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In Defense of Awkward Situations

John Bies

By Erik Potter

“I want you to be uncomfortable,” John Bies, 67, tells the five nervous graduate students at his University Club lunch table.

The alumnus pauses briefly, then follows up the seemingly ill-mannered statement with a four-word summation of his decades of globe-travelling wisdom: “That’s how you learn.”

John Bies, PhD ’72, learned the value of international travel while coaching international-level youth soccer. For the past 10 years, he has supported a travel scholarship for MU graduate students to research, attend conferences and intern internationally. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

Bies, PhD ’72, is a retired educator, industrial consultant, international-level youth soccer coach and is married to a former U.S. Federal Reserve board member. He’s interested in almost everything — he returned to school later in life to earn master’s degrees in political science and geography at the University of Memphis and is an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate. He speaks quickly, squeezing out the spaces between his words, as if propelled by curiosity for what the conversation will bring.


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