Alumni-funded grants honor professor, support organized labor
A new scholarship at the University of Missouri-Kansas City is intended to help re-balance the power equation between employers and labor.
In a ceremony last week, the Gene Wagner Honorary Scholarship in Labor Economics awarded its first scholarship. The scholarship is designated for undergraduate students who have family, personal and financial backgrounds supportive of organized labor, and who are pursuing a degree in economics at UMKC.
The scholarship fund, which has garnered more than $30,000, was created by seven alumni who were moved by economics professor Gene Wagner’s passion for labor economics. In his more than four decades as an economics professor at UMKC, Wagner has spoken tirelessly in support of organized labor.
“The fact of the matter is, there are major think tanks with an awful lot of money that spend a great deal of time trying to get rid of the various programs that were set in place during the Roosevelt administration in the New Deal,” Wagner said. “They’ve made it really quite difficult for labor to organize.”
Wagner and his seven former students are hoping that the scholarship fund will give labor a stronger voice.
The initial grant was awarded to junior Kolbe Krzyzanowski during a recent celebration at the student union.
Krzyzanowski is pursuing a double major in Economics and English. His essay, which touched on his own experiences in the workplace, as well as his parents’ experiences as self-employed entrepreneurs, landed him the $2,000 scholarship.
Joe Moreland, B.A. ’74, is part of the group of alumni who, over the course of two years, worked to build the scholarship fund. Moreland met Wagner after having aimlessly taken night classes while he worked for the railroad. Unsurprisingly, Wagner made an impact.
Moreland eventually became a lawyer. He worked for 35 years, representing organized labor.
“I’m just here honoring an old debt. I owe a lifelong debt to Gene Wagner,” Moreland said.
Moreland, along with Jerry Lonergan, B. A. ’80, Mary Daly, B. A. ’85, Gary Sage, B. A. ’74, M. P. A. ’83, Paul Schmidtlein, B. A. ’72, M. A. ’77, J. D. ’86, Pat Hayes, M. A. ’96, and Russ Dameron B. A. ’81, J. D. ’84, made up the group of alumni who started the fund.
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