Past Presidents

Southeast Missouri State University has had 18 presidents lead the institution since its founding in 1873.


In 1873 the Third District Normal School opened in the old Lorimier School building with five faculty members and 57 students. The principal, as presidents were called in those days, was Lucius H. Cheney.  

The Executive Committee of the Board of Regents chose Cheney as the Normal School's first principal based on his experience and credentials. Cheney graduated from Albany State Normal School in Albany, N.Y., in 1852. Seven years later he served as a principal of a public school in Joliet, Ill. In 1860, Cheney returned to New York to become principal of Baldwinsville Academy.  

Cheney's three-year term as principal saw the start of classes at the Normal School, construction of the first building, and the formulation of a curriculum for teacher education in a rural district.  

Cheney was closely involved with students. He personally administered a written examination to each student to help determine his or her interests and talents in a variety of subjects. The test was not a "pass or fail" examination but was used as a placement tool.  

Cheney felt that each student should have a command for language so both Latin and German were requirements for every student. The school grew steadily under Cheney's administration, and by the final year of his administration, it had 229 students.  

In 1876, while attending a summer field camp of Harvard University, Cheney died during an archaeological expedition in the Cumberland Mountains. He was part of a team excavating a large mound where skeletons of a child and an adult had been found when the mound caved in and crushed him. His wife, Frances, finished out the year as principal at Southeast.  

Cheney's body is buried in the Lorimier Cemetery where his tombstone reads "a teacher."


In 1877, after less than nine months of service, the Third District Normal School's second president, Alfred Kirk, resigned his position to return to the Chicago school system. Due to the brevity of Kirk's tenure, little is known about the man or his administration.  

It is known that following Cheney's death, the Executive Committee of the Board of Regents chose Kirk as his successor. Kirk was the former superintendent of public schools in Chicago. He was born in Jefferson County, Ohio, and graduated in 1852 from Richmond College, Richmond, Ohio. He became a principal in the Chicago school system in 1868. Eight years later, he was hired as principal of the Third District Normal School in Cape Girardeau. 


Dutcher attained a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Kentucky in 1864. He became the superintendent of schools at Kirksville in 1872, and one year later joined the Kirksville State Normal School faculty where he taught Latin and science. He later became known as the co-editor of the "American Journal of Education," which published in Cape Girardeau and St. Louis and concentrated on educational interests.  

Dutcher had great influence in molding the character of the Normal School. His administration was distinguished by its drive to encourage participation in district school matters. He placed high priority on recruiting well-qualified, dedicated personnel and enlarging courses of study.  

In 1878, Dutcher introduced grading standards that required an 80 percent average for promotion from class to class.  

Dutcher was the last person to hold the title principal. Following his term, principals became known as presidents. Dutcher resigned his position at Southeast in 1880 and returned to Warrensburg to enter the banking business. He died Sept. 25, 1924, in Warrensburg.


The Third District Normal School's fourth president, Richard Chapman Norton, rejected the Board of Regents' first offer of presidency in 1877.  

At that time, Norton was a professor at Warrensburg Normal School. Charles H. Dutcher, was hired in his place. When Dutcher resigned in 1880, the board again approached Norton about accepting the presidency. This time, he agreed. Norton served as president from 1880 to 1893.  

He was known for his traditional ideals, which made him popular with students and faculty. Because of his genuine interest in being friends with the students, Norton was viewed as someone who was wise and faithful, and as a result, students lovingly nicknamed him Uncle Dick.  

Uncle Dick was characterized as upright and earnest. During his 13-year term, he set out to place the school on a "firm" and "solid" basis. He was dedicated to strengthening the Southeast Normal School system, and he devoted more than 25 years of his life to the Normal School institution.

Willard Vandiver

The Third District Normal School's fifth president, Willard Duncan Vandiver, is probably most famous for coining the Show Me State phrase. But he also fought to keep open the doors of the school when declining student enrollment threatened to close them for good.  

Vandiver was the first school president to be selected from the Normal school faculty. He served as president from 1893 to 1897. Prior to his appointment by the Board of Regents, Vandiver spent four years as head of the science department where he taught natural science.  

Vandiver's main task, as emphasized by the board, was to recruit students. At the time of his appointment, the nation was suffering depression, and student enrollment for the Normal School was declining.  

Vandiver spent his first two years addressing a number of teacher institutes, churches and civic groups, extolling the virtures of the Third District Normal School in an effort to recruit students. This gave him a lead in canvassing the 14th Congressional District when he later turned to politics.  

While working to grow enrollment, Vandiver also fought to keep the Normal School system in operation. In 1895, the Senate of the Missouri General Assembly floated a bill to abolish the three state Normal schools. The bill did not pass, and Vandiver continued to push for enrollment increases.  

Also while president, Vandiver approved spending measures to build two halls, one on either side of the Normal Building, for the literary societies.  

During his campaign for increased enrollment, Vandiver found himself interested in pursuing a career in politics. In 1896, Vandiver's was the only name submitted for the Democratic nomination for Congress from the 14th District. His political campaigning often took him away from campus, and on Oct. 2, 1896, Board of Regents President Louis Houck authorized a one-month leave without pay. Vandiver was elected to Congress, and he resigned his position as president in March 1897.  

In a letter to the Board of Regents, Vandiver wrote, "My interest in the Normal School shall not die with the severance of my connection with it, but shall continue and I shall be glad to render it any service in my power."  

It was during his years in political office that Vandiver was credited for coining the Show Me State phrase.  

Vandiver is quoted as once saying during political debate, "I am from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."


In just two short years, the Third District Normal School's sixth president, John Sephus McGhee, made a lasting impression.  

McGhee's ideas of summer school, student teaching and dormitory life have outlasted his presidency by more than a century.  

McGhee came to the university in 1880 as a professor of mathematics. Later, he kept this position, but added vice president to his title. Upon the resignation of President Vandiver in 1897, McGhee was promoted to president. He served as president until 1899.  

McGhee was a supporter of summer school, which he began in 1897. A total of 26 students were in attendance that first summer.  

McGhee also implemented a practice school during his short time as president. This practice school was administered similarly to a public school, with university students teaching under supervision. These "pupil teachers" were responsible for the control and general management of the classes. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors were allowed to teach first through eighth grade in the practice school.  

McGhee was one of the first presidents to support dormitory life. Although he was not in office long enough to see dorms built, he did purchase land for the university with hopes that it would be used for student housing. Until the dorms were built, most students were boarders, residing with local families.  


Washington Strother Dearmont, the Third District Normal School's seventh president, successfully turned Southeast into a four-year, degree-granting college and by the end of his presidency student enrollment had tripled.  

Dearmont set the standards for obtaining a degree in four years at Southeast. He set the minimum number of hours required for a bachelor's degree at 120. Enrollment grew from the average daily attendance of 476 students at the 1911-12 school year, to 1,500 students by the end of the 1920-21 school year.  

To reflect these changes, the Missouri Legislature approved changing the school's name to Southeast Missouri State Teachers College in 1919.  

During his presidency, 1899-1921, Dearmont also increased the number of buildings on campus six-fold. Teaching was heavily emphasized. Three publications, "Educational Outlook," "The Sagamore," and the "Capaha Arrow," were inaugurated. The textbook rental system was established and President William Howard Taft visited Southeast during Dearmont's presidency.  

Dearmont was born in Clarke County, Va. His father, Peter Dearmont, was a successful farmer and his mother, Mary (Bell) Dearmont, a housewife.  

He earned two degrees from the University of Missouri. He taught school in Holt County from 1885 to 1893.  

He later taught elementary school and organized a high school at Mound City. Dearmont then taught at Kirkwood High School where he succeeded in getting Kirkwood on Missouri's approved list of high schools.


Joseph Archibald Serena, president from 1921 - 1933, reorganized and changed Southeast in many ways.  

Serena's many contributions to the community and school include the construction of Houck Stadium and Field House, which he had built without using any money from the treasury. This is especially impressive considering the building cost of more than $100,000 during the Depression translates into approximately $7 million today. Serena utilized student fund-raising activities and private contributions to meet the price.  

Serena also reorganized the college into the present-day departmental organization and appointed the first dean of the faculty. However, his greatest contribution was his battle to gain national accreditation for Southeast as a full four-year collegiate institute.  

Serena is remembered as having served the community and school with his strong constructionist goals and his intense pursuit of progress for the college.


Former Southeast Missouri State University President Walter Winfield Parker is best remembered for increasing the number of campus buildings by 43 percent and tripling student enrollment during his 23 years of service.  

Parker, the university's ninth president, led the way from Sept. 1, 1933, until he retired due to illness in the later months of 1956. During his administration, Parker was responsible for the construction of the new Kent Library, Cheney Hall, Myers Hall, the Memorial Building, and the (Parker) Physical Education Building.  

Parker was born Jan. 17, 1889, in Howard County, Ark. He received a bachelor's degree from Hedrix College in Conway, Ark., in 1912. He went on to obtain a master's degree from Columbia University, N.Y., in 1915. After graduation, Parker taught English.  

In 1928, he was appointed president of Northwestern State Teachers College in Alva. His experience and diversity is what led to his hiring at Southeast. He lived with his wife in a home in Cape Girardeau until his death April 9, 1957.  

Parker's other accomplishments include: Pushing to raise the school's academic standing until it ranked in the top three percent in all the colleges in the nation; heading community service groups such as the Missouri State Teachers Association, the Southeast Missouri Boy Scout Council, and the county Red Cross; and establishing two scholarship systems.


Dr. Mark Finney Scully of Cape Girardeau, president emeritus of Southeast Missouri State University, died May 25, 2002, in Cape Girardeau.  

Scully was a distinguished administrator and educator. Scully, who was chosen to succeed Walter W. Parker, served as president of then Southeast Missouri State College from 1956 until 1972 and continued from 1972 until 1975 after the institution was renamed Southeast Missouri State University. His presidency was the most transitional period in the institution’s history, with tremendous growth in faculty, buildings and student enrollment. He was the first Southeast alumnus to serve as president.  

He was born Jan. 30, 1910, in Charleston, Mo., son of Mark Cornelius Scully and Bessie Finney Scully. He and Pearl Golden were married June 23, 1938, in Oakland, Md. She died Oct. 12, 1998.  

He graduated from Charleston High School in 1928 and passed the teaching certification exam. He taught at Norfolk School from 1928 to 1929 and Bird’s Mill School in Mississippi County from 1929 to 1935 while a student at Southeast Missouri State Normal School in Cape Girardeau.  

In his career, Scully served as an elementary teacher, secondary teacher, college professor, junior college director, metropolitan public school administrator and a school system superintendent. He served at Jackson, Mo., as a teacher from 1936 to 1937 and as a principal from 1938 to 1942. He served as a high school principal at West Frankfort, Ill., from 1945 to 1947. He also taught at Georgia Teacher’s College in Statesboro, Ga., in 1937 and 1938. He served as superintendent of schools in Festus, Mo., from 1942 to 1945, in Paducah, Ky., from 1947 to 1954, and in Dearborn, Mich., from 1954 to 1956.  

Scully received a bachelor of science degree in education and history from Southeast Missouri Normal School. He received a master of arts degree in history in 1936 from George Peabody College in Nashville, Tenn., and received a doctoral degree in education from Columbia University in New York in 1951.  

Scully became president of then Southeast Missouri State College in 1956, and initiated a significant expansion in campus facilities and enrollment. In 1958, there were just 11 buildings on the campus. By 1973, there had been added three residence halls -- Dearmont, Towers and Greek - and five academic buildings, including Magill Hall, Parker Hall, Grauel Language Arts Building, Brandt Music Hall and Scully Building. Also by 1973, the library had been expanded, and there was a new student union - the University Center. The Scully Building - the education-psychology building, was completed in 1971 and named in his honor by the Board of Regents.  

