mother and many of my family members and friends attended.
Born on Bear Boulevard
I was born in the fall of 1953 in a house on Monroe Street (now Bear Boulevard) as the seventh child to a Panamanian immigrant mother who would have 10 children. Marie Newton became an American citizen on my 10th birthday with me at her side.
My father was captain of the Bears football team in the fall of 1946, played basketball in the winter and ran track in the spring. He was a letterman in those three sports, and graduated in the spring of 1947 with three children and one on the way that August.
I always knew I wanted to be a Bear. When I was 4, my dad took me to my first Bears basketball game at McDonald Arena. After hearing the roar of the crowd, seeing the incredible players and getting a sense of that atmosphere, I told Dad that I was going to play basketball at our university.
Years later, my father did everything he could to get me an opportunity to be a Bear, including begging Coach Thomas to give me a chance … and he did. Coach Thomas has been a mentor and dear friend. We have spent many a day at breakfast and lunch, and going to practices of recent teams over the years. Coach Rowe continues to be all of those things as well.
For about the last 30 years, I’ve lived near Cincinnati, Ohio and worked in the school fundraising industry. I’m still involved with the university in many ways, including working with Dana Ford on the Bears Basketball Network, an alumni organization of former Bears basketball student-athletes like me. In fact, about 60 of us got together in October at the JQH Arena PRIME Overtime Club.
Coming back to school
About two years ago, I inquired to find out if it would be feasible to return to MSU and finish my degree. When I started years ago at what was then Southwest Missouri State College, I was in the physical education program. I left college to pursue a career just 11 credit hours shy of completing my degree.
Finishing the physical education degree wasn’t going to be the best path for me anymore. However, with Missouri State’s help, I enrolled in the bachelor of general studies. That’s a great option for professionals like me who have a lot of credits in various things, but just want to graduate later in life.
I started my classes in 2020 when the pandemic began. I knew I was going to have a lot of time at home and didn’t want to waste it. Over the past several months, I took classes online and got it done.
Celebrating at commencement
Needless to say, it worked out, and now I owe it to all of the people I’ve mentioned to walk across the stage and have them there at the ceremony. I have five grandkids. One of them, Spencer, attends Missouri State now. I’m proud that they’ll be able to call their grandfather a college graduate.
This all boils down to making it possible for about 30 people to sit in JQH Arena and watch me conclude my journey of formal education. Many of these people are graduates of MSU and contributors in many ways over the last 50 years.
On Friday, I’ll finally close this chapter of my life.
And yes, I’m definitely lobbying Coach Ford for one more thing:
Maybe … just maybe … he’d let me join the team’s honorees on Senior Day.