COLUMBIA, Mo. – Darryl Chatman is the Chair of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, has three master’s degrees, a juris doctorate and is a senior vice president at the United Soybean Board. His life secret? Optimism.
Chatman’s optimistic outlook on life strongly stems from the perspective that his father instilled into him to always look at the bright side of things, saying his father’s optimism was hard not to imitate.
“It was contagious and just made me realize that even in challenging situations, you can still come out victorious. You can come out better than before.”
After completing his bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1997 and playing middle linebacker for the Tigers, he went on to earn a master’s degree in the same subject, a master’s degree in agricultural economics, another master’s degree in public administration and a juris doctorate. All of which from Mizzou except for the graduate degree in public administration, which was from North Carolina State University.
Everyone around him immediately noticed his relentless work ethic and curiosity about learning, especially his teachers.
“Darryl has this natural curiosity that I think has led to the trajectory of his significant success,” said MU Professor Jim Spain, who was Chatman’s professor during his first undergraduate animal science class.
“He brings that same commitment of lifelong learning that we talk about as an institution to everything he does.”
When asked about what made him so driven to learn and earn his education, Chatman credited the curiosity that his teachers and peers often spoke of, as well as his love for knowledge.
“I was curious about different things,” Chatman told The Heartlander. “In graduate school, I was able to explore different curriculums and see different parts of campus. Once I did that, I didn’t really want to stop. The key to success and the key to living the American I thought could be found through education.
“I enjoyed college. I enjoyed writing papers, participating in research projects and going to conferences to talk about the research. I really thought it was great.”
While studying for his graduate degrees, Chatman had to work two and sometimes three jobs just to make graduating possible. He worked as a farmhand at the Mizzou dairy farm, a meat cutter at the Mizzou Meat Lab and as a janitor at University Place Apartments.
Once again, showcasing that insatiable appetite to work hard and better himself.
Growing up in St. Louis, Chatman says he’s always been fascinated with the role that agriculture plays in our everyday society – even in the city. He recognized that agriculture plays a massive part in restaurants, breweries, grocery stores etc. that many kids growing up in a city never realize.
“I saw agriculture all around me,” he said. “I also see a lot of dignity in feeding people and creating products for others to use – and our farmers do that every day”
After earning his various graduate degrees, he started preparing for a career as an attorney. Already having a fascination for agriculture, he noticed quite a bit of correlation between the law and the agriculture industry and wanted to explore it.
Chatman went on to work as an attorney for Armstrong Teasdale LLP in his home city, leading the firm’s agriculture and biotech practice group. He also worked for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, first as general counsel and then later serving as the department’s deputy director.
Throughout his career, Chatman continued to flourish in each position he held and built healthy relationships with his peers that, unbeknownst to him, would later pay off.
In 2017, Chatman received the call that he had been nominated by a colleague to serve on the University of Missouri’s Board of Curators. After being confirmed by the Missouri State Senate, he was officially appointed to the board by then-Governor Eric Greitens.
“I cried when I got the call,” he said. “I didn’t think it was possible. But it was one of those things that showed me that here in America and in Missouri, your dreams can come true.”
After three years of exhibiting his hard work, knowledge, and compassion for the university and the students while serving on the board, Chatman was elected by his fellow curators to serve as the board’s chair for 2021.
As chair of the board, Chatman’s focus has been on research, student success and community engagement. But the first step to achieving success in these areas is making sure there are open discussions where all solutions are considered.
“I encourage people to just talk things through, get ideas out there,” he said. “A lot of times, people just aren’t going to agree and that’s fine. We’ve got to get to a point where we’re fine with a disagreement. People just disagree sometimes, and that’s fine.”
From being just a boy in St. Louis with a drive to learn and grow to having various graduate degrees and individual accolades, Chatman has succeeded through all walks of life. Through the vast adversity that he overcame, he credits everything to looking at life optimistically, especially through the rough patches.
“Focus on the positive aspects of society and don’t ever get too far down thinking about the perceived negatives,” he encouraged. “I think once you get your mind set on being an optimist and looking at the bright side of things, you can really do great things and your dreams can be accomplished.
“That doesn’t mean that life is going to be all roses. It means when times get tough, you have to see the bright side of things and you have to move forward.”