In addition to the physical expansion of the campus, Scully also is credited with a significant expansion of programs at the institution. He was instrumental in creating the graduate program, a degree program to train nurses for the region, a law enforcement/criminal justice program, a Regional Crime Laboratory and the Academic Advising Center. He also brought the ROTC program to the campus, expanded the University Farm, instituted a rigid class attendance policy, implemented a general education requirement, basic to all degree programs, and developed summer Band Camp. He increased support for the athletic program, expanded visibility of the Golden Eagles Marching Band and implemented a program to bring distinguished speakers to the campus.  

Throughout his tenure, Scully believed that the Teachers College should be affordable for all students from the district. The outcome of this philosophy was demonstrated during his presidency and remained his greatest point of pride. Enrollment grew from 1,500 to 8,000 students. To accommodate these additional 6,500 students, physical expansion of the campus began, and Scully assisted in gaining funds for these new buildings. He also supported the creation of the Southeast Missouri State College Development Corp. This organization, not officially associated with the college, assisted the school in acquiring land for future growth.  

Other needs of the college also were recognized by Scully. This led to a reorganization of the college into departments and the creation of a Faculty Senate as the voice of the faculty. Scully also promoted the need for an athletic field house and athletic fields at Bertling and Sprigg streets. He also recognized the need for the college to branch out into its service region, and moved the University into the computer age with the quiet establishment of a computer center.  

In addition, Scully was in favor of omitting ‘College’ from the school’s name and replacing it with ‘University.’ It was believed that this name change would attract better instructors, provide greater appeal to prospective students and enhance graduates’ job opportunities. Missouri Gov. Warren E. Hearnes approved the name change on April 21, 1972, and on Aug. 24, 1972, the name Southeast Missouri State University was officially approved by the Board.  

During his time at Southeast, Scully served not only as a regional educational leader, but also at the state and national level. He was elected secretary-treasurer of the Association of State Colleges and Universities and became the first president of a state college to sit on the Missouri Commission on Higher Education. In 1969, Gov. Warren E. Hearnes appointed Scully to the Commission, an advisory board to the state colleges, the University of Missouri and Lincoln University.  

In 1966, on the 10th anniversary of Scully’s appointment as president of the school, the Board presented him with a sterling silver medallion. This medallion was to be worn with the academic robe and be passed on to presidents who would succeed him. Scully would remain president for seven additional years, until June 30, 1975.  

Scully has served his community and church well. He was a life-long member and an elder of the Presbyterian Church and served for many years on the Southeast Missouri Executive Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Scully was a member of the Cape Girardeau Rotary Club and the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce.  

He had two sons, Robert Andrew Scully and John Mark Scully. He was preceded in death by his son John Mark Scully in 1995, his mother in 1917 and his father in 1952.  

Scully is survived by his son, Robert Andrew Scully of St. Joseph, Mo., two grandchildren: Tracy Scully Goding of San Antonio, Texas, and Heather Scully of Kansas City, and one great-grandchild: Audrey Goding.


On Friday, September 1975, Dr. Robert E. Leestamper was appointed as the 11th president of Southeast Missouri State University.  

Leestamper succeeded Dr. Mark F. Scully, and was president from 1975 - 1979. He was faced with a time of change during his presidency, ranging from housing and parking shortages, student protests and immense campus improvements.  

During his first year as president, Southeast had approximately 7,000 students enrolled, which limited available space in the university's housing and area parking facilities. The university leased three local hotels to accommodate students the first week of classes and the dorms were filled to capacity with three students assigned to a room.  

The university even investigated buying the Marquette Hotel on Broadway to alleviate the problem of overcrowding. Also that year, only two parking lots were in use and a general parking fee of $25 was assessed to all students to help improve and pay for additional parking lots.  

During the next four years, various improvements to the campus were made. For example, the Mark F. Scully Educational Psychology Building was opened. The University Center was completed and opened, Memorial Hall was renovated, and the university was restructured to include six related colleges.  

Leestamper's previous administrative experience included: five years as president of Worcester State College in Worcester, Mass.; assistant executive director of the Minnesota Higher Education Coordination Commission; director of institutional studies of New Mexico State University; and professor and director of student affairs at Northland College.  


