Seven alumni and one faculty member will receive Merit Awards presented by the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association Nov. 4 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.
Alumni Merit Awards have been presented annually since 1958 to Southeast alumni who have brought distinction to themselves and the University.
This year’s alumni recipients are: Teresa Mosley Dirks, ’98, of Kansas City, Missouri, award winning artist in the Kansas City area; Dr. Jerry D. Durham, ’68, of Waterloo, Iowa, chancellor of Allen College; Janet Perez Eckles, ’75, of Orlando, Florida, inspirational speaker and author; William T. (Bill) Gamewell, ’72, of Ballwin, Missouri, senior vice president with Commerce Bank in St. Louis, Missouri; Pamela Macke Johnson, ’77 and ’00, of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, criminalist supervisor and forensic scientist with the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop E Crime Laboratory in Cape Girardeau; Pamela McClune, ’72, of Denver, Colorado, retired compliance manager with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and retired attorney and U.S. Navy captain with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve; and Dr. Pernell Witherspoon of St. Louis, Missouri, and Huntington Beach, California, associate professor of criminal justice at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
Receiving the Faculty Merit Award will be Dr. Julie Ray, professor and chair of the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education at Southeast. The Faculty Merit Award is presented for excellence in teaching.
Teresa Mosley Dirks
Dirks, an artist, painter and former educator, graduated summa cum laude from Southeast in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in art. In 2005, she earned a master’s degree in education from William Woods University.
Born in Kennett, Missouri, and raised in Malden, Missouri, Dirks spent most of her life in southeast Missouri, absorbing the essence of rural, farm life and the relationship between life and nature, a theme she has captured in her photographs, poetry and paintings.
She taught environmental education and then art education in public schools for several years, but her passion for painting inspired her lifelong career.
When creating her artwork, Dirks’ aim is to reconstruct those experiences from her life and environment, and to share that connection with others. She strives to recreate a conceptual experience whether it is the complexity of urban decay, the intensity of the sky, or the linear connection to cultivation, nature and the horizon. The proportions and structure she portrays within her works come from her subconscious need to create with some sense of balance, and also with a tension that is derived from the power of her experiences, and the sense of her being a part of something bigger.
Over the years, her work has developed texturally and organically by using the visual elements and principles of color, line, texture, movement and pattern. The resulting variants and contrasts reflect the complexities and tension of her experiences. Her art has come to symbolize her inner strength and connection with her environment and the years spent watching the brilliance of the world around her.
Dirks is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2011 Missouri Arts Council Poster Award. Her work was featured in the 2012 MAC publications. Her work is held by private and corporate entities.
She has served on the Art in Public Places Committee in Warrensburg, Missouri; organized Paint with Your Girls, a fundraiser for breast cancer research; and served on the advisory boards of Southeast Missouri State University-Malden and the Bootheel Youth Museum where she was also a volunteer programmer. Dirks lives in Kansas City, Missouri, with her husband, Dave. They have two sons and four grandchildren.
Dr. Jerry D. Durham
Durham, a 1968 graduate of Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in Education, secondary education, is the chancellor of Allen College in Waterloo, Iowa, a position he has held since August 2005. Following his graduation from Southeast, he taught high school English and speech for one year before serving three years as a medical laboratory technician in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Following his military service, Durham completed a master’s degree in English from Bradley University and, a year later, a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Saint Louis University (SLU), followed by a master’s degree in nursing and a doctoral degree in higher education administration, also at SLU. In 1982, he earned a second master’s degree in nursing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Durham began his career in higher education as a faculty member at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Illinois. He held faculty positions at the University of Illinois-Chicago and Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU). In his first academic leadership position, he served as director of the School of Nursing at IWU, followed by an appointment in 1990 as executive associate dean at Indiana University School of Nursing. In 2007, Durham was appointed dean of the Barnes College of Nursing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) and then as vice-chancellor of academic affairs, also at UMSL. Early in his career as a registered nurse, he worked as a staff nurse, hospital nursing supervisor and private practitioner of mental health nursing.
He is the co-editor of several books focusing on private practice in psychiatric-mental health nursing and emerging infectious diseases. These publications have received five American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards. He has also served as a member of and reviewer for the editorial boards of several nursing journals. He has received two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study healthcare ethics. Durham was elected to a fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing in 1991.
