60 for 60: David Henton, Dan Isom, Evelyn Moore, Michelle Moore, Cathy Phillips and Alex Stallings honored as exceptional alumni
The University of Missouri-St. Louis is proud of the economic and philanthropic reach of its programs and partnerships, but it’s the people UMSL most wants to honor as it celebrates its 60th anniversary. Throughout the year of celebration, UMSL will be spotlighting 60 alumni who apply one or more of the university’s core values in the world and help to make it a better place.
This month’s honorees are David Henton, Dan Isom, Evelyn Moore, Michelle Moore, Dr. Cathy Phillips and Alex Stallings.
Rarely does a family story include a direct connection to the earliest days of a university, but the family of David Henton is an exception. Three generations of Hentons have attended UMSL, including his mother, two brothers, a sister and more recently his son. As for Henton, he was a member of the university’s first graduating class, receiving a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1967 and earning the honor of top chemistry graduate.
After UMSL, Henton received a NASA fellowship to attend the University of Kansas, where he earned a master’s in organic chemistry. After two years in the Army Chemical Corps, he returned to the University of Kansas and earned his PhD in organic chemistry in 1973.
“All of the chemistry majors had the privilege of both being taught and mentored by the most remarkable staff of gifted professors,” Henton said of his time at UMSL. “They were building a program and an organization and we, the students, were the product and benefitted from their effort. It had a profound effect on each of us.”
With doctorate in hand, Henton joined The Dow Chemical Company, spending the next 31 years developing new products and processes. He holds more than 40 patents and has written numerous journal articles and book chapters on polymers and plastics. Henton was chairman of the Dow Chemical Company’s Materials Technical Advisory Board until his retirement in 2004. He received the 1999 American Chemical Society Award for Outstanding Achievement and Promotion of the Chemical Sciences and the 2004 ACS Regional Innovation Award for development of commercially important polymers.
Today, Henton is a member of several science advisory boards for startup companies and consults in the areas of green chemistry, renewable resource-based products, materials science, polymerization processes and polymer applications. More recently, he has focused on co-inventing numerous new products, obtaining patents and submitting patent applications for his clients.
For Dan Isom, public service is in the family bloodline. His father was a firefighter, his mother was a public school teacher and his sister was a police officer. So, it was only natural for Isom to follow the family example by joining the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 1988. He rose through the ranks in the years that followed, becoming the City of St. Louis’ 33rd Chief of Police in October 2008, a leadership role he continued until his retirement in 2013.
To prepare for a career in law enforcement, he attended UMSL, where he holds a BS, an MA and a PhD in criminology and criminal justice. He says the university provided a highly diverse environment that was ideal for pursuing the public safety profession.
After earning multiple degrees from UMSL, Isom received a master’s in public administration from Saint Louis University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Police Executive Forum Senior Management Institute. He is also a 2013 Eisenhower Fellow, studying community policing and police training in Europe, and a 2016 University of Chicago Institute of Politics Fellow, focusing a series of presentations on policing in America.
“What I found so valuable about my time at UMSL was the diversity of the student body,” he said. “It was a more comprehensive learning experience that reflected the real world.”
He taught future generations as the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Policing and the Community in UMSL’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Isom says the most important thing he tried to convey to students is how they must guide their law enforcement actions and decisions on the constitution, the law, department policies and professional ethics. He also says research and evidence proves that environment and opportunity dictate many of the bad choices people make.
“If you understand this, law enforcement can hold individuals accountable for the rules without dehumanizing or disrespecting them,” he said. “I believe accountability with understanding has the greatest potential to change destructive behavior in individuals and in communities.”
He continued his career serving as executive director of the Regional Justice Information Services and as interim director of public safety for the City of St. Louis. In February 2023, he joined Ameren as vice president of corporate safety, security and crisis management.
Evelyn Moore knew she wanted to be an engineer from the age of 13, and UMSL was the natural place for her to prepare for her career.
Moore was a single mother juggling two part-time jobs while pursuing a bachelor’s degree from the UMSL/Washington University Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program, bringing her son to the library while she studied. While it was often challenging, motherhood was also her biggest motivation.
“UMSL holds a special place in my heart because it’s where my mother and father met when they were freshmen in 1972,” Moore said. “I guess you could say UMSL is a part of the fabric of my history.”
“All I wanted was to someday pay for his college education, so he didn’t have to struggle like I did,” Moore recounted during her 2022 UMSL commencement address. “I lived by the quote, ‘without struggle, there’s no progress.”
Her persistence as a college student has led to a 20-year career in military aviation with Boeing, where she is vice president and program manager for T-7A Red Hawk Advanced Pilot Training Systems and T-7 programs for Boeing’s Air Dominance Division. She also led the development of a new strategic direction of a multi-billion-dollar electronic warfare upgrade program for more than 400 F-15 aircrafts and was a design engineer on the world’s fastest tactical fighter mission computer on the F-15.
