Freeman News

Gov. Nixon earns designation as Freeman Fellow

October 25, 2012

Governor Jay Nixon became the seventh person in the 90-year history of Freeman Health System to be named a Freeman Fellow.

JOPLIN, Mo.—Governor Jay Nixon became the seventh person in the 90-year history of Freeman Health System to be named a Freeman Fellow. Gov. Nixon received this honor in recognition of his unprecedented commitment and leadership in the aftermath of the May 22, 2011, tornado that devastated the Joplin community. Gov. Nixon’s unwavering leadership during Joplin’s darkest hour brought hope, comfort, healing, and recovery to our wounded community.

During each step of Freeman’s tornado response, the health system has had Gov. Nixon’s steadfast support and encouragement. Gov. Nixon secured $2 million in state funding to help Freeman and Ozark Center, Freeman’s behavioral health division, establish Will’s Place, a healing center for children struggling with trauma caused either by the storm or at the hands of others. Gov. Nixon celebrated the opening of the fifth and sixth floors of Gary & Donna Hall Tower at Freeman Hospital West, two projects prompted by the need for additional healthcare beds in the wake of the tornado. He also joined Freeman staff to reflect upon the one-year anniversary of the storm. Beyond his assistance following the tornado, Gov. Nixon was instrumental in passing legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of autism treatment, a mandate that vastly improved the lives of families whose children receive treatment through Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism.

“When your community is in the midst of the despair Joplin experienced, it is easy to believe that you have been forgotten,” said Paula Baker, Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer. “When you are surrounded by chaos and destruction, it is difficult to find the promise of the future. It is easy to think that all hope has been lost and that the life we once knew will never return. But Governor Nixon’s presence here and the many trips he made to Joplin since May 22, 2011, reminded us that the State of Missouri has not and will not forget our plight. Governor Nixon provided support, resources, and—most importantly—hope that our community will rise up once again.”

In addition to his support of Freeman, Gov. Nixon helped secure nearly $100 million from the Missouri Housing Development Commission for the construction of temporary and long-term housing in Joplin. He worked to ensure that the cost of debris removal would be covered largely by state and federal resources. Gov. Nixon formed the Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge, arranging for pro-athlete organizations and the University of Missouri to help construct 35 Habitat houses. He also secured funding to rebuild Joplin playgrounds and established the State Resource, Recovery, and Rebuilding Center, a one-stop location for those impacted by the tornado to seek assistance from the state.

Gov. Nixon and Baker unveiled his plaque, now hanging in the lobby of Freeman West alongside those of the other six Freeman Fellows. A Freeman Fellow exhibits leadership, advocacy, and philanthropy. To become a Freeman Fellow, one must demonstrate overwhelming support for Freeman Health System—a support that rises above and beyond the call of duty. Past Freeman Fellow honorees include Senator Gary Nodler, Senator Richard Webster, former chairman of Freeman Board of Directors Leland Browne, Jr., Congressman Gene Taylor, Freeman supporter J. T. Jones, and Freeman supporter Myron McIntosh.

About Freeman Health System

Based in Joplin, Missouri, Freeman Health System is the area’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system, serving southwest Missouri, southeast Kansas, northeast Oklahoma, and northwest Arkansas. Freeman provides comprehensive healthcare and behavioral health services, including cancer care, heart and vascular care, neurosciences, orthopaedics, and women’s services, with more than 300 physicians representing 60 specialties. For more information, visit or, or follow Freeman President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker at