Former Southeast First Lady Passes Away


Jeanine Larson Dobbins, former First Lady of Southeast Missouri State University and wife of former Southeast President Kenneth W. Dobbins, passed away July 14 in St. Louis. A celebration of life is planned for 4 p.m. Aug. 3 in the Robert F. and Gertrude L. Shuck Music Recital Hall at Southeast’s River Campus. Visitation is planned for 2-4 p.m.

The University community expresses its deepest condolences to Dr. Ken Dobbins, their son Paul Larson Dobbins and his wife Stacey, and two grandchildren, Lincoln Kenneth Dobbins and Brady Larson Dobbins.

In addition to serving as First Lady, Mrs. Dobbins 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.

Mrs. Dobbins 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 includes seating with a water feature.  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.

In December 2014, she and her husband Dr. Ken Dobbins, presented Southeast’s winter commencement address. The recent naming of Southeast’s Jeanine Larson Dobbins Conservatory of Theatre and Dance will honor her memory.

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.