University of Central Missouri: Best Returns to Georgia Alma Mater as Honors College Alumnus of the Year

As part of a new initiative honoring accomplished alumni at Georgia College, University of Central Missouri President Roger Best was recently recognized as the 2021 Dr. John E. Sallstrom Honors College Alumnus of the Year. The first presentation of this award took place this fall in Milledgeville, Georgia, as the Honors College celebrated its 50-year anniversary.

Brian Newsome, dean of the Honors College, said the awards program puts a public face on the pride that Honors faculty, staff, students and alumni share toward the award recipients. He also added, “I hope their accomplishments inspire our students to see how many opportunities lie before them.”

Best’s recognition followed a selection process that began with the College’s solicitation of nominations from Honors alumni. Nominees submitted resumes and a personal statement related to university-wide awards. The Honors Advisory Board subcommittee narrowed the pool to two candidates for awards, which also included the Honors Young Alumnus of the Year. This was followed by the board’s final selections.

Newsome noted that Best fits the bill as an award recipient in that he has “clearly excelled in his field and has attained, state, regional and national prominence, both as a teacher/scholar and as a university administrator.”

A first-generation college student, Best graduated from Georgia College in 1989 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Business Management, and went on to complete his Ph.D. in Finance at The Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1996. Best joined the UCM faculty as an assistant professor in 1995, and climbed the academic ranks to become a full professor. His engagement in shared governance and service to his colleagues opened the opportunity for him to chair the Department of Economics and Finance, and this was followed by positions that included associate dean, interim senior vice president for finance and administration, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and interim president. In 2018 UCM’s Board of Governors named him UCM’s 16th president.

While attending Georgia College, Best formed positive relationships with faculty members who mentored him, including the individual for whom the Honors College is named. He spoke about the relationship he established with the college leader in a video that was shared on the awards website.

“I just walked into the Office of the Director, John Sallstrom, and asked him about the Honors program,” Best said. “To his great credit, and what I found to be true of my Honors experience, he took time out of his day to meet with me and discuss the requirements of the program. And I found the faculty to be very similar. They were committed to education, they were passionate about their disciplines, and more importantly, they were passionate about me as a student and my success.”

Best took to heart the value of his relationships with Georgia College faculty members and opportunities to gain leadership experience through opportunities such as serving as president of the Honors Students Association. This also led to serving on a campus-wide committee with the Georgia College president, one of many experiences that has continued to serve him well throughout his entire education career.

“As a faculty member, I always tried to emulate those great faculty members at Georgia College and the Honors program who spent time with me and were interested in me as a person. I found my desire was to help facilitate the success of my students just as they did for me,” Best said. “Now, as I serve as president I think about serving on that committee with the president of Georgia College at that time. My desire now is to meet with student leaders and hear their thoughts, ideas and recommendations. I can honestly say I would not be where I am today, in spite of all the hard work we strive to achieve, without that experience in the Honors program and Georgia College.”

When sharing his thoughts about what it means to honor Best, Newsome said he was reminded of a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that Dr. Kenneth Saladin, the distinguished professor of biology and chief benefactor of the Honors College, shared during the alumni recognition festivities: “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

“Roger has done exactly that,” Newsome said. “We are proud to call him our own.”