1,333 to Receive Degrees at Southeast’s Spring Commencement


Gary Downing to Present Commencement Address

by News Bureau on Thursday, May. 02, 2013


CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 2, 2013 – A total of 1,333 students – 1,048 undergraduates, 283 graduate and specialist students, and two cooperative doctoral students – will receive degrees at Southeast Missouri State University’s spring commencement exercises at 2 p.m. May 11 in the Show Me Center.

Gary Downing, Southeast alumnus and chief executive officer of Insight Pharmaceuticals, will deliver the commencement address.

An Honors Convocation will be held at 10:30 a.m. in the Show Me Center to honor 435 undergraduates, 120 receiving master’s degrees and 14 receiving specialist degrees. Dr. James Stapleton will present the Honors Convocation address. Stapleton is the assistant to the president for Strategic and Entrepreneurial Initiatives at Southeast. He is also the 2012 recipient of the University’s Faculty Merit Award and the 2012 Provost’s Research, Instruction and Development for Excellence (PRIDE) Award. Among the undergraduate students honored at the Honors Convocation, 75 students will graduate summa cum laude, 108 will graduate magna cum laude and 196 will graduate cum laude. The required undergraduate grade point average for graduating summa cum laude is 3.9 to 4.0. Students graduating magna cum laude must earn a cumulative grade point average of 3.75 to 3.89, and students graduating cum laude must earn a grade point average of 3.5 to 3.74.

Of the 134 graduate and specialist students at the Honors Convocation, 108 will graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Graduate students participating in the Honors Convocation must have achieved at least a 3.9 grade point average.

Twenty-one undergraduate students with a perfect 4.0 grade point average will be honored at commencement.

In addition, the Jane Stephens Honors Program will recognize 43 students who are graduating as honors scholars. To be recognized as an honors scholar, students must complete 24 hours of honors coursework, six of which are at the senior level, and maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.25. Honors scholars also must complete a senior research project.

The honor society of Phi Kappa Phi will recognize 102 graduating members during the commencement exercises. Phi Kappa Phi is the oldest international honor society, having been established in 1897. Southeast chartered its Phi Kappa Phi chapter in 1992. The charter is only extended to colleges and universities meeting the society’s rigorous standards and is open to men and women in all academic fields who have demonstrated excellence of scholarship and integrity of character.

Graduating seniors who rank in the upper 10 percent of their class, juniors who rank in the upper 7.5 percent of their class, and graduate and professional students who have a graduate grade point average of 4.0 and have an outstanding undergraduate record are eligible for consideration.

Phi Eta Sigma also will honor 108 graduating members. Phi Eta Sigma is a national scholastic honor society that recognizes high scholastic achievement during the first year of college and offers leadership and scholastic opportunities. The Southeast chapter was established in 1984. Students inducted into Phi Eta Sigma attained at least a 3.5 grade point average on a four-point scale during their first semester or year at Southeast.

Also graduating will be 38 members of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society for college students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni. Students inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa are juniors, seniors and graduate students who are in the upper one-third of their class academically and who have demonstrated achievement in one of the following five areas: scholarship; athletics; campus and community services, social and religious activities, or campus government; journalism, speech and the mass media; and creative and performing arts. The society is designed to recognize those who have exhibited a high standard of leadership and effectiveness in collegiate activities, to bring together student-leaders from all sectors of collegiate interest, and to bring together members of the faculty and the student body on a basis of mutual interest and understanding.

The Southeast Missouri Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Sara Edgerton, professor of music, will perform during the commencement ceremony. Dr. Dennis Holt, special assistant to the president for Institutional Research and Assessment, will lead the stage party. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be Leslie Jones, associate professor of music. Nickolas Harris, a general studies major of Leadwood, Mo., will sing the “Alma Mater.”

The commencement speaker, Downing, began his career in sales and marketing after earning his Bachelor of Science with a major in marketing and minor in economics in 1972. Upon graduation, he joined Richardson-Vicks and worked his way up through the sales organization until 1984, when he assumed the position of vice president of sales at Oral-B Laboratories, a division of Gillette. During his five-year tenure at Oral-B, sales increased more than 100 percent, and the company achieved market leadership in all of its key categories.

Downing was recruited in 1989 to run the North American consumer products division of Rhone-Poulenc Rorer, a major pharmaceutical company with a portfolio of over $220 million. As senior vice president and general manager, he was assigned the strategic evaluation of the business to assess the long-term fit of his unit when aligned with the goals of the parent pharmaceutical company. His assessments led to the divesture of the business in which he played the lead role in securing a valuation in excess of $500 million.

In 1995, Downing moved on to a more entrepreneurial path when he and two partners created Medtech Labs LLC with the objective of identifying, acquiring and developing niche market opportunities. With Downing serving as chief executive officer, sales grew to over $80 million in a period of five years. He negotiated four add-on acquisitions, numerous licensing and manufacturing agreements, and secured lender-financing. Upon sale of the company in 2001, he had created an internal rate of return for initial investors in excess of 400 percent.

After completing the sale of Medtech, Downing was invited to join Lansinoh Laboratories, first on the board of directors and then as chief executive officer. He was tasked with restoring profitability and positioning the company for a future sale to recoup shareholder equity. Over the next three years, Downing restructured operations, renegotiated supply agreements, developed a solid management team, expanded sales domestically and internationally, and returned the company to strong profitability by 2003. In 2004, he led a selective and targeted auction process to divest the company to a strategic buyer based in Tokyo, Japan.

Downing continued as the chief executive officer of Lansinoh until 2010, when he was recruited to become the chief executive officer of Insight Pharmaceuticals, an over-the-counter pharmaceutical company located in Trevose, Pa. In the three years under his leadership, Downing has restructured the company, putting it on an aggressive acquisition path that has quadrupled sales to over $220 million and improved profitability more than fivefold.

Downing has always been active within his industry. For the past 15 years, he has served on the board of directors for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, and he also serves on the boards of directors for W.F. Young Inc. and Lansinoh Laboratories.

Downing and his wife, Jennifer, reside in Fairfield, Conn., where they actively support causes related to community preservation and education. Together they sponsor the Gary and Jennifer Downing Scholarship Fund at Southeast.

For families unable to attend the Honors Convocation or commencement ceremony or who wish to preserve the moment, a DVD of either event may be ordered by contacting Dr. Jim Dufek at (573) 651-2484.