Former Southeast Missouri State University President Bill Stacy, 1980-1989, left a lasting impression through the adoption of the General Education program, the Honor Program, and the building of the Show Me Center.  

Stacy first came to Southeast as a freshman who received his undergraduate degree in speech and physical education in 1960. He received his master of science degree in 1965 and doctorate of philosophy in speech communication in 1968 from Southern Illinois University.  

Stacy joined the Southeast faculty as an assistant professor of speech in 1967. He became a professor of speech communication and theater in 1974 before becoming interim president in 1979. He was appointed president in 1980.  

One of Stacy's most important contributions was the General Education program. After seven years of development, the General Education began in the fall of 1988. The overarching General Education theme is "understanding and enhancing the human experience."  

A second academic program begun under Stacy's leadership is Southeast's Honors Program, established in 1984. This program is designed to challenge exceptional students in an accelerated academic environment.  

One of the many facilities built under Stacy's leadership was the Show Me Center, which opened in 1987. This multi-purpose building was a joint venture between Southeast and the city of Cape Girardeau.  

On June 13, 1989, Stacy's resignation was announced by Anne R. Bradshaw, president of the Board of Regents from 1987-1989. Stacy left after being selected as president of California State University in San Marcos, Calif.  

Stacy currently resides in Lookout Mountain, Tenn. 


Dr. Robert W. Foster, 59, had been part of the Southeast administration in a variety of positions since 1967 before taking over as interim president in 1989. He was the assistant to the president from 1967 to 1976, after which he became the vice president for financial services. He was the executive vice president from 1983 to 1989, where he was responsible for the university's operating budget, physical plant and the advancement of the university.  

Foster did not wish to be considered for the presidency after his interim term expired. 

Foster received his master's in education degree in 1958 and his doctorate in education in 1967 from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He received his bachelor's degree from Southwest Missouri State University. Foster then joined the faculty of the University of Missouri as an instructor of education and assistant director of student teaching.  

Foster was also active in community services. He was a district governor of Rotary International and was named the 1988 Rotarian of the Year by the Cape Girardeau West Rotary Club.  

He was also a past president of the Cape Girardeau United Way, a past chairman of the Cape Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and a deacon and past chairman of deacons at First Baptist Church of Cape Girardeau.  

He also held a number of positions with the Missouri Baptist Convention, including president of the Missouri Baptist Foundation from 1988 to 1989.


From Dempster Hall to Division I athletics, Dr. Kala Stroup left a lasting impression on Southeast Missouri State University during her five-year reign as president.  

Stroup was university president from July 1990 until Sept. 1995. She was selected president from a group of 124 applicants on March 2, after a nine-month search to replace Dr. Bill Stacy.  

Stroup is a native of Kansas and has a bachelor of arts degree in speech and drama. She earned a master's of science and a doctorate in speech communication and human relations from the University of Kansas.  

Stroup came to Southeast from Murray State University in Kentucky, where she was president from 1983-1989. Prior to that, she was vice president for academic affairs at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan.  

Stroup came to Southeast with a mission. She believed that a university must have a clear idea of where it is going to attract and retain students.  

Some of the most recognizable changes made under Stroup were the additions of three new fraternities: Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta, and Lambda Chi Alpha; and one new sorority, Gamma Phi Beta.  

Southeast athletics moved from NCAA Division II to Division I and were invited to join the Ohio Valley Conference.  

Stroup also approved the $11 million Towers residence hall renovation program that was completed in 1995.  

The design, funding, and construction for Robert A. Dempster Hall, home to the Donald L. Harrison College of Business, began while she was president, and was opened in 1996, one year after she resigned.  

Stroup incurred many firsts during her presidency. She was the first female president, and employed the first two African-American deans in the history of the institution. Stroup also oversaw the university's first-ever capital fund-raising campaign, which produced $28.5 million in gifts and pledges.  

Stroup announced her resignation after she was selected as the new commissioner of the Coordinating Board for Higher Education in June 1995.   

The fountain outside Kent Library was Stroup's parting gift. She donated more than $35,000 for its placement on campus.  

Stroup resigned as commissioner of the Coordinating Board of Higher Education in 2002 to assume the presidency of American Humanics in Kansas City.


