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2016 Men of the Year Honoree: Wes Pratt

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As Missouri State University and the community at large push for a more inclusive environment, Wes Pratt has been a central figure.

Spanning both coasts and the Midwest, Pratt has spent his entire career on the effort.

“I have demonstrated leadership in all of my endeavors since I was a Central High School student and community activist starting from my freshman year in high school and throughout my entire professional career in public service, culminating in my current position,” says Pratt, who’s now chief diversity officer and assistant to President Clif Smart at MSU. “My proudest accomplishment is to have been a public servant for the last 50 years who truly believes in and has lived the motto that public service is the noblest good.”

A graduate of Drury University, Pratt went on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law. He served as a councilman for the city and spent time practicing law privately before becoming CEO of the Urban Corps of San Diego, director of the California Conservation Corps and later deputy director of the Maryland Job Corps.

“As a law student, I worked to increase the admission number of black, Hispanic, Asian, disadvantaged white and Native American law students while studying law full time and working as law clerk for the attorney general’s office,” Pratt says. “After leaving public elected office, I continued to serve underserved young people statewide.”

As a San Diego councilman, Pratt was instrumental in establishing the city’s housing trust fund, human rights commission and neighborhood pride and protection program.

The initiatives are still in use today.

“These programs currently serve the larger San Diego community over two decades later by creating low and affordable housing programs, projects and over 25,000 temporary and 10,000 permanent jobs; addressing and protecting the civil and human rights of residents; promoting community-oriented policing; and establishing high school graduation and career training opportunities for literally thousands of historically underrepresented young people,” he says.

His Springfield return came in 2007, when he was named diversity recruitment director at MSU. He worked his way up the ranks, later becoming interim equal opportunity officer and director of equity and compliance. He was promoted to his current role early this year.

“I continue to serve MSU and our Springfield community in promoting the value of diversity and inclusion on campus and in the regional community while continuing to enhance cultural competency to the benefit of all students and university stakeholders,” Pratt says.

Beyond the MSU campus, Pratt’s civic work includes co-founding The Gathering, a community action group; formerly serving as vice president and chairman of the legal affairs and policy committee for the local NAACP chapter; co-founding and working as president of advocacy group, Minorities in Business; and advising the Springfield Police Department on how to reduce racial tension.

With his help, the NAACP chapter was reorganized with new leadership and increased membership, and the MIB was established as a nonprofit to aid minority- and women-owned businesses.

“I honestly believe that together we will do more,” he says.

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