Spring Commencement Tip Sheet

Spring commencement at Southeast Missouri State University is planned for 2 p.m. May 10 in the Show Me Center arena. Some candidates for graduation have reported interesting feature stories about themselves that could be developed in connection with commencement. These story tips with contact names and either phone numbers or e-mail addresses are listed below. Students will begin assembling for commencement at 1:15 p.m. in the Student Recreation Center-North. The Southeast News Bureau is happy to make arrangements for you to meet and interview any of the graduates listed below between 1:15 and 1:30 p.m. May 10 in the Student Recreation Center-North. Please do not hesitate to call the News Bureau at (573) 651-2552 with any questions about these or other commencement stories.

Claudia Masters of Manchester, Mo., is Southeast’s first visually impaired student to complete her degree fully online. At the age of 56, she will be completing one of her life’s dreams when she graduates with a bachelor of general studies degree on Saturday, May 10. Masters, who completed an associate’s degree in 1972, had a 30-year career as a TWA flight attendant. That career was cut short by a rare degenerative retinal disease, for which there is no known cure. The disease caused her to steadily lose vision beginning in 1994. Shortly after the events of 9-11, Masters became legally blind forcing her to leave her career as a flight attendant. At that time, finding the means to physically attend college was out of reach since she had no transportation and needed to work around her second career teaching group fitness classes. In her search, she found Southeast to be one of few universities that offer a complete degree program fully online. She relearned how to use a computer by sound through a talking program known as JAWS in the sightless computer world. She says she, with the support of Southeast’s Center for Scholarship in Teaching and Learning, helped in setting the standards for Web courses that will pave the way in assisting future visually impaired students at Southeast. “All in all, it was a challenge but a challenge that was well worth it. I never could have achieved my dream if SEMO had not of been there for me every step of the way,” Masters says. “I am honored to know that I am one among a thousand of my classmates who is blind and able to graduate as an equal.” She says she plans on trading her online undergraduate degree in soon for an online graduate degree. Masters can be reached at (636) 394-5989 or clmasters1s@semo.edu.

Daniel Crouthers of New Madrid, Mo., and Jeffrey Dement of Ellington, Mo., both completed their degrees between military deployments.  Crouthers will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in agribusiness and an option in plant and soil science. He was deployed with Charlie Company 1140th from 2004-2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Crouthers can be reached at (573) 748-2510. DeMent will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in recreation. DeMent is a non-traditional student who is a member of the Army National Guard. He most recently was deployed in Iraq. DeMent can be reached at (573) 558-2486.

Stephanie Dambach of Sappington, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science in education degree with a major in elementary education and area of specialization in physical education. Dambach is the sixth member in her family to graduate from Southeast. Dambach can be reached at (314) 894-2707.

Jean Hunt of St. Louis, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of general studies degree. Hunt is a non-traditional student. Her oldest son graduated from Southeast in December of 2005. When she was moving her youngest son into his residence hall at Southeast in fall 2006, Hunt visited Heather Jones, an academic advisor with Southeast Online, who immediately enrolled her in two online classes. Hunt has only taken online classes and has not stepped foot on campus since her first visit with Jones. Hunt can be reached at (314) 845-0979.

DeEtta Vance of Poplar Bluff, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science in education degree with a major in elementary education and area of specialization in language and literature. Vance was unable to finish high school due to personal and family hardships. Therefore, at the age of 25, she took her GED and performed well. Vance was awarded a full scholarship to Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo. However, she was unable to take advantage of this opportunity. Vance started taking night classes, one class at a time. Her graduation from Southeast will end Vance’s 22-year commitment to receiving a college degree. At 57, Vance is thrilled with her achievements and encourages everyone, no matter their age or circumstances, to not give up when it comes to earning a higher education. Vance can be reached at dlvance1s@semo.edu.

Paul Sander of Jackson, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of general studies degree. Sander attended Southeast in the 1970s, but left college with 92 credit hours in order to take a job in the private sector. As the years passed, he went into public service. Sander was elected to four terms (eight years) as Jackson Alderman and later was elected to seven terms (14 years) as Jackson’s mayor. He left office in 2007 after deciding not to seek an eighth term. Part of Sander’s decision not to seek re-election was based on his desire to return to Southeast to finish his degree. Sander returned in the spring of 2007. With a wife, two sons in school, and other job responsibilities, the only choice for Sander was to enroll in Southeast’s online program. He was able to finish the remaining senior year in about a year and a half. Sander says that Southeast’s online program enabled him to finish his dream of graduating from college, even if it was 30 years later. Sander can be reached at (573) 243-4275.

