Southeast Graduate Reaches Century Mark

Sturkey Reminisces on Her Days at Southeast

This month marked a remarkable milestone for Southeast Missouri State University alumna and centenarian Eloise Suenkel Sturkey.

In addition to turning 100, Sturkey is celebrating a long and interesting life.

Sturkey recently reflected on her fond memories on campus as a student at Southeast Missouri State Teachers’ College.

Sturkey was born in Valley Park, Missouri, on May 16, 1917, and was raised in the area.  Her parents were both Southeast graduates, and from an early age, Eloise knew she would attend Southeast as well.

“We were always proud of the school,” she said.  “It was our college in our town, and we wanted to take advantage of it,” she said.

Sturkey received her Bachelor of Science in English Education from Southeast just as America was entering World War II.  Life on campus in the late 1930s was a little different than it is now.

“There were a lot of mixers, plays, dances, every weekend.  A lot of my friends met their husbands at all the social events,” she said.  “There were a lot more of us girls on campus than there were the young men,” she said, “although there were a few.  Enough to keep my dance card full,” she said with a smile.

Sturkey enjoyed the theater and performed in several plays on campus, including “Idot’s Delight” about weary travelers in Europe at the start of World War I.

“Being on stage is one of my fondest memories at Southeast,” said Sturkey, who, no doubt, would marvel at today’s Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts and Southeast’s River Campus.

She also was a member of a sorority and the Copper Dome Society.

After graduating in 1941, Sturkey was able to find a teaching position.

“The men got priority in those days, because it was believed that they had to provide for their families,” she said.  “But the war started and there weren’t as many men around.”

Sturkey eventually married, had a family and moved to the Chicago area.  Her daughter, Marcia Tanis, is also a graduate of Southeast.

“It’s a tradition in our family,” said Tanis.  “Things may change over the years, but Southeast stays with us. It’s still important to my mom, even as she turns 100 years old.”