Southeast Alumna Abbie Crites-Leoni to be Honored with Distinguished Service Award


The Honorable Abbie Crites-Leoni will be honored with the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association’s Distinguished Service Award during Homecoming festivities Oct. 25.

Distinguished Service Awards are presented to individuals and organizations that have made lasting contributions to their communities and to the University.

Crites-Leoni, a 1993 Southeast graduate and U.S. Magistrate Judge, will be recognized at the Copper Dome Society/Merit Recognition Dinner during the University’s Homecoming celebration. The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Show Me Center.

At Southeast, she earned a Bachelor of Arts with majors in Spanish and theater. Crites-Leoni earned a law degree from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and began her legal career in 1998 as an assistant prosecutor in Cape Girardeau County.

In 2000, she was hired by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri where for more than a dozen years she specialized in prosecuting cases involving drug trafficking, child exploitation and government program fraud.

In February 2014, Crites-Leoni was sworn in as a U.S. magistrate judge, becoming the first female federal judge appointed to work full-time in Cape Girardeau.

In addition to her regular duties, Crites-Leoni presides over the Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) Court. It is designed to assist individuals who have completed a federal prison term and have a high risk of reoffending to successfully reenter the community.

As a Southeast student, Crites-Leoni was a member of the Emerging Leaders program, the Honors Program, University Players and the Black Mask honorary dramatic society.  She also served as a Presidential Ambassador and member of the University’s Leadership Board.

Crites-Leoni has continued her connection with the University, serving as president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 2017-2019 after becoming a member in 2011. She has continued her connection with the University through service on advisory boards, speaking to student groups and teaching.  She is a founding Redhawks level member of the Alumni Association, a member of the Copper Dome Society, and recipient of the Alumni Association’s 2008 Young Alumni Merit Award.  Her parents, Harold (“Hal”) Crites and Tina (King) Crites, are also Southeast graduates.

Additionally, Crites-Leoni is a former president of the Rotary Club of Cape Girardeau and served as the Chair of the Club’s Centennial Gala celebration earlier this year. She is active in many professional, civic and charitable organizations.

She and her husband, Southeast Professor Emeritus of Health, Human Performance and Recreation Dr. Edward Leoni, have operated and sold two small businesses, The Water’s Edge – A Wedding and Event Retreat, and a custom-building company, Edward Abbie Builders. They have three children, all Southeast alumni, and seven grandchildren.