Chancellor Brady J. Deaton became the 21st chief executive officer of the University of Missouri in 2004. He joined the MU faculty as a professor and chair of the Agricultural Economics Department in 1989. He was appointed chief of staff in the Office of the Chancellor in 1993, deputy chancellor in 1997 and provost in 1998. He served as MU’s chancellor from 2004 to 2013.
Deaton retired from his position as chancellor Nov. 15, 2013, and leads the new Brady and Anne Deaton Institute for University Leadership in International Development.
As he departs Jesse Hall, the chancellor leaves behind a legacy. Under Deaton’s leadership, the university experienced significant increases in overall student enrollment, minority student enrollment, research grants and expenditures, patents and licenses, fundraising and hiring of prestigious faculty. Since 2004 Mizzou has reduced its carbon footprint, opened 21 new buildings and transitioned to the Southeastern Conference. A lifelong advocate of responsible global citizenship, Deaton has expanded MU’s international reach and backed the university’s efforts in research, education and policy to help feed the world.
The historic Residence on Francis Quadrangle is a long way from the Appalachian abodes where Brady Deaton grew up, with neither plumbing nor electricity. A day spent manning the helm of a flagship research university or jetting to international-policy consortia is a far cry from one spent studying at a two-room schoolhouse or milking cows on the mountain farm that yielded the family’s food supply. In some regards, though, little has changed at the core of Deaton’s life. His lifelong passions — global affairs, agricultural economics, community service, insatiable intellectual curiosity — remain intact.
The second of nine children, Brady Deaton grew up on his family farm in Eastern Kentucky, where many of his relatives still live. Deaton, his siblings and his mother raised the family’s food on the farm while his father worked in carpentry and brick-laying.
“Surviving was a process at that time,” Deaton recalls. “But it was a rich life, really.”
Deaton joined 4-H at age 10 and saw the youth development program as a portal to the larger world. After high school he enrolled in the University of Kentucky, where he studied agricultural economics, joined the Patterson Literary Society and took part in speech competitions and philosophical debates. And he still got up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows.
Deaton remained active in 4-H at the university level and in 1965 won the National Collegiate Dairy Judging Contest.
To explore his interest in global affairs, he’d hoped to participate in 4-H’s International Farm Youth Exchange Program. Instead he found himself in a brand-new program called the Peace Corps. He spent two years in Thailand and was hooked.
“Education opened the whole world for me,” Deaton says.
Once back at University of Kentucky, Deaton took part in a YMCA work camp project in which students built schools in Bogota, Colombia. Deaton was well-equipped — with bricklaying and carpentry skills he learned from his father. The presence of Americans aroused suspicion in Bogota, and a local newspaper reporter accused the student volunteers of spying for the CIA; the group responded by inviting him to a debate. Again, Deaton was well-equipped — with skills he learned in UK speech contests. (Cowed, the reporter printed a retraction.)
The next YMCA trip proved even more exciting. Deaton, then a graduate student, was asked to lead a group of students on a community-development mission to Ecuador. Among the prospective participants attending the information meeting was UK undergraduate honors student Anne Simonetti.
“Brady was on stage talking to students, and he was saying ‘Make your life count. Have the courage of your convictions. Live the change,’” she remembers.
Inspired, she signed up for the life-altering excursion, but before they could go, Brady Deaton had to win over his future in-laws.
“Anne’s mother grabbed me by both arms and said, ‘You take good care of my daughter this summer,’” he recalls. “I did. And she’s been taking good care of me ever since.”
Brady and Anne Deaton married in 1967.
No Place Like Home
Deaton earned a master’s degree in diplomacy and international commerce at the University of Kentucky in 1968. He went on to the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a master’s degree in 1970 and a doctorate in 1972, both in agricultural economics.
Teaching and Service
Deaton worked as an assistant and associate professor of agricultural economics and rural sociology at the University of Tennessee for six years. In the midst of his teaching and research, he continued to nurture his passion for feeding the world. He was appointed staff director of the Special Task Force on Food for Peace for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.
In 1978 Deaton took a professorship position at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in the Department of Agricultural Economics, where he also served as coordinator of the rural development research and extension program. Deaton spent 12 years at Virginia Tech, the last four as associate director of the Office for International Development.
Leading Beyond Mizzou
Chancellor Deaton’s leadership extends past Jesse Hall. He holds influential positions in university, community and national organizations. He served as chair of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) Council on International Initiatives. He was a member of the board of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. He served on the International Committee of the Association of American Universities (AAU).
President Barack Obama appointed Deaton chair of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) in 2011 and reappointed him in 2012 for a four-year term.
For his contributions to higher education, Deaton has earned many honors. He has been awarded the Outstanding Commitment to Multiculturalism and Diversity certificate by the MU Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students, honored as an invited lecturer at the Japan International Agricultural Council and recognized by Gamma Sigma Delta with an Award of Merit for Outstanding Administrator. He has received the Malone Award from APLU for furthering international education in public higher education. In 2009 he received an honorary degree from Prince of Songkla University in Hat Yai, Thailand, and in 2012 he received an honorary degree in public administration from Khon Kaen University in Khon Kaen, Thailand.
Chancellor Deaton and his wife, Dr. Anne Deaton, are the parents of four grown children (three of whom are Tigers) and the grandparents of five grandsons and two granddaughters (aka future Tigers).
Brady and Anne Deaton have passed on their global consciousness to new generations. Their children have traveled abroad, worked abroad and participated in organizations such as the Peace Corps. Their daughter, Christina Deaton Demarea, has sparked American kids’ interest in international travel, taking the Chicago Children’s Choir on tours to Europe and Japan.
In the past 30 years professional activities have taken one or both Deatons to countries including Hungary, Kenya, Jamaica, Grenada, St. Lucia, Haiti, Zambia, Estonia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Bulgaria, Korea, Russia, Thailand and Belgium. This list omits leisure travel and visits to family members, such as their son Tony Deaton, a U.S. State Department public affairs officer recently stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Windhoek, Namibia, or their son David Deaton, who worked in Hong Kong for four years before moving back to Virginia.
As they enter retirement, Brady and Anne Deaton look forward to more travel and more family time.