680 to Receive Degrees at Southeast Winter Commencement

Dobbins Ken and Jeanine

Mrs. Jeanine Larson Dobbins and Southeast President Kenneth W. Dobbins

President and Mrs. Dobbins to Present Address

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 12, 2014 — A total of 680 students – 549 undergraduate and 131 master’s and specialist students – will receive degrees at Southeast Missouri State University’s winter commencement exercises at 2 p.m. Dec. 20 in the Show Me Center.

Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, and his wife, Jeanine Larson Dobbins, founder and director emeritus of the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program based at Southeast, will deliver the commencement address.

Eight undergraduate students with a perfect 4.0 grade point average will be honored at commencement.

During the ceremony, Dr. Kenn Stilson, chair of Southeast’s Department of Theatre and Dance, will be honored with this year’s Provost’s Research, Instruction and Development for Excellence (PRIDE) Award. The PRIDE Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated excellence as a teacher, an extraordinary level of scholarship and service and whose overall accomplishments are especially noteworthy.

Stilson also will serve as grand marshal at the commencement ceremony.

Prior to the commencement ceremony, an Honors Convocation will be held at 10:30 a.m. in the Show Me Center to honor 160 undergraduates. As this year’s PRIDE Award recipient, Stilson will present the Honors Convocation address.

Among the undergraduate students at the Honors Convocation, 21 students will graduate summa cum laude (3.9 to 4.0 cumulative grade point average); 57 will graduate magna cum laude (3.75 to 3.89 cumulative grade point average); 69 will graduate cum laude (3.5 to 3.74 cumulative grade point average); and one will graduate with honors in associate degrees.

Also at the Honors Convocation, one student will be recognized for graduating with Academic Distinction, and 11 will be recognized as Honors Scholars. Graduating members of three honor societies will be recognized as well, including 41 from Phi Eta Sigma, 35 from Phi Kappa Phi and 12 from Omicron Delta Kappa.

Jeanine Larson Dobbins

Jeanine Larson Dobbins has served as First Lady of Southeast Missouri State University since her husband, Kenneth W. Dobbins, became the 17th president of the University in 1999.  In addition to serving as First Lady, Mrs. Dobbins has had an extensive career in education, specifically in the area of early literacy education. From 1991 until her retirement in 2010, Mrs. Dobbins was instrumental in bringing innovative, research-based approaches to teaching reading to Missouri students.  She is the founder and was the first director of the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program (MSELIP), and she worked tirelessly to ensure that Missouri children received a firm foundation in reading.  Under her leadership, MSELIP educated more than 700 teachers and assisted more than 275,000 Missouri elementary students with reading difficulties. That’s equal to a child sitting in each seat in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium more than six times. One of her deep passions as a teacher and as a teacher educator has been to assure that all children become readers by the end of the first grade.

Mrs. Dobbins planned, coordinated, helped to conduct, analyzed and presented longitudinal research to the administrations of four Missouri governors and the corresponding General Assemblies, resulting in state grants in excess of $5.7 million. During her tenure, she traveled throughout the state as the Southeast Missouri State University Reading Recovery® and MSELIP programs’ representative collaborating with school districts in all regions of Missouri.  She led statewide efforts for positive systematic change in literacy education, and was an advocate for each teacher leader colleague, each literacy teacher, each principal, each superintendent, and for each student.

While Mrs. Dobbins maintained her own career as a leader and faculty member, she also served steadfastly as Southeast’s First Lady and as a University ambassador.  She was involved in coordinating details for the annual President’s Council Gala and made certain that all qualified University friends and donors were honored and listed in the program.  She’s had very few weeks during her tenure as First Lady when she has not attended at least three to four evening events, whether it’s cheering for the Redhawks athletic teams, applauding outstanding musical and theatre performances, honoring students, faculty and staff for their various achievements, or hosting a myriad of events with University friends, donors or outside speakers at Wildwood.   Beyond campus and community obligations, there were the ongoing demands of travel, and Mrs. Dobbins has served with the president as an ambassador for the institution.

