Southeast to Salute Outstanding St. Louis Alumni


by News Bureau on Thursday, Sep. 08, 2011

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 8, 2011 – The Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association will salute five Southeast alumni from the St. Louis area from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 22 at Ces and Judy’s, 10405 Clayton Rd. in St. Louis.

All alumni, spouses and friends are encouraged to attend. Registration is open, but space is limited. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served, and a cash bar will be available. The cost is $10 per person. Please RSVP at or by contacting the Alumni Association at or (573) 651-2259.

The 10th annual celebration will honor Hugh Bissell, owner/agent of a State Farm agency in Kirkwood, Mo.; Ruth Saphian, partner at Ernst & Young in St. Louis; Andy Schwartz, president and co-founder of AJ Adhesives/Mid-America Packaging; Dr. Jim Simpson, superintendent of the Lindbergh School District; and Dr. Pernell Witherspoon, associate professor of criminal justice at Lindenwood University.

The St. Louis Chapter of the Southeast Missouri State University Alumni Association created Southeast Salutes in 2001 to honor outstanding alumni from the St. Louis area who have brought distinction to themselves and to the University through career and community achievements.

Bissell, a 1974 graduate of Southeast where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in accounting, has been a long-time supporter of the University. He is an active member of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity alumni chapter in St. Louis, and every year he organizes a holiday luncheon in December that consistently attracts more than 60 Alpha Kappa Psi brothers. Bissell has spent his career as an owner/agent with State Farm in Kirkwood, Mo. He is also a member of the Kirkwood Area Chamber of Commerce and formerly served as president of the Rotary Club of Kirkwood, district governor representative of the Kirkwood Rotary and coordinator of the Kirkwood Greentree Festival Parade. Bissell and his wife, Diana, have two children, Greg and Lindsay, and four grandchildren.

Attending and graduating from Southeast had a profound effect on my life. It provided me with the education needed to be considered for the career path I chose with State Farm. Along with that, joining Alpha Kappa Psi created a support and relationship base that is the source of my closest friendships to this day,” Bissell said.

He added, “Southeast provides a great education on a beautiful campus at a very reasonable cost. That formula is hard to beat.”

Saphian, a 1990 graduate of Southeast where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in accounting, serves on the advisory board for the Department of Accounting at the University and is a Copper Dome member.

Saphian, a CPA, has more than 18 years of public accounting experience with Ernst & Young, serving private and publicly held companies. She is a key sponsor of Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year, a nationally recognized program. In 2005, Saphian was promoted to partner and has served as coordinating partner on priority accounts for more than five years. From 2002 to 2005, she served as professional practice technical expert for the Midwest, consulting with engagement teams to determine accounting for complex and unusual transactions. Clients she represents include Peabody Energy, SAVVIS Communications, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Brown Shoe Company. Saphian has served in a variety of key leadership positions related to the mentoring and advancement of employees. She is also a member of AICPA and MSCP.

She is also a board member of Winning Women and the Arts and Education Council. She has two children, Eliot, 10, and Olivia, 8.

“Southeast always engenders memories, independence and responsibility developed in a campus full of friends and good times. Like many, I came as a small-town girl, worked hard to keep myself in school (in both an educational and financial sense). I graduated with skills that would propel me in my career and life-long friends that have supported me every step of the way,” Saphian said.

Schwartz is a 1986 Southeast graduate, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in finance and was a four-year varsity soccer letterman. He recently served as a guest speaker at the University’s Global Entrepreneurship Week and helped arrange St. Louis area business tours for an entrepreneurship course during the spring 2011 semester.

While at Southeast, he was employed by Thilenius Distributing, now River Eagle Distributing, held various positions on the board of directors of Sigma Phi Epsilon. After graduating from Southeast, he moved to Chicago to sell industrial adhesives for National Starch & Chemical.

In 1992, Schwartz returned to St. Louis and started AJ Adhesives, which distributes industrial adhesives to all manufacturing sectors. As an entrepreneur, he took on a few partners and started an inline hockey roller rink, “The Rink,” and a restaurant, “King Louie’s.” In 1998, he divested from business outside of the core industrial sector, and he and his partners purchased an equipment company in Houston, Texas, that specialized in selling and servicing adhesive application equipment, continuous ink jet printers and industrial labeling equipment. Schwartz and his family moved to Houston in 2000 to transition the purchase.

He and his wife, Stephanie, and their three children moved back to St. Louis in 2008. Last year, AJ Adhesives and Mid America Packaging had 32 employees with corporate headquarters in St. Louis with branch locations in Houston, Dallas, Tulsa, Seattle and Chicago.

In March, Schwartz was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to the Board of Election Commissioners in the City of St. Louis and will serve until 2013.

He is active with a number of other endeavors in St. Louis, as well, where he remains active with the Sigma Phi Epsilon Alumni Association in St. Louis; coaches soccer, basketball and baseball; and plays soccer, basketball and golf.

Simpson holds a Doctor of Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He received his Specialist in Education, Master of Arts in secondary administration and teaching certificates in mathematics and science, all from Southeast Missouri State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science in geology from Tennessee Technological University. Since 1989, he has taught at Fredericktown (Mo.) Senior High School; was principal at Advance (Mo.) R-IV Junior and Senior High School, Salem (Mo.) Senior High School and Lebanon (Mo.) Senior High School; assistant superintendent of the Lebanon R-3 School District; and superintendent of the Joplin (Mo.) R-8 School District before becoming superintendent of the Lindbergh Schools in St. Louis.

He has been helpful in the University’s efforts to engage educators in the St. Louis area as well as supportive of Southeast Missouri Health C.A.R.E. (Career Aptitude, Realities and Exploration), which raises scholarship dollars for underprivileged children in St. Louis. He is a member of the Rotary Club, the South County Chamber of Commerce, Cooperating School Districts’ Superintendents and Roundtable, and the Missouri Association of School Administrators.

Simpson is married to Carol Ann. His hobbies include walking, exercising for fitness, playing the violin, listening to performances, reading, traveling and being a life-long learner.

“Southeast was the perfect place to gain new knowledge for a new career. The University has been a big part of my success,” Simpson said.

Witherspoon came to Southeast on a football scholarship in the fall of 1982. He played for four years but did not graduate. He played under Coaches Jim Lohr and Bob Smith and was part of the University’s 1987 MIAA Conference Championship team. He also was initiated as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black Greek letter fraternity, in 1983 and served in many roles in the organization.

After leaving Southeast, Witherspoon was hired by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department where he subsequently worked in the undercover narcotics unit before moving to Atlanta, Ga. While in Atlanta, he continued his career as an undercover narcotic agent before moving back to St. Louis after the tragic death of his younger brother Darryl, who also attended Southeast. Witherspoon finished his police career as a sergeant for the City of Hazelwood. He subsequently returned to school, completing both his undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He went on to complete his doctoral degree in criminology and criminal justice, also at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. In 2004, he began teaching at Lindenwood University and is now an associate professor and department chair of the Criminal Justice Department.

Witherspoon has appeared as a guest on CBS and NBC affiliates in St. Louis to discuss teen violence in the community and way to curb it, citing data compiled during his research, as well as, government statistics.

He stays active with Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity by attending homecoming each year and helping coordinate alumni activities in the St. Louis area. Witherspoon enjoys spending time with his wife, riding his motorcycle and boating.

“Southeast will always be a home away from home. The memories and relationships I sustained from the time I spent there are inseparably connected to how I have grown today. Additionally, the changes that the University has made facilitates my ability to enthusiastically come back for homecomings and relive many memories while reminiscing with some of those friends and teammates that I maintained since leaving,” Witherspoon said.