Making a difference: Lilbourn native, family give back to local students

Sunday, December 3, 2017
North Lilbourn natives Detral Treadwell and his wife Lillie Treadwell pose together. This Thanksgiving, the Treadwell family are sharing their story of triumph as well as their successes by offering local students with scholarships to Lincoln University.

LILBOURN, Mo. — North Lilbourn native Detral Treadwell was not the first in his family to attend Lincoln University nor was he the first student from the Missouri Bootheel to travel miles with the soldier’s dream of a college education.

The mid-1970s ushered in a time of oil shortages, Middle East conflict and the fall of Saigon. But the worries of a young Treadwell were more focused on the recent death of his father his freshmen year at Lincoln University — and the ever-present question of how to pay for his college education.

As one of 12 children growing up in his family, thoughts of returning to the Bootheel were considered.

Recognized in high school for his ethics, his basketball talent and his work tenacity, Treadwell was a good student. As a young man, he had college and work options after high school. Despite the fact, Treadwell had another college basketball scholarship offer; he was not offered a sports scholarship at Lincoln University.

In 1975, Treadwell chose to attend Lincoln University. Although he had a family history that led him to Lincoln as his older brothers, Charles “Flap” Glasper and Melvin Treadwell, preceded him in graduating from Lincoln University, the only option for Treadwell was LU.

Soon Treadwell realized the LU ROTC program would guarantee him a scholarship to assist him with his tuition. So, as a pledged Alpha Phi Alpha man, an ROTC cadet, with a full-time job as a custodian, a work-study job and a solid GPA, Treadwell graduated from Lincoln University in four years.

Treadwell forged forward and married his high school sweetheart, Lillie Taylor. He also fulfilled his ROTC commitment with four years of active service in the Army, attaining the rank of captain.

After the military stint, he accepted a position in the corporate world with Pfizer pharmaceuticals.

Retiring from Pfizer in 2015, after 32 years with the company, he worked briefly for sister company, Merck pharmaceuticals.

Treadwell used his years of corporate service to leverage his gift to Lincoln by utilizing the matching gift program from both companies that he served. Treadwell’s personal contribution was maximized into a six-figure donation to benefit Lincoln University students with the matching gift programs at Pfizer and Merck pharmaceuticals.

But this was not Treadwell’s first gift to Lincoln University.

In 1999, Treadwell started the Charles E. Glasper scholarship in honor of his older brother, to benefit students from the Bootheel. A legacy of service and giving by Treadwell started years ago and continued with LU Foundation Board service from 2000-2006.

“We just want to help any student who comes from Southeast Missouri and who attends Lincoln University and help them advance their education,” said Treadwell, who delivered the Standard Democrat newspaper to earn spending money in middle school.

The Treadwell family gives to a variety of worthy organizations such as Ebenezer Church in their current hometown of Atlanta, the NAACP, the National Action Network and other community-related organizations.

Treadwell reflected on why it is essential to give back to the community by establishing scholarships at Lincoln University.

“I think of the newly freed slaves serving in the 62nd and the 65th colored infantries such as Samuel Sexton and his commitment to giving $100 to help start a school in Missouri,” Treadwell said. “That was eight to 10 months of his salary. For me, that is the soldier’s dream — that they had faith and believed that what they were giving would pay off in dividends.”

Treadwell, who is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Treadwell, and his wife have six children and seven grandchildren.

Mrs. Treadwell, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Louis Taylor Sr., is a retired daycare owner. Mr. and Mrs. Treadwell have been married for over 37 years and together committed to giving back to Lincoln University.

“When I realized that a gift from me would be matched and tripled, I was determined to give so that others could benefit,” Treadwell said. “Many in my family attended Lincoln University including a daughter, siblings, nieces and nephews. My sisters, Theresa Scales a CPA in Atlanta and Brenda Martin, a retired Missouri state employee received their degrees from LU after I graduated, but I hope to honor and to help the institution that helped me get my start in life. I have been blessed.”

The Glasper, Treadwell and Kelly families often return to the North Lilbourn area.

“We live in metro Atlanta now, and we come home quite frequently,” Treadwell said. “We still have friends and have family there and in the Howardville area and New Madrid County area.”

Treadwell said, he simply wants to encourage others by helping provide an education and opportunities to other students.

“We just want to help people throughout the area,” Treadwell said. “I am proud to have come from and grown up in Southeast Missouri, and I want to share with them.”