Mrs. Dobbins has also served as president of the Southeast Missouri State University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, as president of the Southeast Missouri Council of the International Reading Association, and was a co-founder and the first president and a charter member of the Missouri Association of Reading Recovery Educators (MARRE).

Mrs. Dobbins’ contributions to education, the region, and to Southeast Missouri State University have been recognized with several awards and honors.  She was awarded the Vision 2000 Award of Distinction for her work in literacy education in Cape Girardeau.

In June 2001, she was one of only two recipients of the prestigious Teacher Leader Award from the Reading Recovery® Council of North America.

The Executive Committee of MARRE established the Jeanine Larson Dobbins Early Literacy Education Award, intended to be presented annually to individuals who have made significant contributions to literacy education in the state of Missouri.

In 2006, she was honored with the highest award bestowed by Zonta, an international organization that promotes the status of women. The Woman of Achievement Award was presented for her efforts in literacy education. This award is judged by Zonta members outside of the Cape Girardeau area. Also in 2006, Mrs. Dobbins was the recipient of the Dean’s Award presented to one faculty member in the College of Education.

Mrs. Dobbins was honored by the University’s Board of Regents in 2013 for her contributions to the University, including her support of campus beautification.  She served for more than 15 years on the Campus Beautification Committee and was instrumental in the improvement of a blighted area near Scully and Rhodes halls.  The area was redesigned and remodeled with the assistance of Southeast students majoring in construction management, and the new plaza area featured seating, a water feature, and a center for student involvement.  Because of her contributions to education, significant levels of support to the University, both in terms of financial gifts and devotion to Southeast, the Board voted unanimously to name the area the Jeanine Larson Dobbins Plaza.

Mrs. Dobbins graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1971, a Master of Science in Education with an emphasis in reading education from Old Dominion University in 1978 and the Reading Recovery® Teacher Leader Certification at The Ohio State University in 1986. Before moving to Missouri, Mrs. Dobbins worked as a reading teacher and reading consultant in the Kent Public Schools in Kent, Ohio, from 1983-1991. She also worked as an adjunct graduate faculty member for The Ohio State University for four years.

Prior to that, she was a graduate assistant at Old Dominion University; worked as a reading consultant in the Newport News, Virginia, school district for grades K-2 and 6 and 7; taught at a Department of Defense adult high school center in the Philippines; and taught third and fourth grade in Cumberland County, North Carolina.

Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins

Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins became the 17th president of Southeast Missouri State University on July 1, 1999, after serving as the University’s Vice President of Finance and Administration from 1991 to 1993, and Executive Vice President from 1993 until his appointment as president.  He previously held several positions in higher education administration at Kent State University in Ohio.

During his tenure at Southeast, academic programs have been enhanced including the establishment of the College of Science, Technology and Agriculture, and the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts which opened in fall 2007 on the new River Campus.  A comprehensive review of all academic and non-academic programs has been accomplished to maintain quality and minimize student fee increases in the face of significant state appropriation reductions. Southeast continues to be recognized nationally for many of its outstanding accredited academic programs by such prestigious publications as U.S. News Best Colleges and Princeton Review.

Enrollment has increased significantly since a 20-year-low in 1994 when approximately 7,900 students attended Southeast. Total enrollment for fall 2014 was 12,087 marking the 20th straight year of enrollment growth and the 14th year of record- breaking enrollment. The goal of making Southeast Missouri State University enrollment equal to the diversity of the state of Missouri has been accomplished with a historic record African American enrollment (more than 1,000) and international students (1,100).  The progress made in this area is remarkable, considering the University only had 315 African American students enrolled at Southeast in 1996, and international student enrollment was once as low as 176 in 2005.

Additionally, access to higher education has increased dramatically during President Dobbins’ tenure with record enrollments in the University’s 25-county service region due to the establishment of new regional campuses in Sikeston and Kennett serving place-bound students in and near those rural communities. Dual credit provides affordable credit courses to more than 1,000 high school students and has grown dramatically over the past several years with 48 high schools participating. Finally, Southeast Online degree programs continue to be very popular with students with more than 1,000 students taking 100 percent of their courses online.  Online courses are now generating more than 22,000 credit hours a semester, more than many major public research institutions.