Two husband and wife couples will graduate together from Southeast. Jaime Craig of Jackson, Mo., and her husband, David Craig, are both non-traditional students and will be graduating May 10. Jaime Craig will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of general studies degree. David Craig will graduate with a bachelor of science degree with a major in criminal justice and minor in criminology and a bachelor of general studies degree. Jaime Craig can be reached at (573) 450-1474. Dedrie Jordan of Sikeston, Mo., and her husband, Alfonzo Jordan, will be graduating May 10. Dedrie Jordan will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in psychology. Dedrie Jordan is the first of four children in her family to graduate from college. Alfonzo Jordan will be graduating with a bachelor of science degree with a major in health management with an exercise science option. Dedrie Jordan can be reached at (573) 472-3818.

Jenny McGill of Malden, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of general studies degree. McGill is a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). She works with Missouri Children’s Division (DFS) to ensure children in foster homes are cared for and their voices are heard regarding placement. While attending Southeast full-time, McGill worked full-time as an interpreter at Malden Elementary School. She is hard of hearing, and is fluent in American Sign Language. McGill can be reached at (573) 276-3568.

James Schnepel of Red Bud, Ill., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in agribusiness and an option in horticulture. As an employee in the University’s Charles L. Hutson Horticulture Greenhouse, Schnepel has decorated the stage for the past five commencement ceremonies, but on May 10, he will be a graduate himself. Schnepel can be reached at (618) 282-6171.

Two students who have been instrumental in leading and generating school spirit are graduating. Brooke Privett of Kennett, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of music degree with a major in instrumental performance and a minor in business administration. Privett served and continues to serve as Southeast’s first Rowdy the Redhawk mascot. Privett can be reached at (573) 888-6421. Joshua B. Moore of Edina, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in agribusiness and an option in animal science and a minor in zoology. Moore is Southeast’s only cheerleader who has been deaf. Moore can be reached at (815) 954-9163 or jbmoore4s@semo.edu.

Three Southeast graduates are among many who have spent a significant amount of time studying abroad. Lindy Lebonick of Smithton, Ill., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science in education degree with a major in English education. Lebonick studied abroad for six months in Northern Ireland. Lebonick can be reached at (618) 277-7879. Michael Lilly of Cape Girardeau, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in interdisciplinary studies. Lilly spent two years studying abroad in Japan. Lilly can be reached at (573) 335-4125. Scott Sterling of Jackson, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of arts degree with majors in anthropology and Spanish. Sterling was the first student to study abroad for a semester in Turrialba, Costa Rica, a branch campus of the University of Costa Rica.

Megan Matter of Florissant, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in sport management. Matter played for the Redhawks soccer team that won back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference titles in her last two years of play. She was a member of the first soccer team from Southeast to go to the NCAA tournament. Matter can be reached at (314) 921-1318.

Omorhefe Salami of St. Louis, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science degree with a major in human environmental studies and an option in housing and interior design and a minor in architectural design. Salami is his family’s first college graduate. His father moved from Nigeria to the United States to get a college education. Salami’s father was putting himself through college when, during his junior year, he was killed on a construction job site. Salami says he is finishing what his father started. Salami can be reached at (314) 323-2202.

Julie Deneke of Cape Girardeau, Mo., will graduate from Southeast with a bachelor of science in education degree with a major in social studies education. Deneke says Southeast has had a long history of educating women in her family from the 1920s to the present. Southeast has graduated nine educators (including Deneke) on her mother’s side of the family. She says Southeast has provided wonderful opportunities for each of them. Deneke is from a family in which the women continued their education and went college, while the men stayed home and farmed. A list of Deneke’s family members who have graduated from Southeast is as follows:

  • Julie Deneke, 2008
  • Debbie Smith Deneke (mother), 1974
  • Deana Smith Carter (aunt)
  • Betty Miller Smith (grandmother), 1957
  • June Miller Hulsey (great aunt), 1957
  • Jessie Smith Crites (great aunt)
  • Mable Kurre Ritter (great, great aunt)
  • Grace Smith (great, great aunt)
  • Grace Miller Desmond (great, great aunt)

Deneke can be reached at (573) 243-6136.