MUBG Philanthropy

MU alumni honor former graduate program mentor and his wife with a Tribute Bench

(2021) Alumni Sally Frederik and Trisha Trowbridge (1969) Sally Frederick and Ruie Pritchard

Left to right: Sally Frederick and Ruie Pritchard pose in front of the MU lab school in 1969 where, along with Trisha Trowbridge and Carol McAllister, the pair taught as part of their graduate program in education under the mentorship of Ben Nelms. Alumni Sally Frederik and Trisha Trowbridge on the Mizzou campus in September 2021 after visiting with graduate school mentor Ben Nelms and his wife Elizabeth. The pair noticed MUBG Tribute Benches on campus and decided to honor the Nelms with a bench.

In 1967, MU alumni Sally (Ryan) Frederick, Trisha (Bystrom) Trowbridge, Ruie Jane Pritchard and Carol (Kurth) McAllister gained admission to a two-year campus graduate program earning master’s and specialist degrees in both English education and curriculum and instruction. The program, sponsored by the National Defense Education Act, was a joint offering of the MU English and education departments.


“It was meant for inexperienced teachers,” Frederick explained. “Participants had either taught only one year or not at all. It was entirely paid for including a stipend for living expenses, plus books and tuition.”


Ben F. Nelms, a fresh, young member of the faculty in MU’s College of Education and Human Development, led the program. The experience of being in this two-year program and the impact of his mentorship influenced all four women throughout their careers.


“Although we all went our separate ways, pursuing our own levels of interest in education, we’ve kept in touch and thus are aware that we four still do hold the same philosophy of education instilled in us by Dr. Nelms,” Trowbridge said.


Frederick said Nelms modeled “the human in humanities” with his teaching style. “There were usually no podiums in Dr. Nelms’ classrooms,” she added. “The teacher joined his students physically as well as philosophically in the circle of learning common to us all.”


She appreciatively recalled that Nelms introduced them to adolescent literature — later called young adult (YA) literature — while this genre was still in its nascent stages. “There were always children’s books, but YA wasn’t introduced as a curriculum study until 1967,” Frederick said.


“We were family to both Dr. Nelms and his wife Elizabeth. One of my favorite memories of the Nelms family is of their home on Allen Drive. It was my first introduction to the idea that people live with what they love. From the engravings by William Blake on the walls, to their children’s library books neatly ‘shelved’ between the banister spindles — one stair step per child — their house was testimony to language and the imagination.”


“In trying to meet the demands of my students, I now more than ever realize how special it is for a college professor to extend his time to students and to share with them personally, so they grow and improve,” Pritchard said.


The group has stayed in touch with the Nelms family. Nelms, with a specialty in the romantic poets, is himself a poet, and each year includes an original poem in his Christmas cards, signed "bfn".



After visiting the Nelms in Columbia in 2021, Frederick and Trowbridge dropped by Townsend and Hill Halls where they had spent time as students and student teachers. While strolling the Francis Quadrangle, they noticed Mizzou Botanic Garden’s Tribute Benches and thought that dedicating a bench would be a wonderful way to recognize and honor the Nelms.


The dedication plate on the bench which includes one of Nelms’ favorite quotes

Ben Nelms, with a specialty in romantic poets, is himself a poet, and each year includes an original poem in his Christmas cards, signed "bfn". This is his poem from he and Elizabeth’s 2022 Christmas card.

Elizabeth had been a devoted English teacher at Hickman High School in Columbia, and —among many other mutual academic pursuits — the couple served as editors of the National Council of Teachers of English professional journal for several years.


The four classmates teamed up with other academic colleagues and members of the Nelms family to sponsor the bench, located in front of Lafferre Hall, facing the Quad. A dedication was held on May 20, 2022.


“Bryce Osman in the Advancement Office, and the College of Education hosted an event the day we dedicated the bench,” Frederick said. “They made all feel so welcome and honored with a reception in Townsend Hall.”


The dedication plate on the bench includes one of Nelms’ favorite quotes: Dr. Ben F. Nelms and Elizabeth D. Nelms. There’s a divinity that shapes our ends. Rough-hew them how we will. -Hamlet, 5.2


“Dr. Nelms was such an inspiration,” Frederick said. “When professors are passionate about what they do, the students pass that on.”