MARYVILLE, Mo. – The Northwest Missouri State University community celebrated the legacy of one of its longest-serving employees June 11 and dedicated the John C. Redden Jr. Power Plant in his honor.
University, community and state leaders gathered with friends and family to remember Redden, whose service to Northwest spanned 45 years when he retired in 2014. He also spent 36 years with the Maryville Volunteer Fire Department and was a longtime member of the Maryville School Board, among others.
Redden died last November, and Northwest’s Board of Regents approved the renaming of its Power Plant in his honor last December.
“There are no words to convey our awe and respect for John and the footprint he left on Northwest Missouri State University,” Stacy Carrick, the University’s vice president of finance, said. “His legacy lives on every day in some form or fashion across this campus.”
Redden’s connection to Northwest began in the late 1960s as a general labor worker for a company overseeing the construction of Valk Center. A short time later, he joined the Northwest staff to work at the Power Plant and left his mark as a staff member in Facility Services. He retired as associate director of facilities.
“Every step around this campus that we all take, in and throughout our facilities, reminds us of John C. Redden Jr., Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “His impact on each of us, his focus on bettering communities through service, his maximum effort – that’s John C. Redden Jr.”
Members of the Redden family and University leaders surround Dr. Bob Bush, who helped launch the University’s alternative energy program with John C. Redden Jr., as he cuts the ribbon to commemorate the renaming of the Power Plant in Redden’s honor. (Photo by Brandon Bland/Northwest Missouri State University)
While Redden played an instrumental role in numerous building and renovation projects on the Northwest campus, one of his key contributions was the planning and 1982 launch of Northwest’s innovative alternative fuels program, which has saved the University nearly $16 million in energy costs. Today, the alternative fuels program is one of the University’s signature initiatives with wood and paper fuels accounting for 58 percent of the campus’ total energy consumption and 88 percent of its heating requirement. The program has earned Northwest numerous state and national awards, including the American Association of State College and Universities’ 2017 Excellence and Innovation Award for Sustainability and Sustainable Development.
“I personally remember seeing John working, going to meetings and keeping everyone on track for a common goal while I was attending the University back in the ’90s,” Brad Sullivan, a Maryville volunteer firefighter, said. “What I didn’t see back then was that John didn’t stop or even slow down when he left his ‘40-hour work week.’ Once work was finished for the day, John would go home to work on his farm that he and (his wife) Alice built. As with any farmer, John would work constantly, trying to make ends meet.”
In commemoration of Redden’s service as a firefighter, a Maryville fire truck was parked alongside the Administration Building with its ladder extended to the sky. Redden, who was promoted to captain in 1988, helped fight the 1979 Administration Building fire both on the ground and inside the historic structure. Sullivan also noted that the Redden family, including four of John’s children, has dedicated a combined 129 years of service to local firefighting and rescue agencies.
“On the fire scene, John was an ever-present leader,” Sullivan said. “He knew where everyone was and what people were doing at any given time. His ability to oversee a fire scene rivals the most experienced professional firefighter, and while on scene he would never ask a firefighter to do anything he wouldn’t do or have done himself. He would teach and train in the moment if necessary and definitely follow up after the scene was secure to be sure the firefighter knew exactly what was expected the next time. He took pride in seeing guys doing what needed to be done without the word being said. Throughout all calls, his main concern was to ensure the safety of all on his watch, to make sure we all made it home to our families.”
Used as coal-fired operation until its conversion to wood fuel during the early 1980s, Northwest’s Power Plant was completed in 1910 in conjunction with the Administration Building to support the new campus. As the campus grew, the Power Plant was rebuilt and expanded and connected to new buildings. Today, the facility is connected to a 2-mile network of utility tunnels that carry steam as well as HVAC-chilled water to more than 30 buildings throughout the campus.
“John was dedicated, committed, proud of his accomplishments, focused on the end result, all while staying humble and scoffing at the praise that was shown to him,” Sullivan said. “He was a true leader, albeit from behind the scenes, and it is only fitting to have the Power Plant – a behind-the-scenes driving force of this University – named after him to continue the legacy for decades to come.”