The mother of a Northwest Missouri State University student killed in 2018 has established a scholarship in her daughter’s memory to assist future students pursuing degrees in the field she loved.
Brenda McCoy recently established the Morgan McCoy Memorial Scholarship in memory of her daughter with monetary gifts she received after Morgan’s passing. Morgan was a 19-year-old sophomore elementary education major at Northwest when she died Jan. 7, 2018, as a result of injuries she suffered when a vehicle crashed into a Maryville bar that she was inside.
The scholarship will assist students demonstrating a love for teaching and potential success as an elementary classroom teacher. Recipients of the scholarship will be full-time Northwest students with a declared major in elementary education or early childhood education and must maintain a grade-point average of 3.00 or higher and demonstrate financial need.
“Morgan was a tremendous person and student, and this scholarship reflects her in memory and spirit,” Dr. Tim Wall, the director of Northwest’s School of Education, said. “We are appreciative of the generous support for education majors like Morgan, knowing that these resources will spark the flame of learning for those students who match Morgan’s love of teaching.”
The $750 scholarship is awarded annually, with Sarah Wilson, a senior early childhood education major from St. Joseph, Missouri, becoming its first recipient last fall.
“This scholarship has helped me tremendously to continue in my early education degree at Northwest,” Wilson said. “I am so grateful that I was chosen to receive it. Morgan had a huge impact on so many people, and I think it is amazing to see her legacy carried on through this scholarship.”
Brenda hopes the scholarship continues to benefit students like Wilson who share Morgan’s work ethic and passion for teaching.
“I think, in anything, if you don’t work for it, you don’t truly value it,” Brenda said. “I think that’s why she valued her time (at Northwest). She had to work for it.”
A single parent, Brenda recognizes the important role financial assistance played in Morgan’s ability to pursue a college degree. As a high school student, Morgan began working as soon as she could. Once at Northwest, she quickly landed a student employment role in Everett W. Brown Education Hall while maintaining her part-time jobs in Kansas City and her hometown of Liberty, Missouri.
“Other teachers need that little bit of help like she was getting,” Brenda said. “She busted her butt, coming home, working weekends, babysitting for people and working on campus because she wanted to be a teacher.”
As a student employee in the School of Education’s field experience office, Morgan assisted professional staff with student teacher placements, communication and other needs. The late Joyce Luke, who was Northwest’s assistant director of field experiences and lost her battle with cancer in 2018, took charge of hiring student employees for the office and fostered its fun environment. It was an office environment where McCoy fit right in, said Dr. Greg Rich, an associate professor of professional education who oversees field experiences in the School of Education.
Rich, who has worked in the education field for more than 35 years, routinely assigns nicknames to students as he builds relationships with them. His nickname for “Captain Morgan” was a tribute to her ability to take charge and have fun doing it.
“She worked hard, but she had fun, too, in the process,” Rich said. “That radiates and rubs off on other people, just like Joyce rubbed off on other people.”
Inside the field experience office on the second floor of Brown Hall, photos of Morgan and Luke help keep their memories alive. Staff members are quick to share stories of them when new student employees arrive.
“As she got older, she started to get involved in the field experiences and got to work hands-on with kids at Horace Mann,” Rich said of Morgan. “Her light – that educational light – you could really tell she had developed a passion and a calling for being a teacher.”
Rich added, “That’s what I will remember in terms of the legacy that she’ll leave and the scholarship will leave is that you don't have to always know what you want to do when you get to campus. But when you get to campus, you start getting into classes and meet people. You start to figure it out, and she definitely had it figured out. That was her calling.”
Morgan visited Northwest twice before deciding to enroll at the University. Although she had initial aspirations of seeking a career in a science or medical field, Brenda says her daughter always showed an interest in young children. Morgan worked as a nanny during high school and enjoyed assisting a fourth-grade class during her senior year in Liberty.
During one of their campus visits, Brenda and a faculty member who was leading the McCoys on a tour of Horace Mann Laboratory School lost track of Morgan when a preschool student engaged her in a hallway conversation.
“The next thing we know, we’re like 30, 40 feet down the way and we have to stop because we realize she’s back talking to the 3-year-old,” Brenda said. “Morgan stopped and squatted down and was talking to her, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, well if that doesn't tell you what you really want to do.’”
With Morgan’s visits to the campus validating her decision to become an elementary education major, she also was excited to meet people from varied backgrounds when she began her freshman year at Northwest in the fall of 2016.
She developed bonds with students from elsewhere in the Kansas City metropolitan area as well as Des Moines and Omaha. She became an active member of Sigma Kappa sorority and participated in the Homecoming parade. As an elementary education major and early childhood minor, she was excited for her career prospects by gaining experience in both fields.
“Anything that had fun in it, I’m pretty positive she was all over it,” Brenda said. “Northwest has such a great community. It was just what she wanted. She loved meeting new people from different places.”
Before her death, Morgan had returned to Maryville a couple days prior to the start of the spring semester because she missed Maryville and wanted to be with her friends. That, her mother said, was Morgan – always willing to travel back to Liberty to see family or baby-sit for a loved one but just as eager to return to Maryville, where she was dedicated to her friends and work in the School of Education.
Friends and family, in so many cards Brenda received after her daughter’s death, reflected on Morgan’s bubbly personality, contagious energy and work ethic.
“I hope that she’s remembered as a bright light and a smile and that when somebody says they got the Morgan McCoy Scholarship, they’ll go, ‘Oh my gosh, we've heard of her,’ or ‘oh my gosh, we heard that she was just this bundle of fun, lit up the room,’ and I hope that they can do the same,” Brenda said.