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For Love of Learning

Bill Reinert wins Alumni Achievement Award

When he was about to graduate from high school, Bill Reinert sat down with a guidance counselor, who delivered a blunt message: Going to college would be a waste of his time and his parents’ money.

He joined the military instead. After his discharge, however, he defied the counselor’s prediction and enrolled at UMKC.

And his world changed.

Today, he is National Manager of Advanced Technology for Toyota Motor Sales, USA. He served as one of the lead product planners for the Toyota Prius. Reinert currently is working on advanced hybrid electric products and direct hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which will enter the market in 2015.

Reinert is the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award recipient of the University of Missouri-Kansas City College of Arts and Sciences. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the College in 1974.

“I had hated going to school, and I thought learning meant memorizing,” he recalled.  “But at UMKC, I finally learned how to learn and how to love learning. I quit worrying about my grades and started to relax. Then I had fun, and good grades came easily.”

Learning how to learn gave him confidence as well as knowledge.

“I think the UMKC experiences that have influenced me the most were my days as a graduate student,” he said. “We were working on the neural basis for behavior. The work was incredibly complex, more challenging than I thought I could ever manage. But my professor, Dr. Dan Levinson, worked with me, encouraged me and guided me. That long winter, I learned more than I ever thought possible. And the knowledge that I can do what I set out to do has never left me.”

Reinert lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. At Toyota, he has demonstrated consistent dedication to developing technology to balance transportation energy demands with environmental sustainability. Because of that commitment, he was named chair of the Electric Subgroup for the National Petroleum Council’s Future Transportation Fuels study by the U.S. Secretary of Energy. He also works in the Galapagos Islands with the World Wildlife Fund, Toyota’s partner, where he helped create the Galapagos Energy Blueprint, a project that transformed energy use within the archipelago and helped save a fragile ecosystem.

“Now at the end of my career, my focus is almost entirely on continuity – making sure that those who come along next have the same opportunities, the same access to tools and the same access to management that I did. I want them to be more successful than I was,” Reinert said.

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association presents alumni awards to one honoree from each school at its annual awards luncheon. It also gives five university-wide awards of distinction.

This year’s event, which will highlight the 80th anniversary of the campus and include the presentation of the 2013 Chancellor’s Medal, will be held Thursday, April 18, on the UMKC campus. For information and tickets for the event, click here.


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