Legacy families point to UMSL’s success

The Lake family at UMSL

Three generations of Brenda Scott’s family have called UMSL home. Scott (left), her granddaughter Jessica Lake (center) and Scott’s daughter Deborah Lake each earned a bachelor’s degree at the university. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Jessica Lake has spent the past seven years at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The 25-year-old graduate student says UMSL feels like home and for good reason.

“I was actually on the UMSL campus before I was even born,” Lake says with a smile. “My mom was working on her degree in psychology when I was born. She even had to miss a few finals to have me.”

Growing up at UMSL isn’t unique to Lake, who earned a bachelor’s degree in social work here in 2010 and is pursuing master’s degrees in social work and public policy administration. The university celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and boasts more than 85,000 alumni and more than 500 families that include multiple generations of alumni.

For Martin Leifeld, vice chancellor for advancement at UMSL, two and three generations of family members choosing and graduating from the university is, perhaps, the best indicator of UMSL’s success and strength.

“It demonstrates the impact we’ve had throughout the region and that we’re doing what we were created to do,” Leifeld says. “We – UMSL and St. Louis – have grown up together.”

The Scott-Lake family: 3 pathways for 3 women

Jessica Lake’s mother is Deborah Lake, BA psychology 1989. Deborah’s mother and Jessica’s grandmother is Brenda Scott, BSN 1990. And despite being part of a family with three generations of UMSL alumni, the notion of a legacy family was one that Deborah says she hadn’t considered.

“I guess we really never thought about being a legacy family,” she says. “We’re very proud of, and thankful to, UMSL for making each of us successful in our given paths.”

Those paths started to form in the 1960s when Scott began taking nursing courses taught by UMSL instructors at St. Louis City Hospital, a site that now houses the Georgian Condominiums on Lafayette Avenue.

“We really were the last of the Florence Nightingales,” Scott says. “We wore starched uniforms and hats. We practiced strict hand washing to prevent transfer of disease. In addition, we had strict curfews.”

After taking a few UMSL courses and earning a registered nursing degree at the city hospital, Scott began working as a registered nurse and says she was in no rush to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She continued to work, got married and started a family.

But when her daughter Deborah began working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology in the 1980s at UMSL, Scott says she decided it was time to go back to school and complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“Deb was going to school, she got married and was pregnant with Jessica,” Scott says. “She had Jess and graduated in 1989. I then earned my BSN in 1990.”

Deborah went on to earn a law degree from Saint Louis University in 1993 and has practiced law ever since. She focuses on family law.

Jessica says knowing her mother and grandmother had found a home at UMSL made the decision to pursue her first degree here easy.

“Choosing UMSL for the second time was also right for me, because I wanted to study both social work and public policy administration,” she says. “These two departments had an overlapping concentration – nonprofit management and leadership, which helped me to combine the two programs into one that met all my educational goals.”

The Steimel family: love and marriage, twice

Norman Steimel grew up in Black Jack, Mo., the oldest of 11 children. After graduating from Rosary High School in Spanish Lake, Mo., in 1972, he was the first of his siblings to attend college.

He was on his own to fund his education, so Steimel searched the St. Louis area and says UMSL was the right fit for him. He started his first classes and continued to work part time.

In fall 1973, after struggling through several semesters of college preparatory mathematics in high school, Steimel says he needed to find an alternative to math to fit his general education requirements. He enrolled in French 101.

“After the first test, I spied a big red A on the paper of a petite blonde in the first row,” Steimel says. “A plan to successfully get through the course began to hatch in my mind. It involved me stopping that comely classmate to suggest that she and I study our French lessons together. The rest, as they say, is history.”

That unsuspecting classmate would become Libby Steimel, BA psychology 1975, when the two were married in 1978. Norman went on to graduate that same year with a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. He’s an associate circuit judge for the 11th Judicial Circuit Court in St. Charles County, Mo. The couple had nine children between 1979 and 1993.

“I consider Norm the best thing that ever happened to me and that happened at UMSL,” Libby says.

When it was time for Nathan, the Steimels’ oldest child, to attend college, his parents encouraged him to look into UMSL, and he did.

While taking business courses here, Nathan met Melissa Shumate. The two began dating and were later married. Nathan earned a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2002. He then attended law school and now has a private practice in St. Charles, Mo. Melissa earned a bachelor’s degree in management information systems in 2001. She’s a stay-at-home mother to the couple’s three small children.

Libby says, “It is very touching to me to have met Norm at UMSL and have that common history, then to have Nathan and Melissa meet in similar fashion and have that further common history.”

Following in the footsteps of the older Steimels, six of their nine children attended UMSL.

Susanna Steimel Stark earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and French in 2010. She works at FM Global, an international insurance company in Creve Coeur, Mo.

Jason Steimel enrolled in 2004. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army and served for six years, including two combat tours in Afghanistan. He returned to UMSL and completed a bachelor’s degree in marketing and management in 2012. He and Amber, his wife, have a son and are expecting their second child this summer.

Kathryn Steimel completed several semesters at UMSL in the College of Nursing. She was on schedule to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2012, but after enlisting in the U.S. Navy, her orders took her to Great Lakes, Ill., for training before her final semester was complete. She’s an electronics technician in the Navy and says she plans to finish her degree once her naval training is complete.

Norman and Libby Steimels’ two youngest children are also students at UMSL. Marissa, a junior communication major, and Priscilla, a sophomore nursing major, say they almost didn’t choose UMSL specifically because of their family’s history with the university.

“It was both an easy and a hard choice,” Priscilla says. “On the one hand, I knew it would be cool to be going to the same university as my parents and siblings because that would create an even stronger bond or connection between us all. On the other hand, I wanted to be unique and not just be another Steimel.”

Marissa agrees. She wanted to make her own mark, but after touring campus, she says she was hooked.

“I chose UMSL, because I loved the atmosphere here when I first visited,” she says. “I immediately felt welcomed. Everyone was willing to talk to me and make me feel like part of the UMSL community. It just felt right.”


This story was originally published in the spring 2013 issue of UMSL Magazine.


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