CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., December 22, 2014 – Doyle Privett, president of the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents, announced today the Board has voted unanimously to name the newly constructed River Campus Center after the University’s president of nearly 16 years, Ken Dobbins, and his wife, Jeanine. Dobbins is the longest-serving current public university president in the state of Missouri. The president announced Sept. 8, 2014, that he will retire from the presidency effective June 30, 2015.
“This was one of the easiest and most appropriate decisions the board has ever made,” Privett said. “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.”
Privett said the Board voted to name the building The Ken and Jeanine Dobbins River Campus Center.
Privett said the building, which opened in August 2014, is an example of the dramatic growth seen at the university during Dobbins’ presidency. The new 90,000-square-foot, 180-bed River Campus Center is just north of the original Convocation Center and Seminary Building, forming the completion of a River Campus quad. The new facility added academic along with residence hall space on the same property.
Dobbins became the seventeenth 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.
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 was 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.
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, 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 credit hours a semester, more than many major public research institutions.
During 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.
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 approaches to teaching reading to Missouri students. She is the founder and was the director of the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program, and she worked tirelessly to ensure that Missouri children received a firm foundation in reading. Under her leadership, the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program 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.
Mrs. Dobbins conducted and presented research to the administration 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 Program® collaborated with school districts in all regions of Missouri. She led statewide efforts for positive systematic change in literacy education, and she was a cheerleader for each teacher, each principal, and especially for each student to be successful.
While Mrs. Dobbins maintained her own full-time career as an administrator and educator, she also served steadfastly as Southeast’s First Lady and as a University ambassador. She was instrumental in coordinating details for the annual President’s Council Gala honoring University friends and donors. She’s had very few weeks during her tenure as First Lady when she has not attended 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, University friends and donors at Wildwood, the traditional presidential home. Beyond campus and community obligations, there were the on-going demands of travel and Mrs. Dobbins has served with the president as an ambassador for the institution.
She has served as president of the Southeast Missouri State University chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, and as president of the Southeast Missouri Council of the International Reading Association. She is the founding president, co-founder and a charter member of the Missouri Association of Reading Recovery Educators.
President and Mrs. Dobbins are the parents of a son, Paul Larson Dobbins. Paul and their daughter-in-law, Stacey Borage Dobbins, are both Southeast graduates. They also are grandparents to two grandsons, Lincoln Kenneth and Brady Larson Dobbins.
Privett said, “This honor recognizes the service, support and the generosity of Ken and Jeanine. The presidential tenure of Ken Dobbins will be one of the most extraordinary legacies in the history of Southeast Missouri State University, and Ken and Jeanine’s commitment of their time, talents and treasures to Southeast should certainly inspire all of us. The naming of the River Campus Center creates a visible reminder that the success of many of our students rests on the shoulders of remarkable leaders like the Dobbins.”
The dedication ceremony for the naming of the building will be scheduled for a later date, Privett said.