Since Durham’s appointment as chancellor of Allen College, the healthcare education-focused institution has more than doubled enrollment and expanded its academic program offerings. Under his leadership, Allen College implemented Iowa’s only accelerated baccalaureate nursing program; opened a graduate program in occupational therapy; initiated five new health sciences programs; implemented four additional tracks in its Master of Science in Nursing program; and started doctoral programs in nursing and health professions education. A doctoral program in physical therapy is currently being planned. In addition, Allen College has greatly expanded its online offerings to increase student access to its academic programs during a time of increasing need for nurses and other healthcare providers.
Durham’s wife of 46 years is Dr. Kathleen Durham, who is a dentist. They live in Waterloo, Iowa, and also have a family farm in Jo Daviess County in Illinois.
Janet Perez Eckles
Eckles, a 1975 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, is a motivational speaker, author, “master interpreter,” international speaker, radio host, missionary, life coach, host of “Cooking in the Dark” video segments and founder of JC Empowerment, Inc.
In spite of profound adversity from physical blindness and the sorrow of the loss of her youngest son, Eckles has striven to form a powerful platform and serve as proof that no crisis turns to tragedy when faith, tenacity and determination are applied. Her joy and passion for life has become her signature in all she accomplishes.
Eckles takes her message of empowerment across the country and abroad, and has shared the stage with John C. Maxwell, Darren Hardy and Lee Strobel, among other speakers. The passion to inspire and transform her readers and English- and Spanish-speaking audiences have impacted thousands in the 15 years of her career as an author and conference speaker.
Eckles’ journey of triumph has been featured on Univision, Telemundo as well as on Fox News affiliates, Enfoque en La Familia (Focus on the Family) radio show, CBS’ “Club 700” (700 Club), ABC’s “Despierta America (Good Morning America)” and dozens of national and international programs. She has been quoted in the New York Times, LA Times, and New York Daily News and featured on the cover of Hispanic Woman Magazine.
In addition to her own four inspirational books, Eckles has been published in 30 Chicken Soup for the Soul titles, Guidepost books and magazines as well as in hundreds of Christian publications.
Her work and contribution to the community have been recognized with numerous awards, including Advanced Speakers and Authors Association’s “Beyond Me” Award in 2015; a 2013 and 2015 finalist for the Don Quixote award; a 2013 finalist for the Girl Scout Citrus of Central Florida’s Women of Distinction Award; the 2011 Latina Women Who Make a Difference Award; and Language Line Solutions’ 2005 recognition for professional excellence.
Along with her career as an author and motivational speaker, Eckles serves as a Christian missionary. She has also had an award-winning career as an over-the-phone Spanish interpreter.
Eckles and her husband of 40 years, Gene, reside in Florida where they spend their free time with their two grandchildren.
William T. (Bill) Gamewell
Gamewell, a 1972 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in management, is manager of Commerce Bank’s Commercial Real Estate Department in St. Louis.
After graduation, Gamewell worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and was promoted to a commissioned bank examiner. He later earned his Master of Business Administration at St. Louis University in 1979 and joined Commerce Bank of University City that same year.
Gamewell has spent the past 37 years at Commerce, initially in commercial banking, then credit administration, and for the last 29 years in the Commercial Real Estate Department, where he became the department’s manager in 1987. He is scheduled to retire next April.
He is currently a member of Mortgage Bankers Association – St. Louis, the Homebuilders Association of St. Louis, and the Urban Land Institute – St. Louis. Previously, Gamewell served nine years as a board member of St. Louis Equity Fund, which is composed of major corporations and banks in the St. Louis metro area that contribute to invest in the purchase of tax credits for construction of affordable housing. He also has served as president and a board member of the St. Louis Chapter of the Risk Management Association, an organization of bank commercial lending officers; owner’s representative attending board meetings for the Kiel Center and St. Louis Blues Hockey Club, when it was owned by Civic Progress; and board member and head of the finance committee at Lake Forest Country Club.
