Girl Boss 2017: Missy Bender

Missy Bender’s own Plano ISD education changed her life in such positive ways that she has chosen to help make those same opportunities available to others.

“My teachers planted a seed in me that I was capable of doing anything,” explained the Plano ISD Board of Trustees president and 1983 Plano East Senior High graduate.

After moving to Plano in the fifth grade, the former Missy Brown attended Forman Elementary, Armstrong Middle School, Williams High School and Plano East Senior High when it opened in 1981. Archie McAfee, then Plano East principal, and Connie Kampas Seelhorst, office education teacher, stand out in Missy’s mind as two educators who helped mold her character.

Born to teen parents, Missy also looks up to her mother, who endured many adversities. “The strength my mom had has made me a strong woman,” she said. “My mother was 16, and my dad was 18 when I was born. My mom quit high school for a year after I was born, but went back and finished.”

But her mother was far from a quitter. After Missy’s two younger brothers were born, her father was diagnosed with cancer. Her mother, however, was able to finish college at Southern Methodist University while working and caring for two sons and her ill husband. Her dad survived several bouts with cancer and only recently passed away.

Watching her mother endure these challenges and remembering what she learned from Plano schools helped Missy make a major life decision to give back to Plano ISD. Missy, who graduated cum laude from the SMU Cox School of Business in 1987, was a successful businesswoman from 1987 until 1999, when she quit working after her daughter was born.

When her daughter started school at Daffron Elementary, Missy became an active school volunteer. While volunteering, she made up her mind – she would run for Plano ISD Board of Trustees. “I’m supposed to do something to help kids who are like I was,” referencing her humble childhood, being the daughter of a machinist while living in a modest area of East Plano.

After studying and “doing her homework” on the Plano ISD for a year and a half, Missy made a winning run for the board in 2008, beginning her current 12-year stint as a trustee. Her resumé reflects her dedication not only to the district, but to civic groups and the City of Plano.

“Civic engagement has become my career,” Missy continued. “I look up to [former First Lady] Laura Bush. She represents attributes that inspire me.”

For women aspiring to be in leadership roles, she has some words of wisdom: “Do your homework. Develop an assortment of trusted resources – people you can share ideas with and receive feedback.”

What does Missy hope her legacy in Plano will be some day? “She made a difference. She made it better.”

See all of the 2017 Girl Bosses >
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