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Tootie Burns, HES Alumna, Class of 1989

Tootie Burns attended Mizzou at a major turning point for HES. When she entered the university, the school was still called the “College of Home Economics,” but by the time she graduated in 1989, the name had changed to the “College of Human Environmental Sciences.” She was a member of the first class with the name printed on their degrees.

HES originated as a Department of Household Economics in 1900, but by the 1980s, the concept had become limiting. “I don’t think [Home Economics] really reflected the programs we had,” Tootie said. “I had a great experience, and I love HES, but it’s a more polished, professional place now.” The College rebranded itself to reflect the expanded scope of its offerings and expertise, and with the addition of the School of Social Work in 1988, it became the “College of Human Environmental Sciences.”

Tootie studied Personal Financial Planning at Mizzou then known as Family Economics and Management, and she credits the kind and supportive atmosphere of the college with helping her succeed. “With Dr. Weagley, one time I just forgot about a final. I just didn’t go, and I was all in tears,” she recalls. “And he still let me take it. It was very, very nice.” Her best advice for current students: take advantage of the support services that the college offers. “Our advisers were good, but there wasn’t the kind of wrap-around service that the students get now,” she said.

After graduation, Tootie used her degree to work in banking, but once she had children, she tapped into her creative side and got involved in the Columbia art scene. Today, she keeps a studio at Orr Street Studios (look for the blue door!) and displays her work at various art shows around town. She got started, however, by learning about glass mosaic through Village Glass Works with a friend. They made mosaic stepping-stones and sold them at art fairs, but Tootie then branched out from there, taking painting lessons and other classes at the Columbia Art League.

Burns at Orr Street Studios.

“Mirror vs. Metal” helmet created by Tootie Burns for the School of Social Work Helmet Heroes event in 2010.

Although Tootie has moved away from mosaics, much of her art is still composed by bringing many smaller, disparate materials together to form a coherent image with new meaning. For these assemblage pieces, she still relies on some traditional materials (fabric, paper, or paint) but also utilizes “found objects” – natural or man-made objects that she finds in the community. “I love trash day in my neighborhood,” Tootie said. “I find a lot of things that other people are throwing out . . . I find wood, I go to estate sales. It’s fun to look.”

Tootie actively contributes her time to organizations both at Mizzou and in the broader community. She supports the local arts community as president of the board of directors for the North Village Arts District and for Museum Associates, Inc., which supports the Museum of Art and Archaeology at Mizzou. But at HES, we especially appreciate the time and effort she contributes to the Dean’s Strategic Leadership Council and as president of the HES Alumni Board. “Tootie Burns represents to me the ideal alumna—totally caring about the success of our students and college, wholly committed to contributing her time to college projects, and entirely loyal to HES and Mizzou,” Dean Rikoon said. “As a Dean, I could not hope for more!”

“I truly believe in [HES], and I think it is the best college on the university campus,” Tootie said. “I’m involved with several different organizations, but I feel that here you get 10 times more than you put in.”

Burns and Dean Sandy Rikoon at the 2019 HES Senior Pancake Breakfast.

Burns at Orr Street Studios.