Gamewell continues to contribute his time to the St. Louis Corporate Advisory Board for Southeast Missouri State University, and leads various governance and project leadership positions at the St. John United Church of Christ in Manchester, Missouri.
Gamewell and his wife Nancy have one son, Matt and two grandchildren.
Pamela Macke Johnson
Johnson, criminalist supervisor and forensic scientist with the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Troop E Crime Laboratory in Cape Girardeau, is a 1977 Southeast graduate with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and returned to graduate with a Master of Public Administration in 2000.
Johnson began working in crime labs in 1978 with the Indiana Criminal and Toxicology Laboratory in downtown Gary, Indiana, working primarily with trace evidence. In 1988, she joined the Southeast Missouri (SEMO) Regional Crime Laboratory at Southeast Missouri State University. Johnson worked with former SEMO Regional Crime Lab Director Dr. Robert Briner, the University, former U.S. Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond and local law enforcement partners in 2000 to raise funds for a new laboratory, which was completed in 2003. She helped foster efforts to maintain federal grants for the new laboratory and in 2003 became the lab’s director. In 2006, she spearheaded the merger of the Southeast Missouri (SEMO) Regional Crime Lab with the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) Lab system. She remains the criminalist supervisor of the MSHP Troop E Lab.
Johnson has attended the FBI training academy six times and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s chemist training. She belongs to five forensic organizations: Midwest Association of Forensic Chemists, the Clandestine Laboratory Investigating Chemists, the American Academy of Forensic Science, and the Association of Forensic Quality Assurance Managers. In 1994, she became certified as a diplomate of the American Board of Criminalists and maintains her certification today.
Johnson has taught at Southeast since 1990. Her classes have included topics covering collection and preservation of evidence, microscopy and expert witness. She also has worked with a number of Southeast graduate students over the years on their research topics.
She is a member of Zion United Methodist Church in Gordonville, Missouri and the Chesterton United Methodist Church in Chesterton, Indiana. She has earned two Mission Recognition Pins for her work with United Methodist Women’s groups. Johnson is District Deputy Grand Matron of the 26th District of the Grand Chapter of Missouri, Order of the Eastern Star. She is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and currently serves on national, state and local levels of the organization (House Committee as the Chairman of Tiers E-J at Continental Congress).
Johnson is a third generation Southeast graduate. Her parents, H. Weldon and Bonnie Biershwal Macke, joined the Southeast Missouri University Foundation’s Copper Dome Society from its founding. Johnson is married to Stan Johnson, who she met while attending Southeast. They have two children, Elizabeth and Jack, who are also Southeast graduates, and one grandchild.
McClune, who graduated cum laude from Southeast in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, is retired as compliance manager with the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and retired attorney and U.S. Navy captain with the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve. In 1976, she earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver and in 1998 was awarded a diploma from the U.S. Naval War College.
After time in private law practice, McClune began a long career in mortgage banking and regulatory compliance. In 1979, she joined Empire Savings, rising to assistant general counsel of the largest state savings and loan association in Colorado. She has served as counsel at Sun Savings in Parker, Colorado, as senior vice president of SunWood Management Corporation, and under the federal management consignment program as president of Investors Savings and Loan Association in El Reno, Oklahoma. In 1988, the Federal Home Loan Bank appointed McClune the conservator of Valley Federal Savings and Loan in Hutchinson, Kansas. Later she joined the Colorado National Bank legal team, became general counsel and secretary of ShadowNet Mortgage Technologies, and became general counsel of First American Nationwide Documents. In 2006, she joined the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) to establish a regulatory compliance department and five years later she joined CHFA’s new strategic operations department. McClune retired from CHFA in 2015.
McClune served in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve, from 1983 to 2007. She served in Reserve units supporting the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Naval Surface Forces Pacific, Naval Forces Korea, U.S. Space Command, North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), and U.S. Northern Command. In 1991, she was mobilized to serve as director of the Naval Legal Service Office in San Diego, California, the Navy’s largest legal assistance office, for eight months during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, she was mobilized to serve as the focal point for NORAD operational law issues, focusing on the rules of engagement for North American air defense. In December 2003, she was assigned as legal advisor to the Canada-U.S. Bi-National Planning Group for enhanced military cooperation. She left active duty service in 2006 and retired from the U.S. Navy Reserve in 2007 at the rank of captain. Her military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards.
