Remembered for his dedication, commitment and the many contributions made in service to students, faculty and staff at the University of Central Missouri, Marvin E. “Bunky” Wright, Columbia, died on Friday, July 14 after an illness. A longtime attorney who served various public and private higher education institutions in Missouri, he was nearing his 14th consecutive year as a member of the UCM Board of Governors at the time of his passing.
“Governor Wright was an ardent and passionate supporter of higher education. His long and distinguished career is filled with selfless service that had a significant and positive impact on all of higher education and directly on the University of Central Missouri,” said UCM President Roger Best. “I will be forever grateful for his dedicated leadership on the UCM Board of Governors, the wisdom and insights he brought to us, and the transformative achievements his leadership facilitated. We will miss him tremendously.”
Wright was an attorney who had an extensive background in higher education, having served as legal counsel for the University of Missouri System from 1967-79, and as general counsel for the MU System from 1998-2008. He also served as legal counsel for Stephens College, Columbia College, and Westminster College while he worked in private practice.
Wright’s relationship with UCM’s Board of Governors began initially as a consultant and as interim general counsel for several months in 2008-2009. He was named to the board in November 2009 and reappointed for a second term in April 2016.
Board President Ken Weymuth, of Sedalia, praised Wright’s commitment to educating Missouri students and his years of service to colleges and universities.
“The knowledge that he brought on higher education was invaluable. Bunky was passionate about the University of Central Missouri. Every decision he made was in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff,” Weymuth remarked. “His knowledge of higher education and his passion for our university will be hard to replace. He will greatly be missed by all.”
Throughout his tenure on UCM’s board, he served in executive posts that included president and vice president, and was involved in numerous decisions that had a positive impact on students’ living and learning experiences at UCM. This included decisions related to renovation and construction projects such as The Crossing, which was the university’s first retail and residential facility; construction of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center; and most recently, efforts to upgrade the Max B. Swisher Skyhaven Airport to meet campus and community/region aviation needs.
Wright’s reputation as someone who cared about students was well-known throughout Missouri. The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority Board honored his service to higher education in the state and to the university by establishing through the UCM Alumni Foundation the Marvin E. “Bunky” Wright Educational Scholarship for students participating in the THRIVE program. This program expands opportunities for students who have disabilities so they can live more independent lives.
A 1964 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Law, Wright earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from MU in 1958, and served as an officer in the United States Air Force from 1958-61. Wright returned to private practice upon retiring from the general counsel position at the MU System in April 2008, and had been in private practice since then. His experience in the legal profession includes associate in the firm of Finch, Finch, Knehans and Cochran in Cape Girardeau from 1964-1967; and partner in the firm of Knight, Ford, Wright, Atwill, Parshall-Baker, LLC in Columbia from 1979-1998.
Active in professional organizations, Wright was the past president of the Missouri Bar Association, a professional association for attorneys in Missouri, and past president of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, which named him an honorary life member in 2008. At the time of his passing, he was serving a second term on MOHELA’s Board. In 2016, the University of Missouri presented Wright with the Faculty-Alumni Award.
A private family burial service will take place on Monday, July 31 at First Baptist Church in Columbia, followed by interment at Columbia Cemetery. On the same day, a celebration of life is planned at The Clinton Club at Mizzou Arena (south entrance) from 4 to 7 p.m.
Information about memorial services is not yet available. Members of the UCM community express their deepest condolences to Governor Wright’s family and friends.
Contributed by the University of Central Missouri.