Missouri Mule Club promotes College of Veterinary Medicine

Tim and Terry are the third team of mules since the club was founded in 1984.
Mules Terry and Tim comprise the MU College of Veterinary Medicine's Mule Club. The team will pull Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin and his family from Missouri Theater to Memorial Union during his installation ceremony Thursday. Darcie Sidelinger | Courtesy of MU CVM Mules

It’s Saturday morning in Columbia, and students, fans and alumni are tailgating in anticipation of the Missouri Tigers football game.

Less than a mile from Memorial Stadium, veterinary students wearing gold shirts are showing off a more unconventional symbol of Missouri pride: the mule team.

Tim and Terry, 21-year-old Missouri mules, are giving wagon rides to alumni of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Missouri Mule Club is made up of graduate veterinary students that care for the mules and bring them to events around the state. Tim and Terry are the third team of mules since the club was founded in 1984.

Mule Club supervisor John Dodam said the club attends roughly 50 events per year, educating the public about the College of Veterinary Medicine and the history of the mule in Missouri.

“We talk to people about admission into veterinary school and undergraduate programs at MU,” Dodam said. “We tell them about the things we do at the teaching hospital and at the College of Veterinary Medicine. It serves as a kind of public relations arm as well as an educational arm of the university.”

Dodam said the club was started when the College of Veterinary Medicine was struggling with funding in the 1980s. Then-Dean Robert Kahrs saw the mule, Missouri’s state animal, as an ideal way to promote the veterinary school and bring publicity to MU.

“The mules serve as a catalyst to talk to people about MU about agriculture, about biology and about veterinary medicine,” Dodam said.

Since then, the club has traveled to a wide variety of events, from elementary school theme days to nursing homes. Dodam said the mules are well-known at the Missouri State Fair and were a favorite of late Missouri governor Mel Carnahan.

On Sept. 18, Tim and Terry will transport Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin from the Missouri Theatre to Memorial Union as part of his inauguration ceremony.

Kelsey Wawrzynice, graduate student and Mule Club president for the 2013-2014 school year, said she enjoyed leading parades with the mules at various festivals and educating people about the history of the Missouri mule.

“It’s a really great experience,” she said. “It’s a great outreach program, especially with kids. You can tell that the public really enjoys the events that we come to. They’re always smiling and seem really happy, even when they just come up and talk to us.”

Graduate student Torie Neff joined the club last year. The class schedule for veterinary school was demanding, and she wanted to find something to get involved with outside of classes. She also wanted to learn how to drive a team of mules, having previously ridden horses.

Now the 2014-2015 club president, Neff is responsible for scheduling events and coordinating availability of club officers and sponsors. She also feeds the mules on a rotating schedule with the other officers.

“I’ve learned a lot about time management,” Neff said. “You also have to be diplomatic when working with people in the community with scheduling.”

Dodam said he most enjoys the relationships he has formed with people throughout the state while traveling with the mules, as well as getting to know the students in the club.

“It’s a great way to get the word out about the history of the mule in the state of Missouri and to tell people about the good things we do at MU,” Dodam said. “It seems like a funny way to do that, but it’s amazingly effective. In the way the success of the football team buoys the whole university, the same thing can be said of the mules.”

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