The Friend of the University award, which recognizes those who support and who are closely associated with the mission, purposes, plans and programs of the University, is the highest honor bestowed by the Southeast Missouri University Foundation. The award honors the LaFerlas’ long-time commitment to, philanthropy and generosity at Southeast Missouri State University.
“Don and Gloria’s passion for Southeast is genuine and far-reaching,” said Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University. “They are remarkable alumni whose gifts of time, talent and treasure have made and continue to make a lasting impact on our campus and, most importantly, our students. On behalf of Southeast Missouri State, I offer my heartfelt gratitude for their meaningful and profound interest in benefiting the University and the lives of each and every one they touch. It is very much appreciated.
“Pam and I have enjoyed getting to know Don and Gloria over the past several years, and we appreciate their passion to help students and others in need,” Vargas said. “We truly value their support and their friendship.”
Don was appointed to serve as a member of the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents by former Missouri Gov. Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon in December 2013. He was elected Board president in December 2017 and served in that capacity through Jan. 1, 2019, when his term on the Board expired.
“We are deeply honored and grateful to receive this award,” he said.
The LaFerlas’ philanthropic support is felt in many areas of campus, including scholarship support provided through the Gloria King LaFerla Endowed Scholarship in Technology; the Donald G. LaFerla Endowed Scholarship for Health Sciences; the Luther A. King Endowed Scholarship to support undergraduate education majors; and the Robert King Endowed Scholarship for undergraduate finance or accounting majors. In May 2014, the LaFerlas’ strong interest in technology and health sciences led them to establish a $1.7 million planned gift, and the University’s Board of Regents honored them with the naming of the Donald G. and Gloria King LaFerla Residence Hall.
“We enjoy knowing we can help students pursue their education and fulfill their goals in these fields,” Don said. “We realize there are others less fortunate, and we can make a difference for them by helping this University. We have been blessed in so many ways that it only seemed right to share our good fortune by helping others to get a good education. Education is one of the basic building blocks of a successful life, and if we could give someone a little help to achieve a happy, successful life, why not do it?”
The LaFerlas will be honored with the award during Southeast’s Homecoming festivities at the annual Copper Dome Dinner Oct. 30.
The LaFerlas met in 1959 as students at Southeast Missouri State College. They say they received a quality education, made lifelong friends and started their lives together at Southeast.
Gloria graduated from Fox High School in Arnold, Missouri, in 1958, after completing her first three years at College High School on the Southeast campus. She returned to Southeast as a college student, thanks to a scholarship she received and has forever remembered from a local bank. Having benefited from a scholarship herself, Gloria said she and Don have always enjoyed meeting the student recipients of their awards at an annual Southeast scholarship reception.
In choosing Southeast, Gloria followed in the footsteps of her father, Luther A. King (’57), and her brother, Robert M. King (’58) who graduated from Southeast Missouri State College, as it was known at the time. At Southeast, Gloria was a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority, while, Don, a St. Louis native, majored in biology and geology, and was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He graduated in 1961, and the couple was married soon afterwards in St. Louis, Missouri.
Don went on to serve as a senior system analyst and requirements planner at Emerson Electric Company and was also employed by McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. Gloria began her career at IBM Corporation in St. Louis, later taking off several years while the couple’s two sons were young. In 1973, she graduated from Florissant Valley College with academic honors and an Associate of Arts. That same year, Don accepted a position at Leggett and Platt, Inc., in Carthage, Missouri, and the young family relocated to that area. He progressed through six higher-level positions before retiring in April 2001 as a corporate officer and vice president of administrative services. Gloria retired from the National Marketing Division of the IBM Joplin Office in 1996.
In addition to their involvement at Southeast, the couple has been active in several community and national service activities. Don is a former member of the Mercy McCune-Brooks Hospital Board, having served as both president and vice president, and a former member of the McCune-Brooks Healthcare Foundation Board, having been both vice president and secretary-treasurer. He is an emeritus member of both the Southeast Missouri University Foundation Board and the Missouri Southern State University Foundation Board and is former president of the Carthage Community Foundation. He also previously served on the Missouri Hospital Association Board, the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri and the Carthage Chamber of Commerce.
Gloria was active in the Parent-Teachers Association and Soroptimist International in Carthage where she served as both president and vice president. She also was a long-time member of the Dogwood Garden Club and the McCune-Brooks Hospital Auxiliary.
The LaFerlas are the parents of two sons, Dr. Jeffrey LaFerla, a Doctor of Optometry in Kansas City, Missouri, and Dr. Michael LaFerla, a Board Certified Orthodontist practicing in Joplin, Missouri. They have three grandchildren, Peyton, Cameron and Jadyn.