CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Feb. 20, 2015 – The Kenneth & Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center at Southeast Missouri State University’s River Campus will be dedicated at a ceremony on Friday, Feb. 27, in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall.
The event is scheduled for 3 p.m. and will feature special remarks from Jeanine Larson Dobbins, founder and director-emeritus of the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program, and Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, for whom the University’s Board of Regents have named the facility.
“This was one of the easiest and most appropriate decisions the Board has ever made,” said Doyle Privett, Board of Regents president. “The River Campus would not exist were it not for the determination and commitment of Ken Dobbins and the great support of First Lady Jeanine Larson Dobbins. We were pleased to be able to honor Ken and Jeanine for all they have done for our University.”
Rhonda Weller-Stilson, associate dean and director of the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts, said that without the tenacity of President Dobbins, the River Campus would not have come to fruition.
“Under his leadership, not only were we able to become the first campus dedicated to the arts in the state of Missouri, but we believe, one of the best,” she said. “From the beginning, Dr. and Mrs. Dobbins attended our performances and brought many University guests to tour this campus. They’ve talked to our faculty, staff and students at numerous River Campus events and really listened to the academic needs. The new River Campus Center has benefited each academic department with expanded classroom, studio and lab spaces. It is most fitting that this new building be named for both of them.”
The dedication of the Kenneth & Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center will include remarks and greetings from Privett; Kendra Neely-Martin, vice president of the Board of Regents; Caleb Cockrill, president of Student Government; and Weller-Stilson.
The program will conclude with a ribbon cutting, tours of the new facility and a reception in St. Vincent’s Commons in the Kenneth & Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center.
The Center, which opened in fall 2014, is a 90,000-square-foot building combining academic and living spaces on the same property and creating an environment in which talented students live and learn together. The new facility is just north of the original Convocation Center and Seminary Building, forming the completion of a River Campus quad.
While the new construction offers a new, modern feel, elements of the historic St. Vincent’s College and Seminary, predecessor to the River Campus, are present. The original College sign and bricks from a handball court carved with seminarians’ initials are just inside the foyer, and the exterior red brick meshes with the storied property.
The first floor includes a directing/acting black box studio; a dance studio; a spacious choral rehearsal room; sectional practice rooms; and St. Vincent’s Commons, a 120-seat dining facility overlooking the majestic Mississippi River complemented with an outdoor seating area. An art education classroom is located on the mezzanine, and the second floor houses faculty offices.
The building also provides a 180-bed living area housing many music, art, theatre and dance majors who are now living close to the academic facilities they frequent. The majority of the second and all of the third floor are four-person student suites, along with practice rooms, laundry facilities and spacious lounges. A fitness center also is located on the third floor.
Dr. Dobbins, who has announced his retirement effective June 30 and is the longest serving current public university president in Missouri, is credited with the creation, establishment and growth of the $58 million River Campus. Missouri’s only campus dedicated to art, dance, music and theatre opened in 2007 and since then, enrollment of music, art, theatre and dance majors at Southeast has seen dramatic growth.
Kenneth and Jeanine Dobbins
President Dobbins and his wife, Jeanine Larson Dobbins, have been part of the fabric of Southeast Missouri State University for more than two decades. 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 director emeritus of the Missouri 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. 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 systemic change in literacy education.
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.
In 2006, Mrs. Dobbins received Zonta’s highest award, The Woman of Achievement Award, for her accomplishments in literacy education and the College of Education Dean’s Award presented to one faculty for their achievements in education. In 2013, the University’s Board of Regents unanimously voted to recognize her contributions to education; her significant financial and personal devotion to Southeast; and her more than 15 years on the Campus Beautification Committee which included her input for transforming the blighted area between Scully and Rhodes buildings to a magnificent plaza which is now called the Jeanine Larson Dobbins Plaza.
Mrs. Dobbins received her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from the University of Akron (Ohio) and was the first undergraduate student trustee on the University’s Board of Trustees. She also received her Master of Science degree in Education with an emphasis in reading education from Old Dominion University, and the Reading Recovery® Teacher Leader Certification at The Ohio State University. Before moving to Missouri, she worked as a reading teacher and reading consultant in the Kent Public Schools (Ohio), and as an adjunct graduate faculty member for The Ohio State University; as a reading consultant in Newport News, Virginia; a faculty member in the DOD adult high school center at Clark AFB, Philippines; and an elementary teacher in Cumberland County, North Carolina.
Her husband, Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, became the 17th president of Southeast Missouri State University on July 1, 1999, after serving as the University’s Executive Vice President (1993-1999) and Vice President of Finance and Administration (1991-1993). He previously held several positions in higher education administration at Kent State University in Ohio.
During his tenure at Southeast, academic programs have been expanded and enhanced through changes in the academic structure 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 commendable, considering the University’s enrollment of African American students in 1996 was 315, 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 offerings have grown dramatically and now provides affordable credit courses to more than 1,000 high school students at 48 high schools. Finally, the 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 student credit hours a semester, more than many major public research institutions.
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 and upgrades to the Magill science complex. Additionally, the University opened a new academic and residence hall center at the River Campus in fall 2014 which will now be known as the Kenneth & Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center.
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 Governor 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 state-supported 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 ten 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 B.S. degree 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 the M.B.A. degree in 1979 from Old Dominion University where he was awarded the 2001 Distinguished Alumni Award, and the Ph.D. 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. and Mrs. Dobbins have a son, Paul Larson Dobbins, and a daughter-in-law, Stacey Borage Dobbins, both Southeast graduates, and two grandsons, Lincoln Kenneth Dobbins and Brady Larson Dobbins.