Raising Kaine: How MU shaped vice-presidential nominee and graduate Tim Kaine

Longtime friend Jim Pfander: “He really is, I think, a genuine public servant.”
Tim Kaine smiles for a photo. "White overalls was a campus fashion trend of the late '70s," David Roloff said. Courtesy of David Roloff

IN THE SUMMER OF 1977, Tim Kaine and Marc Levinson were Summer Welcome leaders in the same orientation group.

Their lead staffer, Guy Conway, asked them, “Where do you envision yourself in five, 10, 30 years?”

“And Tim said, absolutely matter of factly, that he’s going to be president of the United States,” Levinson said. “Or, at the very least, governor of one of the 50 United States of America. And, sure enough, 30 years later, he became governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

The other leaders in their ice-breaker group thought he was joking. Levinson, however, isn’t surprised that Kaine has been so successful, because Kaine is a “very matter-of-fact guy and a go-getter.”

“He was completely serious,” Levinson said. “He had a path set for himself early in life, and he devoted himself to public service and has stuck with it.”

MU was an important first step along Kaine’s path. Along with being a Summer Welcome leader, Kaine was a senator in the Missouri Students Association, a teaching assistant for an economics course and a member of two secret societies at MU.

“He definitely set the standard for a lot of things,” said David Roloff, who was a student coordinator during Kaine’s time as a Summer Welcome leader. “I think a lot of times, people started to follow his lead. So I think it was fantastic having him be one of the core group of orientation leaders who set the whole tone for the summer.”

Kaine graduated from MU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He went on to earn a law degree from Harvard in 1983.

In 2006, Kaine was elected governor of Virginia. In 2013, he became a U.S. senator. And in the summer of 2016, 39 years after he was a Summer Welcome leader, he was selected to be the vice-presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.

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