On behalf of Park University students, faculty and staff members, I wish to express our deepest gratitude for former Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton’s many years of dedicated service to active duty military service members and veterans. As a beloved public servant and Honorary Park Alum, Skelton always exemplified integrity and service leadership, representing Missouri in the United States House of Representatives for 34 years. Skelton was a relentless advocate for men and women in uniform, personifying Park’s Promise by devoting his life’s work to those who serve their community and country. We will all miss him immensely!
Each year, Park pays tribute to individuals who embody not only the University’s mission, but who help strengthening community and business ties that advance Park’s leadership in providing innovative education. In 1987, the University was proud to confer an honorary doctorate of humane letters upon Ike Skelton for his many contributions to the country as well as Park University.
As a military expert and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Skelton’s continued support and protection of Missouri’s military institutions demonstrated his commitment to Park’s service philosophy. His support was especially appreciated at Fort Leonard Wood in Waynesville, Mo. and Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Mo. — both of which are also home to Park campus centers. Skelton was instrumental in convincing the Department of Defense to station the B-2 bombers at Whiteman, ensuring security and stability during uncertain economic times. His leadership also resulted in various Army training schools moving to Fort Leonard Wood, which later expanded to all forces.
In addition to his support for the military, Skelton was committed to bringing a Park campus center to Wentworth Community College in his hometown of Lexington, Mo. At the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony in Aug. 2005, he was proud to announce that his hometown “now had a four-year university.” That campus center offers associate’s degrees at a convenient location for residents of Lexington and surrounding communities.
Skelton, who died on Monday, Oct. 28 in Arlington, Va. at 81, was first elected to the House in 1976. He was an expert on national defense and served on the House Armed Services Committee from 2007 until leaving office in 2011. According to an article written in The KC Star, Skelton dreamed as a teenager of entering West Point. Unfortunately, his dreams fell short when he was diagnosed with polio, later disabling his arm completely. As an elected official, “he went to battle in a suit rather than a uniform, accomplishing so much to protect and provide for our country’s military and its families.”
Approximately 61 percent of Park students are active duty military, active duty dependents, retired military or Department of Defense, and 35 of the 40 campus centers nationwide are located at U.S. military installations. Park salutes the profound contributions of our active duty military and veteran population as well as lawmakers, like Skelton, who support them. We will always remember Ike Skelton for his countless contributions to Park University, to the state of Missouri and to our great nation! We are honored to have counted him among our many Park friends and alumni!