CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 8, 2014 –- After more than 15 years as president of Southeast Missouri State University, Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins announced at the annual State of the University address today that he plans to retire at the end of the 2014-15 academic year.
Dobbins said he will retire effective June 30, 2015, with plans to do some higher education consulting for the American Association of State Colleges and University’s Penson Center for Professional Development. He said he felt the time is right for his wife, Jeanine, and him to spend more time with family and other endeavors.
“It has been such a great honor to represent our university and to work with not only an outstanding Board of Regents, but also with such hard-working and caring people here at Southeast, in the community of Cape Girardeau, in Southeast Missouri, and in Missouri” said Dobbins. “And Jeanine and I have had the opportunity to work with a wide array of alumni and supporters of our university and with great leaders in our region, state and nation.”
Dobbins was named president of Southeast 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. He previously held several positions in higher education administration at Kent State University in Ohio. As 17th president of Southeast, he is currently the longest-serving four-year public college or university president in the state of Missouri.
Doyle Privett, president of the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents, said at the State of the University event, “Ken Dobbins has been a true transformational president for Southeast and has provided strategic and mission-driven leadership. During his years with Southeast, he has elevated our University’s local, state, and national reputation, and led our efforts in fiscally challenging times while strengthening the academic experience and improving facilities.”
During Dobbins’ 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 has been accomplished to maintain quality and minimize student fee increases in the face of significant state appropriation reductions.
Enrollment increased significantly during Dobbins’ University tenure, with enrollment at 8,716 in Fall 1991, and a record enrollment of almost 12,000 for the fall 2014 semester. Enrollments have increased for 20 consecutive years with record enrollments occurring for the past 14 years. Additionally, record enrollments have occurred in the University’s service region during his tenure due to the establishment of new regional campuses in Sikeston and Kennett and a higher education center at Perryville serving place-bound students in and near those rural communities.
More than $400 million in capital construction and building improvement projects have enhanced the University since Dobbins was named president in 1999. 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 with Vandiver Hall completed in 2002, Merick Hall in 2009, and LaFerla Hall 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 and Rhodes sciences complex. Additionally, the University opened the River Campus Center, a new academic and residence hall center, at the River Campus in fall 2014.
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. 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 college and university members 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 serves on the AASCU Board. Also, for the past ten years, he has served as one of five faculty members for the week-long AASCU New Presidents’ Academy, and currently chairs the Finance Committee of the American Academic Leadership Institute. He previously served three years as president of the Ohio Valley Conference and is currently a member of the Conference finance subcommittee. 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.
“Dr. Dobbins’ commitment to the success of our students, faculty and staff has always been unwavering,” Privett said. “Throughout his tenure at Southeast, he has worked collaboratively with the Board, the University community, and many other constituencies. We have been very fortunate to have Dr. Dobbins as our chief executive officer during a time of great change in higher education.”
Privett also paid compliment to Jeanine Dobbins, stating, “Jeanine has contributed to our University by building relationships and sharing ideas with people and groups when attending or co-hosting numerous University-related activities. From 1991 to 2010, Jeanine’s work in our College of Education including her founding and directing the Missouri Early Literacy Intervention Program. This program has assisted more than 250,000 Missouri elementary students with reading difficulties.”
Privett said the members of the Board of Regents would appoint a Presidential Search and Advisory Committee comprised of members of the University community and will work with an executive search firm to help identify the best high-quality candidates for consideration for the University’s 18th president. He indicated that the new president will be selected by the Board in Spring 2015 to begin officially at the University on July 1, 2015.