While serving as president, Dr. Dobbins was instrumental in developing an innovative post-professorial merit program which provides base salary increases and professional development funds. With this program, faculty become eligible to apply for post-professorial merit five years after attaining the rank of full professor and every five years thereafter. Those awarded this distinction meet the same criteria of sustained service, teaching and scholarship as that required for promotion to full professor, following the same process of peer and administrative review.

Dr. Dobbins also initiated a partnership with The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a bipartisan, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.  The Center’s 220 full-time staff and large network of affiliated scholars conduct research and analysis and help develop national policy initiatives that look to the future and anticipate change.  Southeast was one of the first and is now the only institution nationally selected to partner in student seminars with CSIS, and the University annually sends 35 students to participate in the week-long spring break seminar.

During Dr. Dobbins’ presidency, more than $400 million in capital construction and building improvement projects have enhanced the University.  The Seabaugh Polytechnic Building and the $58 million River Campus were constructed.  In 2005, the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was opened, followed by the dedication of the state-of-the-art David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center in 2009, and the University’s Autism Center for Diagnosis and Treatment in 2010.  Southeast is known throughout the Midwest for its modern and student-friendly residence halls. Vandiver Hall was completed in 2002; Merick Hall in 2009; and LaFerla Hall was dedicated in the fall of 2013.  More than $90 million in capital renovation projects were completed in 2013, including the renovation of the historic 108-year-old Academic Hall, and the remodeling of and upgrades to the Magill science complex.  Additionally, the University opened the River Campus Center, a new academic and residence hall center, at the River Campus in fall 2014.

Dr. Dobbins has served a two-year term as president of the Missouri Council on Public Higher Education (COPHE), the organization for presidents and chancellors of Missouri’s public colleges and universities, and is the senior member of the organization.  He was appointed by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon as a commissioner for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) which covers a nine-state region of the Midwest. MHEC is one of four interstate compacts in the nation devoted to advancing cooperation and resource sharing in higher education.

In 2007, he was selected to serve a three-year term on the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Board of Directors, an organization which represents over 420 U.S. public college and university presidents and more than 3.7 million students or 56 percent of the enrollment at all public four-year institutions.  He was elected Secretary-Treasurer of the organization in 2008, chaired the organization in 2010-2011, and again served on the AASCU Board in 2013.  For the past 10 years, he has served as one of five faculty members for the week-long AASCU New Presidents’ Academy providing instruction to more than 200 new presidents and chancellors. He currently chairs the Finance Committee of the American Academic Leadership Institute and the AASCU Financial Review Committee. He previously served three years as president of the Ohio Valley Conference and is currently a member of the Conference finance committee. He has been elected to the St. Louis Regional Chamber Board of Directors and is a member of the Hawthorne Foundation.

In addition, he is the vice president for membership on the executive board of the Greater St. Louis Council, Boy Scouts of America, and was elected by local council associates to serve on the National Council, Boy Scouts of America. In 2010, he was awarded the Silver Beaver Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a Boy Scout volunteer by a council.

He earned his Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1971 and served as a commissioned officer and civilian executive in the U.S. Air Force for almost 10 years where he was awarded the 1978 Air Force Audit Agency Outstanding Civilian Auditor of the Year.  He received an MBA in 1979 from Old Dominion University where he was awarded the 2001 Distinguished Alumni Award, and a doctoral degree in higher education administration in 1987 from Kent State, where in 2011, he was awarded the Alumni Leadership Award for the College of Education, Health and Human Services Annual Hall of Fame Awards. He is also a Certified Public Accountant in Ohio.

Dr. Dobbins and his wife have a son, Paul Larson Dobbins, and a daughter-in-law, Stacey Borage Dobbins, who are both Southeast graduates, and two grandsons, Lincoln Kenneth Dobbins and Brady Larson Dobbins.