McClune, now retired, makes her home in Denver, Colorado. She enjoys traveling and volunteers with the Colorado Symphony Guild, Highlands Lutheran Church and the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. She also supports Southeast’s Office of Military and Veteran Services, which selects recipients for the Lila Wilkinson McClune Memorial Scholarship, established by McClune.
Dr. Pernell Witherspoon
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Witherspoon is an associate professor of criminal justice at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. He also is the founder of Witherspoon Criminal Justice and Community Consulting.
Witherspoon received an athletic scholarship to attend and play football at Southeast. After his time at Southeast, he completed a successful 16-year law enforcement career at the St. Louis Metropolitan in St. Louis; Roswell, Georgia; and Hazelwood, Missouri, police departments. He served in several capacities during his service, including undercover narcotic detective and community outreach office. Witherspoon completed his career at the rank of sergeant.
Witherspoon’s research interests include policing methods and regulations, racial issues in the criminal justice system, and the relationship between criminological theory and criminal justice practices. He has recently published an article regarding the use of body-worn cameras by police officers. Witherspoon continues to participate in all aspects relevant to progress toward creating better relationships between police and the African American community.
He continues to have a presence at Southeast through his annual participation in various homecoming activities. He also works with Southeast administrators to address minority issues that may arise at the University. For his dedication to the University, Witherspoon was awarded the 2011 Southeast Salutes award for outstanding alumni.
Witherspoon graduated from the Public High League’s Northwest High School. He received his doctorate in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
He and his wife, Anissa, have a son, Robert, and daughter, Anyia.
Dr. Julie Ray
Ray was named chair of the Department of Elementary, Early and Special Education at Southeast in 2011. The department has 18 full-time faculty, with three undergraduate and four graduate degrees offered on the main and regional campuses. As a member of the College of Education leadership team, she helped guide the department in a complete curriculum revision in 2014 to meet new state teacher certification standards, as well as the development of two new graduate degrees.
She has been a college professor since 1996, joining Southeast in 2002 where she also holds the title of professor of early childhood education. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in language development, assessment, family engagement, and current issues and trends in early childhood education. Her research interests include family engagement, technology with young children, and effective clinical experience practices.
In 2009, she published a textbook with Dr. Kathy Grant titled “Home, School and Community Collaboration: Culturally Responsive Family Engagement.” The third edition of this best-selling textbook was published in 2015 and is being used widely in two- and four-year educator preparation programs nationally.
During her professional career, Ray has given more than 40 state and national presentations on family engagement, teacher preparation, technology and national accreditation. She has been an invited keynote speaker, leading early childhood programs to develop comprehensive family engagement plans. She currently serves on the executive board of and is a regional representative for the National Association of Early Childhood Teacher Educators. She is a past program reviewer and member of the Advisory and Audit Committee for the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s accreditation of early childhood educator preparation programs.
Ray has received awards for her teaching, including Southeast’s College of Education Teaching Contributions and PRIDE Awards, and the Missouri Baptist University Excellence in Teaching Award. She considers her proudest accomplishments to be her students who go on to become successful early childhood teachers. In 2015, she established the Rutha E. Moore Endowed Scholarship to assist education majors with their financial needs during their student teaching semester. This scholarship is named for Ray’s grandmother, as a way to honor her legacy. As a faculty member, she has been the advisor for two student organizations. While a co-counselor for the Alpha Eta chapter of Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, the organization won the Achieving Chapter Excellence (ACE) award, given to a small percentage of chapters nationwide. She helped begin the Southeast Early Childhood Organization, which was named an Outstanding Student Organization in its second year.
Ray was a teacher and elementary librarian in the public school setting for 17 years prior to her career in higher education. She is certified in early childhood education, elementary education, and library science. She holds a Master of Science in early childhood education from Arkansas State University and a Doctorate in Philosophy in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in early childhood education from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Ray and her husband, Dennis, have been married 39 years and have two daughters and sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. They enjoy traveling across the country by motorcycle and have visited 36 states on the way to their goal of riding in all 50 states. They are active with La Croix Church in Cape Girardeau.