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Maurine Poage Achauer, Kitchen Table Diplomat

Maurine AchauerMaurine Poage Achauer has a passion for bringing people together. During the more than 50 years that she has resided on South Holden Street adjacent to the UCM campus, her home has been a gathering place for people from all walks of life. The exchanges take place mostly around the large, wooden table in the center of her kitchen. It's where she pursues her interest in people and where many of them -- students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends -- have made lifelong friendships and discovered new directions for their lives.

Maurine Poage Achauer has a passion for bringing people together. During the more than 50 years that she has resided on South Holden Street adjacent to the UCM campus, her home has been a gathering place for people from all walks of life. The exchanges take place mostly around the large, wooden table in the center of her kitchen. It's where she pursues her interest in people and where many of them -- students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends -- have made lifelong friendships and discovered new directions for their lives.

Achauer, who celebrated her 90th birthday this year, isn't fond of the label "hostess," yet her hospitality is legendary. She prefers to be known as someone who welcomes guests to share her kitchen table and make things better than they were -- not unlike the role of a diplomat.

Every homecoming, her home is the place to be. Bleachers sprout overnight on the manicured lawn of her stately Victorian home, and by the time the homecoming parade passes by, they are packed by an assortment of Mule Train members and guests.

"I enjoy the interaction of people, finding out what they do and don't do," she said. "It's an exciting world, and I like to get people together in an atmosphere where they can talk. If they feel comfortable, and they know they're not in a forum where they will be quoted, they're willing to express new ideas and listen to others."

Maurine Achauer's home - with bleachers in place for the 2005 UCM Homecoming parade.

Maurine Achauer's home with bleachers in place for the 2005 UCM Homecoming parade.

Family Background

Achauer and her husband, Reynolds ‘26, who passed away in 1969, were known for welcoming people, whether at work or at home. Over the years she assumed the roles of mother, businesswoman, and licensed professional, but people have remained a lifelong interest.

The daughter of a veterinarian, she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Northeast Missouri State University and a master's degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She earned a doctorate in educational psychology and measurements from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln and is a registered psychologist in Missouri.

She served as a counselor at Moberly Junior College and briefly as dean of women at Northeast Missouri State College. Through Ralph Bedell, her doctoral adviser at the University of Nebraska, she met her husband, Bedell's classmate from Central Missouri. After they married, they owned Vernaz Drug Co. for nearly 30 years, meeting UCM students and employing many of them over the years.

Achauer, who received the university's Distinguished Service Award in 1994, was an early participant in the launch of Johnson County's community health program and chaired the Governor's Advisory Council on Aging. She was a member of the first KMOS-TV advisory board and spearheaded fundraising for the suites at Walton Stadium. She also was one of the first members of UCM's most prominent donor club, the Presidents Society.

 

"What's Your Passion?"

 

"Maurine loves people," said Paul Page, vice president of university advancement. "She feels a strong attachment to UCM, and her home has long been a place where faculty, staff and students alike have been made to feel comfortable in an atmosphere of stimulating conversation."

Page noted that Achauer is fond of asking people, "What is your passion?" when she first meets them.

"She really wants to know," he added. "She loves to see the connection of people and ideas around that kitchen table, and many people have been motivated to strive for success and embark upon new ventures because of those connections."

Dee Hudson, a member of the UCM Board of Governors and emerita director of admissions, is also a past mayor and councilwoman of the City of Warrensburg. She credits Achauer for her entry into politics. The two women met when they worked with Community Betterment in the early 1970s. It was at Achauer's urging that Hudson ran for and was elected to the Warrensburg City Council.

"Maurine saw my interest, and she encouraged me," Hudson said. "I had small children, so Maurine often was the babysitter when I had to attend meetings."

Achauer is a longtime supporter of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity, of which her late husband was a member. She served on the committee to build the fraternity's national headquarters in Warrensburg. An alumna of Delta Zeta sorority, she also remains active in her support of the UCM chapter.

 

Long-time Supporter of Fraternity

 

Bill Bernier, Sigma Tau Gamma executive vice president, first met Achauer when he arrived in Warrensburg in 1973. With the fraternity's national headquarters less than a block from her home, she and Bernier have forged a lasting friendship. Achauer has served as a member of the board of directors of the Sigma Tau Gamma Foundation since 1973, and, as such, is the only female member of a fraternity foundation board in the United States.

Bernier said Achauer is "gifted with great vision. She sees the potential in so many things, and she is not bashful about pursuing it. She also understands the ins and outs of interpersonal relationships, and realizes how human behavior affects organizational structure."

In 2000 the fraternity dedicated the White Rose Pavilion, a 3,750-square-foot facility next to the fraternity's national headquarters. Achauer contributed the funds to build it.

"Maurine sees the pavilion as something she could do for Sigma Tau Gamma and Warrensburg," Bernier said. "It's her way of reinvesting in her community. Every day she's thinking about the future, and she's working hard at making it happen."

Maurine Achauer, Chuck Simmons, Ann & James Houx

Left to right: Maurine Achauer's homecoming visitors included Chuck Simmons '61 and Ann ’61 and James Houx ’62.

Known For Hospitality

The Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center has long known it can count on Achauer to host chamber gatherings. David Pearce, a Warrensburg banker and state representative, served as chamber executive director from 1988 to 1994. As a state representative, Pearce has invited Missouri legislators to Warrensburg to tour the area and Whiteman Air Force Base. The tour ends at Achauer's.

"I've always known we can go to Maurine's, and visitors will leave with a favorable impression," he said. "It has always made my job easier."

Tammy Long, chamber executive director, said Achauer is always willing to open her home for chamber events. Long has seen many people receive advice and encouragement around Achauer's kitchen table.

"When you sit down and tell her what you've done, she'll ask, ‘OK, now what are you going to do?'" said Long. "She's always encouraged me to take the next step, and she's always been there at every turn to encourage the chamber's growth."

 

Giving Back to the Community

 

Achauer believes that investing in Warrensburg is paying off, and she is excited about the recent business and residential growth in the community. She sees exciting changes in the community and the university, and she wants UCM students to realize they are part of the community.

"Think about this community," Achauer said. "Where else can you find the diversity that comes from a military population, a state university and a community with such a great history?"

She likes to talk about the future, and she's willing to speculate on what might be. She believes it takes a combined effort, and she's always been involved in that effort.

"Anything I have came from this community," she said. "I like the idea of giving back. But it takes more than one person to make it work. It's people working together who make it better for everyone."

By Mike Greife '74