Mary Paxton Keeley (1886 - 1986)
Mary Paxton Keeley was the first woman graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. A female pioneer in the field of professional journalism, she served as a mentor, teacher, and friend to countless students.
Mary Gentry Paxton was born on June 2, 1886, in Independence, Missouri, to attorney John Gallatin Paxton and teacher Mary Neil Gentry Paxton. She was the oldest of five children. One of her childhood friends was Bess Wallace, the future wife of U.S. President Harry S. Truman. Due to the death of her mother, Mary did not attend college immediately after graduating from high school. She briefly attended Hollins College in Virginia but later observed, “I came back not much improved.”
After spending a semester at the University of Chicago, Paxton decided to study journalism, but the university did not have a journalism program. She discovered, however, that the University of Missouri was going to open a school of journalism. Paxton left the University of Chicago and traveled to Columbia, Missouri. She later recalled, “I was sitting on the doorstep waiting for [the journalism school] to open.”