Dr. Angela Wingo-Rust, dean of students at Lindenwood University-Belleville, passed away Friday morning after a courageous battle with cancer. She was 47.
“Today, our Lindenwood family has lost a very important member who will always be remembered as one of the ‘originals’ whose vision and commitment to the possibility of a great university helped shape what we are today,” Lindenwood Belleville President Brett Barger said.
Wingo-Rust joined Lindenwood University-Belleville in the spring of 2010 as dean of students. She played a vital role in building what was a night school with fewer than 500 students when she arrived into a full-time, full service university.
Dr. Paige Mettler-Cherry, who came to the Lindenwood Belleville campus at about the same time Wingo-Rust was hired, said she was instantly impressed. The two became close friends during their time together at the university.
“I’ve never met anyone who was more motivated or a harder worker,” Mettler-Cherry said. “She loved her job, and she loved looking after the students, making sure they had everything they needed to succeed.”
Mary Reuter, assistant vice president and executive director of community relations at Lindenwood Belleville, said Wingo-Rust made countless contributions to the school that can’t be replaced.
“In many ways, she was the face of the university,” Reuter said. “She’s the one who spoke on our behalf. She always had the best interests of the students in mind and was a great friend in addition to being a wonderful colleague.”
Mettler-Cherry said Wingo-Rust’s physical legacy on the Belleville campus is the women’s dorm, the Ladies Lynx Lodge, which she played a major role in designing. She was also a key player in establishing the food service Lindenwood Belleville students currently enjoy.
Wingo-Rust is credited with creating the Belleville Campus Security Department by coming up with the idea of the school’s Cops for Credit program. Metro-east law enforcement officers and members of their families were able to attend the university for free in exchange for donating their time policing the campus under the deal.
“I was amazed by what she was able to accomplish in the years she was here,” Mettler-Cherry said. “She literally created the things students needed–primary components of the college student experience--out of nothing. There was no infrastructure at all here for student services before she built it.”
In addition to his respect for her as a professional, Barger said he was inspired by Wingo-Rust’s toughness and resilience in the face of her illness. She never let it stop her from pursing her passion for making the school a better place.
“She has cared for and guided our students through a period of unprecedented growth and change,” said Barger. “Her creativity, intelligence, and passion were an essential part of making our campus what it is today.
“I remember early this year when Angela asked to meet with me and shared the seriousness of the health issues she was facing. I asked how we, the Lindenwood community, could help her through this fight. She asked only that we treat her the exact same and allow her to work as normal. She explained that she found comfort in her work and that she wanted to be there for our students. Over time, the effects of her illness took an obvious physical toll, yet she refused to give an inch as she pushed through with uncommon courage and commitment.”
A psychologist by trade, Wingo-Rust worked with police officers to help them recover after witnessing tragic events. Mettler-Cherry said Wingo-Rust’s work in the field was internationally known. Shortly before she became ill, she went to Russia to work with police there.
“She was an awesome scientist,” Mettler-Cherry said. “I think that’s how she’d like to be remembered.”
Wingo-Rust’s two children, Jordan and Taylor, are currently Lindenwood Belleville students. Reuter said you could see the mom in Wingo-Rust come out when Lindenwood Belleville students needed something. She would do whatever it took to get the job done.
“She was a lady of honor and respect,” Reuter said. “She was a loving mother and wife and she fought until the end with pride and dignity.”
Mettler-Cherry said Wingo-Rust won’t be forgotten.
“Her legacy will be here as long as this university stands,” Mettler-Cherry said. “Because Lindenwood Belleville might not be here at all if not for her, and it certainly wouldn’t be the same without everything she did.”