During his interim presidency at Southeast Missouri State University from 1995-1996, Dr. Bill Atchley instituted a lasting policy designed to bring students together.  

Atchley served as president at Clemson University in South Carolina from 1979-1985. He also served as president at the University of the Pacific from 1987-1995.  

After retiring from the University of the Pacific June 30, 1995, Atchley was ready to rest. However, after much convincing from the Board of Regents and even a phone call from Gov. Mel Carnahan, Atchley agreed to serve as Southeast's interim president on the condition that he not be considered a candidate for president.  

One of Atchley's goals as interim president at Southeast was to bring the faculty and administration closer together. That is why he started his "traveling office." On various days throughout the year Atchley would set up "office" at different places around the campus, such as in the University Center.  

Atchley also started common hour during his presidency. The plan was to make one hour a week free for everyone so that the students could get together and meet people from different backgrounds.  

Atchley was born and raised in Cape Girardeau. He attended Southeast Missouri State University, then transferred to the University of Missouri-Rolla, where he received his bachelor of science and master's of science degrees in civil engineering. He received his doctorate of civil engineering at Texas A&M University.  

Atchley served in several administrative positions, including three years as department chair and associate dean of the School of Engineering from 1970-1975 at the University of Missouri-Rolla. He also led a campaign titled "Challenge to Greatness," which raised $89 million for Clemson University's centennial celebration in 1989.  

Atchley retired to South Carolina. He died February 18, 2000.


Dr. Dale F. Nitzschke became the 16th president of Southeast Missouri State University on July 1, 1996, and accepted the newly-created position of chancellor for development of the River Campus and Polytechnic Institute on July 1, 1999.  

Chancellor Nitzschke has had a distinguished career in higher education. Before accepting the Southeast position, he served as president of Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., for six years, and as president of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H., for four years.  

During the three years of his presidency at Southeast, the University: 

  • implemented the strategic plan approved by the Board of Regents in February 1996; 
  • developed an enhanced mission of regional outreach, telecommunications-based delivery of instruction, and new academic programs with emphasis on advanced technology, supported by a significant increase in state funding;  
  • created a Polytechnic Institute with a Center of Excellence in Advanced Manufacturing Technology and began construction on a new building to house the Institute and related programs after securing state capital appropriations and private gifts for the project;  
  • secured private gifts, a commitment from the City of Cape Girardeau, and the first phase of a state appropriation to develop Cape Girardeau's historic St. Vincent Seminary site overlooking the Mississippi River into a River Campus to house a proposed new School of Visual and Performing Arts;  
  • opened the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center in temporary quarters, secured state and local funding for a permanent building, and began construction on the latter facility;  
  • identified a building to be the site of a new Kennett Area Higher Education Center to serve the extreme southern part of the Bootheel;  
  • completed an expansion of the Student Recreation Center and development of an outdoor complex for intramural athletics and women's varsity sports;  
  • launched a multi-million dollar renovation of Greek Housing and expansion of the Towers Residence Hall central service facility;  
  • completed and dedicated Robert A. Dempster Hall, home of the Donald L. Harrison College of Business;  
    completed a multi-million dollar renovation of the Social Science Building and renamed the facility A.S.J. Carnahan Hall;  
  • developed a campus master plan, a revised master plan, and a plan for renovation of Kent Library;  
    developed a number of new degree programs, ranging from a cooperative doctorate in education to an associate degree in physical therapy;  
  • inaugurated the Southeast P.M. program; 
  • began development of SEE-NET, a regional telecommunications network for delivery of instruction;  
    installed high-technology computerized classrooms available to each college;  
  • led in the creation of the Southeast Missouri Educational Consortium, a partnership among five higher education institutions serving Southeast Missouri;  
  • established a Regional Public Service Institute to coordinate the University's outreach efforts;  
  • launched a major campaign of private fund-raising, "125 Years -- Prologue to the 21st Century;"  

Dr. Nitzschke is a graduate of Loras College, where he earned a B.A. degree with honors in education, and holds the Master of Education and Ph.D. degrees in guidance and counseling from Ohio University.


Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins became the seventeenth president of Southeast Missouri State University on July 1, 1999, after serving in several positions in higher education administration both at Kent State University in Ohio and at Southeast.  

During his tenure at Southeast, academic programs were enhanced, including establishment of a School of Polytechnic Studies and the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts which opened in fall 2007 on the $50 million River Campus. The Donald L. Harrison College of Business was recognized by a Princeton Review publication as one of the best business schools in the nation and the Department of Communication achieved national accreditation of its programs in journalism, advertising, public relations, radio, and video production. The Department of Industrial and Engineering Technology received its initial ABET accreditation.  

Enrollment increased significantly, topping 10,000 for the first time in fall 2005, and stood at over 10,600 in 2007. Record enrollments in higher education occurred in the University’s 25-county 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.  

An innovation center and business incubator to promote entrepreneurship and enhance the region’s economy opened on the campus in 2005; and capital construction projects totaling over $200 million were completed to expand and modernize the University’s physical plant.  

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. He is a past chairperson of the Committee on Professional Development for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and was elected to the AASCU Board of Directors. He was also one of four presidents selected to teach at the AASCU New Presidents’ Academy. He previously served three years as president of the Ohio Valley Conference and was a member of the Conference finance subcommittee. In addition, he is a vice president of the executive board of the Greater St. Louis Council, Boy Scouts of America.  

He earned his B.S. degree in accounting from the University of Akron (Ohio) in 1971 and served as a commissioned officer and civilian executive in the U.S. Air Force for almost 10 years. He received the M.B.A. degree in 1979 from Old Dominion University (Virginia), and the Ph.D. in higher education administration in 1987 from Kent State.  He is also a Certified Public Accountant in Ohio.  

From 1981 until 1991, Dr. Dobbins held several positions at Kent State. He came to Southeast in 1991 as Vice President for Finance and Administration, and served as Executive Vice President from July 1993 until his appointment as President six years later.  

Dr. Dobbins and his wife, Jeanine Larson Dobbins, founding coordinator for the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program based at Southeast, have a son, Paul, and a daughter-in-law, Stacey, who are both Southeast graduates. 

Carlos Vargas

Dr. Carlos Vargas became the 18th president of Southeast Missouri State University on July 1, 2015, after having served as acting president at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania.  

The appointment of Dr. Vargas by the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents culminated a comprehensive and wide-ranging search process that began in the fall of 2014.  

When named as the University's 18th president, Dr. Vargas said, "Southeast Missouri State University is an outstanding university with a national reputation, and I am honored to have been selected as its next president." Vargas said that as he became more familiar with the university, he was impressed with various aspects of Southeast including its core mission, accreditation efforts, online programs, faculty and staff, and the quality and diversity of its students.  

"When I visited the Southeast Missouri State University campus, I was impressed with the institution's long history of service to the region and its unique strengths," Vargas said. "I know Southeast is deeply committed to being accessible and affordable, and continuing to offer accredited academic programs where graduates can meet the needs of employers."  

Dr. Vargas was named acting president of Kutztown University by the institution's Council of Trustees, July 1, 2014, following Kutztown University's succession plan for acting president. He served as the provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, and had been the school's chief academic officer since 2006.  

Prior to his tenure at Kutztown, Dr. Vargas was at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. He previously served in several roles at Kent State University (Ohio) for a total of 18 years, including founding director of the program on electron beam technology. He was also Kent's associate dean for research, interim assistant dean for research, and he served as interim assistant dean for the School of Technology. He started his tenure at Kent State in 1985 as a professor, and continued to teach until his departure from the university.  

Dr. Vargas began his career in higher-education at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), from which he received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics. His initial appointment was as a senior associate researcher for the Institute of Geophysics, and he later held a similar position for the University's Institute of Physics.  

He earned his Ph.D. in physics and aerospace science from the University of Michigan and he has Master of Science degrees from Michigan in physics and aerospace science. He is married to Pam Vargas, who currently serves as director of Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Southeast, and they have a son, a daughter, and one granddaughter.  

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