Back to the future

Mosses passionate promoters of education

By Sadie Fowler

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Drs. Max and Mary Moss of Murfreesboro credit most of the successful growth in the city they call home to one thing: the generous spirit of giving. It has led to amazing things in terms of industry, business, schools and families, making the area attractive to many.

Both Mosses strongly support the City Schools Foundation, which directly impacts the local public school system. Their efforts are a result of their sincere mission to give back and invest in the future.

The Mosses are being honored by the organization this January at its annual gala.
“If you look around Murfreesboro and see what’s happened here just because of people giving back it’s amazing,” said Max, a partner and physician with MidState Radiology and founding Board member of the City Schools Foundation. “Just off the top of my head, look at the Soccer Club and Siegel Complex; the Rutherford Foundation, helping clinics give free medical treatment and mammograms; the Schools Foundation, which provides free field trips and teacher grants. There are so many things that happen in Murfreesboro that would not happen without the spirit of giving.”

Sitting next to her husband, casually reflecting on the subject at hand, Mary.
“When you see what’s happening you want to do more,” she said. “Think of where this community would be without a strong foundation of giving. Think of all the things we wouldn’t have.”

Mary knows first-hand the impact of giving, and more specifically, the power of education. She came from humble beginnings, and it was getting noticed by a teacher who encouraged her to pursue the medical field that led to her becoming the physician she is today.

Mary no longer delivers babies, but is still a practicing gynecologist in Murfreesboro with a focused eye on education. Behind the scenes, she has been an avid supporter of the City Schools Foundation. She has also been actively involved with other organizations such as The Webb School in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where she serves as a member of its Trustee Board; the St. Thomas Rutherford Hospital Board; and Charity Circle.

“I will say personally, we came from very humble means,” she said. “My father was a preacher. We didn’t own our home, our car — we didn’t own anything. The only way I got out of the poverty we were in was through my education. I am so grateful for my education and what it has meant to me is everything. It changed my life. Looking back on what my life could have been if I hadn’t received it is humbling.”

She paused, clearly grateful and sincere as she shifted gears into describing why she and Max believe in the City Schools Foundation.

“It’s about trying to make education a possibility to everyone so they can succeed,” she said. “After all, that’s what America is all about. Opportunity. Giving opportunity to everyone.”
Max, who comes from a family of teachers, joined the Board when the organization formed in 2005 because he too considers the value of a degree priceless — something that can’t be taken away. The Mosses, who have three children of their own — all of whom attended public schools in Murfreesboro up until middle school — know the compound effect of a good school system.
“Our children (Elizabeth, 26, Tripp, 24, and Jared, 19) had a wonderful experience here in Murfreesboro,” he said, explaining two went to Siegel and the youngest to Discovery. “It pushed them and prepared them for the rigorous high school curriculum at Webb. They were ready.”
Having served in various capacities on the organization ranging from board member to treasurer to its president, Max said the City Schools Foundation originally formed to boost the school system’s financial support in the areas of science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and to address financial parity in the city schools. He explained, due to mostly socioeconomics, some schools would work hard at a fundraiser and earn $3,000 while other schools would work equally as hard but earn $50,000.

He credited John Floyd with giving some seed money so the Foundation could form and off it flew. It has funded field trips and other things, such as teacher grants.

The organization benefits 8,000 plus pre-K through 6th-grade students and serves as a venue for other foundations and corporations to make significant contributions that can impact the school system as a whole.

“The interesting thing about the Foundation is literally every dollar goes back into the school system,” he said. “Each year the School’s Foundation awards grants to teachers who’ve gone through a blind application process. To see that take place is truly rewarding. It’s like Christmas.”

The core engine of any successful school system, both agree, is the teachers.

“I grew up in a family of teachers,” he said. “When we get together, on both sides of the family, it’s all teachers. Teachers have to instill a love of learning and elementary school is where you light that spark. Our kids knew in third grade that they wanted to pursue careers in the science fields. They loved to learn and that is so important and it all comes from the teachers, and the parents.”

Mary again spoke to the special place in her heart for teachers that has always motivated her to give back and promote education.

“The responsibility is that of the teachers, primarily, because parents are not always involved, or able to be,” she said. “Teachers can change lives. They did mine. There were specific teachers that challenged me and gave me that extra push. The reason I’m a doctor is because a teacher in college realized I had potential and guided me into the medical field. All of our children would say there are specific teachers in their lives that made a huge impact.”

Ideally, parental involvement is also a factor in a child’s success. “There has to be a background where an importance in education is instilled. It’s a social equalizer.”

Max and Mary complimented the area’s school system and applauded it for stacking up strongly against the state and nation, largely due to the combined efforts of many drivers, one of those being the Foundation. If he could improve one thing, Max said he’d like to see the organization adopt “best practices” where successful teachers are honored and encouraged to further learn, develop and share.

“Once a year we could honor a teacher who is excelling in the classroom, send them to learn more, attend conferences, etc. so they can come back and share what they’ve learned,” he said. “The next thing you know in 10 years you have 10 who have had this additional opportunity and they are sharing their knowledge with hundreds. It’s the pyramid effect.”

Mary shared her thoughts on areas in which the system could improve. Mainly, she said the focus on education needs to start earlier. The impact of reading to children very early on, for example, is paramount. Not all children get that at home so quality pre-schools that are affordable and encourage this process would be something Mary sees as hugely beneficial.
“Murfreesboro is doing phenomenal, especially in grades K-6, which has been a selling point for the area’s growth. Our middle school and high schools also have incredible options for our youth,” he said.

Both Max and Mary cautioned challenges that could potentially come with Murfreesboro’s growth.

“With all the influx of new families, keeping up with schools, making sure classes don’t get overcrowded, which is a detriment, is important,” Max said. “What do you do? You just have to keep building more schools. And we will.”

The Mosses are also proponents for vocational education where it applies. There’s no shame in training to be a carpenter, they explained, adding there was a certain point where America shifted toward a belief system that being successful meant one had to go to college and pursue a professional-type degree.

“College might not be realistic for everyone,” Max said. “We’re very geared toward higher education and I get that, but I think we need to make it easier for the next generation to explore other types of training if they want. There’s a need for many careers and we can’t have a society of only doctors, lawyers and accountants. There’s nothing wrong with being a carpenter, mechanic, electrician or a plumber because we need those (services).”

At the end of the day, the Mosses give back through the Foundation because they believe in education.

“Supporting the school system is a community investing in itself,” Max said. “They are going to be our future workforce. What better thing can there be for our community than to have them well-prepared.”

The Mosses said they’re super proud to have been selected as this year’s honorees.
“We were surprised and very honored,” Mary said. “We can think of many other people who could be on this list. There are so many people in this community who are deeply invested in the future and in our children.”

The gala takes place Jan. 26 at MTSU’s new student union center. For more information about tickets, sponsorships or becoming involved with the City Schools Foundation call 615-893-2313.