The University is founded on a proud tradition of sending graduates forth who believe that, through their words and actions, they can make a difference in the world.

For generations, Southeast students and alumni have been making ripples in classrooms, in their workplaces and in their communities, embracing challenges, advocating for social justice, growing local economies, expanding opportunities, rolling up their sleeves to serve and creatively reimagining a better tomorrow.

Southeast students and alumni have long been servant-leaders, eager to listen, to positively impact the lives of those around them, pay it forward and be the change they wish to see in the world. Southeast is humbled to have nurtured many courageous difference makers along the way:

  • Louis Houck, Board of Regents president from 1889-1925, was an early civic leader and railroad tycoon who worked tirelessly to assure Cape Girardeau would become the home of the Third District Normal School. Houck Stadium was later named in his honor.
  • Miss Sadie Kent, who became the college librarian in 1910, was tremendously influential in the development of all aspects of the library. In 1938, the Board of Regents recognized her dedicated service by naming the new library building, Kent Library.
  • Roberta Slayton was the first African American to enroll at the institution in 1954, shortly after the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Helen Carter enrolled shortly thereafter and was the first African American to graduate in 1956, earning a Bachelor of Science in Education, and later completing five additional degrees. Slayton also completed a Bachelor of Science in Education. Both women are buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Cape Girardeau.
  • President Mark Scully’s administration, 1956-1975, proved pivotal. Enrollment grew from 1,500 to 8,000, and a building program unprecedented in the history of the institution was launched.
  • The late Billy Joe Thompson Sr., formerly of Jackson, Mo., was the first male graduate of Southeast’s Department of Nursing in 1962.
  • Student Herman Williams presented a eulogy on campus following the assassination on April 4, 1968, of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that stunned the nation and campus. This event brought together the Southeast African American student community.
  • In 1968, Carl Nelson and other students formed the Southeast Negro Activity Council (SNAC). This organization was officially recognized by the University in 1969, with Gwen Shields as its first president. SNAC was the first formal support network for African American students.
  • Alpha Phi Alpha (Xi Gamma chapter) led the way as the first Black Greek organization at Southeast in 1979.
  • Edward Spicer was hired as special assistant to the president during the 1970s, emerging as a significant role model and advocate for equality and diversity. His efforts and support of the students brought forth many changes on campus. 
  • With Donald L. Dickerson and Dr. Ken Dobbins’ vision, the abandoned St. Vincent’s Seminary property was transformed into the Earl and Margie Holland College of Arts and Media. The dream of the Southeast River Campus would not have become reality without their tireless efforts. Dickerson was a member of the Southeast Board of Regents for 12 years and president for eight, beginning in 1993. Dobbins was University president from 1999-2015.
  • SEMO student athletes and coaches have long been dedicated to giving back to the community that so generously supports them. Redhawk student athletes have opportunities to participate in a variety of community service activities each year. Community involvement also helps provide them a support structure and greater opportunity for academic success.
  • The University has long demonstrated its support for the Cape Girardeau community, and Southeast Serves weekend exemplified that storied tradition. Students have long rolled up their sleeves during this annual event to provide services in support of the homeless, the Missouri Veterans Home, the Glenn House, Southeast Missouri Pets, SafeHouse for Women, SEMO Food Bank, Cape Girardeau Public Library, Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation, Cape Senior Center, local public schools, Salvation Army, Missouri Department of Conservation, Chateau Girardeau, the Amen Center and others.
  • Students volunteering with Southeast Serves also have provided community service at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, where they have performed trail maintenance, including lopping and removing limbs and debris, dirt work, tree tagging, rock removal and identification of trail GPS coordinates. 
  • Catholic Campus Ministry (CCM) students have long participated in spring break efforts to give back. They’ve assisted refugees during spring break at La Posada Providencia, a shelter providing room and board for refugees awaiting hearings in the immigration courts of the southeastern section of the Rio Grande Valley. CCM students also have served children in a Haitian orphanage; ministered to needy, rural parishes in the Florida panhandle, helping with painting, cleaning and landscaping; mentored inner city youth, served at a soup kitchen and delivered food bags to the homeless in downtown Chicago; assisted Detroit, Michigan, residents with home repair projects and food pantry collection; and served pregnant women and children at the LifeHouse Crisis Maternity Home in Springfield, Missouri. 
  • Following the devastation from Hurricane Katrina, several Southeast students assisted in the clean-up of New Orleans over Spring Break 2006 and with building houses in 2007 in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity in Greensboro, Alabama, an area hard hit by Katrina. 
  • Students have often lent a helping hand with Habitat for Humanity, building houses in various locations – Evansville, Indiana, Greensboro, Alabama, Pontotoc, Mississippi, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri – to assist those in need. In 2009, the Office of Residence Life and Habitat for Humanity, with the help of Southeast students, faculty and staff partnered to build a home on the parking lot of the Aleen Vogel Wehking Alumni Center that, upon completion, was permanently relocated to 1640 N. North Main Street in Cape Girardeau, bringing hope to a family in need.
  • Baptist Student Union (BSU) students have spent spring break assisting Oasis International, a Christian organization helping refugees arriving in St. Louis from around the world. In 2010, students collected, processed and delivered furniture, clothing and household items, and assisted in preparing Oasis’ farm for planting crops. BSU students also have volunteered their time with the Bosnian Food Mission in south St. Louis, serving refugees and immigrants in the St. Louis area. BSU also has regularly engaged in senior adult ministry at the Baptist Home in Ironton, Mo.
  • Ignite students have volunteered in North Carolina, Peru, Ukraine, Mexico, Guatemala and Russia. They’ve also assisted with Service over Self in Memphis, Tennessee, providing home repairs and renovations.