Moore also became an advocate for women and minority engineers. As the executive sponsor for the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers, she has personally mentored more than 100 talented individuals.
“I believe that as you grow and learn, it is important to pay it forward and advocate for others,” Moore said.
As for the little boy that Moore used to bring to the library during her college days, he earned a degree in the University of Missouri System and is an electrical engineer working for a Fortune 50 company while pursuing his doctorate.
Michelle Moore grew up in a military family and was accustomed to moving around as a kid. Because of the nomadic nature of Air Force life, she saw many parts of the United States and the world before meeting her future husband the summer she graduated from high school.
He was also from a military family, but eventually his career would take them back to St. Louis, where he had attended high school.
Once settled in her new hometown, Moore decided the time was right to finish her education. She had already completed two years of college and found the UMSL College of Education to be the perfect place to continue her studies.
“UMSL is a big university that specializes in intimate experiences,” Moore said. “My classes were small and personal, and each professor took a personal interest in their students. They were all very approachable and willing to help you succeed.”
Moore always knew her “Plan A” was to teach, leading to degrees in education and, later, early childhood education from UMSL. For the past decade, Moore has worked in Title 1 elementary schools as a special education teacher, helping students who need her the most.
“Our students come from many countries and speak many languages,” she said. “They are all economically challenged, and it brings me great joy to be part of their growth.”
As for the students currently attending UMSL, Moore encourages them to experience all the university has to offer.
“There is a second-to-none library, gym, pool, courts and a grand theater that I attend to this day to enjoy the shows it has to offer,” she said.
From an early age, Dr. Cathy Phillips knew she wanted to pursue a professional path in some aspect of the healthcare field. But she never had the stomach for the sight of blood and open wounds. As the Washington, Missouri, native considered alternatives, she set her sights on a career in eyecare after recalling her nearsightedness and the optometrist who cared for her as a child.
“I had great admiration for the work and ability of my optometrist to help others see better,” Phillips said. “I can’t think of a career I’d rather have than helping people maximize their visual potential.”
With a passion identified, and two years at East Central Junior College in hand, Phillips applied to UMSL, and she eventually graduated from the College of Optometry in 1992. Phillips says that while her academic experience was challenging, it was a very worthwhile investment of time and effort that led to many long-term friendships.
“In a class of 40 optometry students who spent almost every day together for four years, we got to know each other very well,” Phillips said. “I made a lot of great friends, and I have great respect for them and what they’ve contributed to our profession.”
After graduation, she served as Director of Contact Lens Services at Saint Louis University Eye Institute for 18 years. In 2012, Phillips joined Clarkson Eyecare in Pacific, Missouri, providing comprehensive eye care and eye exams.
She and her husband Tom Porter, also an optometrist, have been married for 31 years. They live in Eureka, Missouri, with their two adult daughters, Gabrielle and Andrea, and three dogs, Bella, Odie (OD) and Daisy. In support of their community, Phillips and her daughter Gabrielle are Franklin County Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers, currently working their third case advocating for youth in foster care after their first two cases closed with a successful reunification and a joyful adoption.
Most everyone who has grown up in the age of television remembers their favorite childhood TV show. For Alex Stallings, watching TV as a kid always included “Reading Rainbow,” the half-hour public television program hosted by actor LeVar Burton that introduced scores of young viewers to illustrated readings of children’s literature. Her early exposure to educational media would ultimately shape her academic and professional journey, which included degrees in English and education from UMSL, as well as a master’s degree in communications with an emphasis in media literacy from Webster University. Of her time at UMSL, Stallings describes it as a fully immersive experience.
“I lived, worked, laughed and learned on campus,” she said. “My formative time is a rich tapestry of memories, from the shuttle rides between campuses and the student events I coordinated in the Meadow’s Clubhouse to the mentoring conversations with Nancy Gleason and Terry Jones’ lectures about the landscape of the St. Louis region.”
Since college, she has focused her professional mission on enriching the public service media space. As the senior director of early learning at Nine PBS, she engages expert community advisors and stakeholders as co-creators of the award-winning program “Drawn In.” Stallings also manages the Early Learning and “Drawn In” Advisory Boards along with guiding additional community partnerships to inform on-the-ground educational experiences.
From 2017 to 2020, she led Nine PBS’ Ready to Learn initiative, cultivating under-represented audiences while advocating for children at the local and national level. She directs early childhood engagement activities and communication with educators and families, while engaging in coalition-building with regional initiatives such as East Side Aligned and Community Impact Network. She also serves on the board of Turn the Page STL, a local affiliate of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, to expand everyday literacy experiences for early readers. Her professional work has been recognized by organizations including the St. Louis Coalition for Human Rights and Washington University.
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