Rural Kirksville, Missouri, may not have a Target within its city limits, but it has two universities. And the presidents of A.T. Still University and Truman State University have become close colleagues and friends.
When one president left to become president of a Virginia university, the departure left a void for the other president and “a hole in the town of Kirksville.” That’s the assessment of Craig M. Phelps, president of A.T. Still University, who formed such a close connection with Troy D. Paino, former Truman president, that he and his wife are traveling 1,020 ½ miles to attend Paino’s inauguration as 10th president of the University of Mary Washington.
President Paino has asked his friend to talk about higher education from a national perspective. Phelps will be among eight people on stage bringing greetings at UMW’s upcoming inauguration ceremony, which will be held on Friday at 4:15 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.
An even greater number of people significant to Troy Paino will be in the audience.
“I literally will have people here from every phase of my life,” he said, including a kindergarten classmate. In addition to his wife, Kelly, Paino will have in attendance his parents, who are 92 and 93, his two daughters – one a junior at James Monroe High School and the other a sophomore at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Also planning to be present are all of Troy’s siblings, as well as Kelly’s.
The current president of Truman State University will be coming, along with folks President Paino knew in middle school, college and graduate school.
“Let me tell you,” Phelps said in a telephone interview, “it was tough for me to see Troy leave Kirksville. It was tough for the community to lose him – and Kelly.”
However, he added, “UMW seems like it was almost made for him.”
The A.T. Still president said of Paino: “He’s a delight…he’s brilliant, he’s visionary, and he has a great sense of humor.” He said the two families enjoyed spending time with each other.
Prior to assuming the presidency of his alma mater – a health sciences graduate school with a campus in Mesa, Arizona, in addition to the one in Kirksville – Phelps was an executive vice president and provost at the Mesa campus. Before that, he practiced sports and family medicine in Phoenix for 25 years. During that time, he served as the team doctor for the NBA Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury, as well as the physician for Ballet Arizona. In 2011, he was named physician of the year by the National Basketball Athletic Trainers Association.
Maintaining some of his basketball ties, Phelps said he took Troy Paino to a Phoenix Suns/Los Angeles Lakers game. The two also played some basketball in Kirksville.
“You may not know it,” Phelps said, “but Troy Paino’s a darn good point guard.”
A host of activities is ongoing this week on the Fredericksburg campus to celebrate Paino’s inauguration. For a list of events, please visit www.umw.edu/inauguration/inauguration-week-events-schedule.