Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Gene Munger of Flagstaff, Arizona, spends his days writing novels, serving his community and never breaking for the retirement he has earned.
Gene is an author. In 1997, he moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, retired from consulting and became fully engaged as a community activist and an author of five books. Those include: “Momma, Don’t Ya Want Me To Learn Nothin’?,” “The Elegant Mentor,” “Leaving New Madrid,” “Return To Osage Beach” and his most recent, “The Smell of Money.”
What many don’t know is that Gene’s passion to write is the subject of another chapter. All royalties from his books go to a scholarship he has endowed in his mother’s name at Southeast to benefit journalism and communication majors. Shell Oil Company Foundation matches those royalties one to one.
“I am currently working on my sixth book, and all royalties of my book’s sales go to my endowed scholarship to honor my mother, Ruth Humphreys Munger,” Gene said.
His mother was the daughter of the Rev. William A. Humphreys, who was born in 1900 in Arcadia, Missouri. She married Eugene M. Munger in 1920, and they had two children, Gene and Martel. She received a teaching certificate from Southeast Missouri State Teachers College in 1926, where she subsequently taught in elementary schools in Bloomfield, Missouri, and surrounding rural schools. In her later life, she became an executive secretary and librarian. A voracious reader, Ruth Humphreys Munger was a strong advocate of education, the arts, and the humanities. Her two children endowed the Ruth Humphreys Scholarship in her memory.
Gene is hopeful the success of his books ultimately will boost the scholarship and benefit Southeast students pursuing a future in journalism.
When he is not writing, Gene also is actively involved in his community.
“Since my career as a Shell employee ended 24 years ago and my consulting ended years later, I became a community activist and volunteer with Flagstaff nonprofits. My current goal is to continue to commit my energy and experience to help those in the community who are less fortunate,” he says. At Southeast, Gene earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1956.
Once he was finished with his degree, he wanted to serve his country. In January 1957, he attended the U.S. Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and was commissioned as an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on active duty as a staff officer with a NATO command, the Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia, until 1960 when he returned to civilian life.
He says Southeast helped him find his niche.
“For a brief time, I went to work for Shell Oil Company in 1956 as a Treasury Management Trainee,” he says. “From that position, I went into marketing, real estate and public relations. In public relations, I finally found my niche, serving 16 years and retiring in 1991 as Shell’s Public affairs manager for the West Coast.”
Gene says he chose Southeast because it was in his hometown of Cape Girardeau.
“I transferred to Southeast as a sophomore,” Gene says. “Without question, my positive experience there, with teachers and close friends, contributed greatly to my success in my professional career.”
His favorite memories at Southeast speak to the relationships that Gene still likes to build. He was a varsity basketball athlete for three years and says he enjoyed the camaraderie and relationships experienced with his fellow athletes.
“Those positive relationships still exist today,” he said. “Best friends forever.”
In his free time, Gene can be found doing what he loves most. That is writing, helping in the community, watching his beloved St. Louis Cardinals and spending time with his wife.
“My favorite activity is writing. I have now written five books in six years and I do this while being a community activist and volunteer,” Gene says. “I don’t take myself too seriously. I so enjoy my life. I am one lucky person. I have a beautiful, intelligent wife who continues to put up with me. I love living in Flagstaff and finally, I am one totally dyed-in-the wool St. Louis Cardinal Fan. Cardinals always win!
To Southeast students he offers this advice:
“My advice is simple. Enjoy each day at Southeast to its fullest; commit yourself to be the best that you can be and remember those who have entered your life such as, parents, friends and teachers who have made you a better person,” he says.