Two women from West Plains who have climbed the ladders to success in their respective fields are recognized among the 2023 Top 50 Missourians You Should Know by Ingram’s Magazine, a long-standing business publication serving Kansas and Missouri.
Mary Schrag, née Hass, is the owner of Physical Therapy Specialist Clinic, which has locations in West Plains and Mtn. Grove, and has used her entrepreneurial and health-related insights to inform not just her own success as a businesswoman, but several state boards. And Zora Mulligan has served as a top state official in education and workforce development, and is now in administration at Missouri State University.
“Proving once again that Missouri is a nearly bottomless well of high-powered business executives, high-achieving non-profit leaders and high-level thinkers, the 2023 installment of 50 Missourians You Should Know brings to 650 the number of individuals recognized by Ingram’s since the program launched in 2011,” said Ingram’s in its recognition, published in August.
“This year’s cohort upholds the standards for their business achievement, for their philanthropy, for their civic engagement and for their community service. Combined, they help raise the quality of life and work for nearly 6.2 million people who live here,” the magazine continued. “Especially gratifying are the numbers of exceptional leadership figures who hail from Missouri’s rural areas, demonstrating that the Show-Me State is a crucible of success, no matter what corner of it you might call home.”
Schrag was recognized for bringing physical therapy to Ozarks Medical Center, now Ozarks Healthcare, following a fateful experience working in a Springfield hospital and the completion of her education at the University of Missouri. That was 32 years ago, and Schrag has continued evolving her knowledge and understanding of the profession.
“Even though she knew she wanted to enter health care since about age eight, it took an accidental encounter after high school while working at a Springfield hospital to really solidify Mary Schrag’s plans,” reads the Ingram’s article.
“When I entered the physical therapy department, I could see a ball flying through the air and I could hear weights clanking,” Schrag told the magazine. “This was very appealing to me. … I feel like it was God leading me into this particular profession.” When she started the physical therapy department at Ozarks Medical Center, she was the only licensed physical therapist at the time, she recalled, adding that it didn’t take long for the profession to take off.
Changes in physical therapy that she has noted over her three-decade career have been particularly notable in the field of geriatric care and the evolved focus on workplace injuries. She has taken her passion for physical therapy statewide, Ingram’s points out, noting her roles on several state boards: the physical therapy commission to the Board of Healing Arts, the Missouri State University Board of Governors, the Workforce Investment Board and the Missouri Board of Education.
“You cannot improve the system if you are not part of the system,” she told Ingram’s. “I believe education is foundational for the future of Missouri — both through economic development but also for quality of life.”
Mulligan, a 1994 West Plains High School graduate, was recognized by Ingram's for her efforts shaping education in Missouri, not just as former state commissioner for higher education, but also in her work with the University of Missouri and Missouri State University systems.
“Mulligan’s personal mantra of ‘education changes lives’ has not only guided her own learning journey — a bachelor’s from Drury University and a master’s and a law degree from [the University of Kansas] — but continues to shape her career today,” reads Ingram’s.
“Through a combination of good luck and good preparation, I’ve spent most of my career shaping and implementing our state’s higher education laws,” she told the magazine. “I have been fortunate in the way different interests came together to create a really rewarding career.”
Now serving as MSU’s first-ever executive vice president at Missouri State University — a position created in July 2022 and which places her as second-in-command to the university system president — Mulligan not only served as state commissioner of higher education, she also was, for a time, chief of staff for the four-campus University of Missouri system. Ingram’s pointed out her new role has allowed her a new perspective on the power of education.
“Working in administration has given me a chance to change lives at scale,” she told the magazine. “It’s been incredibly humbling to see programs I’ve helped get off the ground make a big difference.”
Now more than a year into her new role, Mulligan told Ingram’s she’s excited to make a real difference for not only the state but also the region she calls home: “I’ve appreciated the way this university impacts Southwest Missouri and the entire state, so it’s exciting to be part of an institution that does so much good for so many people.”
I loved my time growing up in West Plains. It’s a close-knit community, and I learned a lot about the importance of hospitality and long-term connections there, she added. “I’m proud to be part of that today.”
Ingram’s Magazine has served the bi-state region for about 50 years, covering business, industry and economic development trends in Missouri and Kansas.