Claim to fame
THE NEWEST CLASS INDUCTED into the Missouri Institute of Cooperatives Hall of Fame includes former MFA Incorporated Chairman Wayne Nichols, who recently completed his term limit on the board of directors. Nichols was honored March 16 at the MIC annual meeting in Camdenton.
The cattleman from Pomona, Mo., was recognized for his 50-plus-year career devoted to cooperatives, with service that began in 1970 at as a loan officer at the Hannibal Production Credit Association (PCA). From that first-job introduction to cooperatives, Nichols went on to hold leadership positions as CEO of Ozark PCA, vice president of loan examination at the Federal Intermediate Credit Bank in St. Louis, and president of Farm Credit Midsouth at Jonesboro, Ark.
He has also actively participated in cooperatives as a member. Nichols was involved with Dairy Farmers of America for nine years and was elected to serve on the MFA Incorporated Board of Directors in 2011. He served as chairman of the MFA board from 2018 until 2023.
In his leadership role for MFA, Nichols had a hand in hiring the current CEO, Ernie Verslues, and helped navigate the cooperative through both financially difficult years and near-record successful years.
“I am privileged and humbled to receive this honor,” Nichols said. “The success of a co-op is predicated on the quality of people in management and in the boardroom, and we have some pretty savvy men and women leading our state’s cooperatives. I leave the cooperative system after 53 years knowing it is a long way down the road from where we were when I started, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”
In remarks before the induction, MFA’s new board chairman, Don Schlesselman, said that Nichols believes in the power of working together and the benefits of cooperation for the greater good. Schlesselman noted that his predecessor’s time as chairman resulted in a better-informed board, a stronger member-driven approach and an organization empowered to succeed.
“Over the past three years, I’ve had the honor of serving as vice chairman of the board, which allowed me to work closely with Wayne and get to know him better,” Schlesselman said. “When Wayne speaks, you pay attention because it is going to be insightful and thoughtful. As chairman, he has done an excellent job of leading meetings, keeping people on task and making sure that all board members were heard. He’s left me some big shoes to fill but served as an excellent example, and I feel blessed to step into this role.”
Joining Nichols in the Hall of Fame for 2023 are Brad Lee of St. Louis, a 40-plus-year employee of CoBank and Farm Credit; Phillip Ragsdale of Marshfield, who had a 50-year career with Webster Electric Cooperative; John Schuster of Tipton, a Co-Mo Electric Cooperative member who served as the first chairman of its fiber subsidiary, Co-Mo Comm, Inc.; and Dave Janish of Columbia, who retired in 2022 as president and CEO of FCS Financial after a 43-year career.
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