Five Southeast Missouri State University alumni and a faculty member will receive Merit Awards presented by the Southeast Alumni Association on Oct. 29 at the Copper Dome Society/Merit Recognition Dinner during the University’s Homecoming celebration.
The Merit Award 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 Merit Award recipients are:
- Thomas M. Meyer, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., president and owner of Thomas. L. Meyer Realty Company, Inc.
- Janet Brunton Ruopp and Patrick R. Ruopp, of Cape Girardeau, dentists of Ruopp Family Dentistry
- Scott Giles, of Dardenne Prairie, Mo., executive director and chief executive officer for the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA)
Receiving the Faculty Merit Award will be Dr. Steven Hoffman, Southeast professor of history, coordinator of the Historic Preservation and director of the Bollinger Center for Regional History. The Faculty Merit Award is presented for excellence in teaching.
Thomas M. Meyer
Meyer is the son of the late Thomas L. and Helen M. Meyer. He was born and raised in Cape Girardeau. After serving overseas during the Vietnam War with the U.S. Navy Seabees, Meyer became a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion, Seabee Charter Island II and SEMO Vets Corp Alumni.
Meyer graduated from Southeast in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration and a minor in psychology. His wife, Mary E. (Griffith) Meyer is the daughter of the late Art and Ellyne Griffith. She was born in Spokane, Washington, and attended schools in Utah, Arizona and Missouri, before eventually attending Southeast where she met Thomas. She graduated in 1973.
Meyer is the president and owner of Thos. L. Meyer Realty Company, Inc., through which he has been licensed since 1970, with experience in all aspects of real estate. He is a graduate of the Realtor Institute, and is a certified residential specialist, certified international property specialist and certified in probate real estate. He served as state president of the Missouri Association of Realtors in 1995 and the 2001 regional vice president of the National Realtors Association. Mary is the librarian at St. Mary’s Cathedral School in Cape Girardeau.
Thomas and Mary have been great ambassadors for Southeast, in service and generosity. Meyer has served as a member of the Southeast Missouri University Alumni Association, serving as president from 2009 to 2011; the Southeast Missouri University Foundation Board of Directors; President’s Council and Copper Dome Society; the Southeast Missouri Redhawks Club; chapter representative of the SEMO Vet Corps Alumni; and advisor to the SEMO Student Veterans Organization. In December 2011, Meyer was appointed to the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, serving until his term expired on Jan. 1, 2018.
“There are three kinds of people in this world. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened,” Meyer said. “I like to make things happen.”
Of all the accomplishments of his life, Meyer said he is most proud of his family.
“I met my future wife at an off-campus party, while I was home on leave, then went back overseas,” Meyer said. “We wrote every day, and when I got back, we got married, finished school, started work and grew a family.”
Tom and Mary have been married 48 years and have five children: Dr. Heather Ellyne Phillips, Jean Marie Boctor, Thomas Nathaniel Meyer, Dr. Catherine Griffith Meyer and Tara Giroir Meyer, who are all graduates of Southeast; and four grandchildren. The Meyer family strongly believes in Southeast’s commitment to providing a quality education for success.
Drs. Janet Brunton Ruopp and Patrick R. Ruopp
Janet and Patrick have practiced dentistry in Cape Girardeau for 45 years at Ruopp Family Dentistry. The pair work out of the same dental office where Janet’s father practiced dentistry and where they met in 1967.
Janet graduated from Southeast in 1972 with a Bachelor of Science in zoology and a minor in chemistry education. Patrick finished his undergraduate courses at the same time as Janet but did not officially complete his degree requirements and graduate until 1976, when he earned a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry.
After completing four years of study in three years at Southeast, the couple went on to the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Dentistry. Patrick and Janet were married two weeks before starting dental school and were the first husband and wife team in the history of the school to start and finish the dental program together.
Janet and Patrick each knew early on that they wanted to pursue dentistry, and Southeast gave them the tools to do so.
“The foundation that was laid at Southeast changed my career path,” Janet said. “I was totally prepared for dental school because of the science prep courses I took at Southeast. The instructors were excellent, helpful and supportive.”
Patrick agreed that Southeast had an incredible impact on their careers.
“The very high-quality education that we received was second to none,” he said. “In our dental school class of 160 students from many other universities, we were never at a disadvantage thanks to the background of knowledge we received at SEMO.”
Janet and Patrick said they were inspired by a few of the same faculty members: Dr. Norman Braasch, who taught zoology; Dr. Carl Train, who taught protozoology and parasitology; Dr. John Hinni, who taught embryology; and Dr. Michael Readnour, who taught chemistry.
“They were truly great teachers and wonderful people,” Janet said.
The Ruopps were each recognized three times with the Certificate for International Volunteer Service from the American Dental Association in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Patrick has also been the recipient of the Missouri Jaycees Distinguished Service Award. Janet was honored in 2006 as the United Way Adult Volunteer of the Year and in 1981 as the recipient of the Young Woman of the Year Award, presented by the Cape Jaycees.
The Ruopps are members of the American Dental Association, Missouri Dental Association, Southeast District Dental Society and Cape Dental Study Club, as well as the SEMO President’s Council, SEMO Athletic Booster Club, SEMO Copper Dome Society and SEMO Horizon Club.
Patrick is a member of the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, the River City Rodders, and the Southeast Missouri Corvette Club. Janet is a member of the Oral Health Coalition of Southeast Missouri, MissionFest Cape, the BeTween Initiative, Zonta Club of Cape Girardeau Area, Grace United Methodist Church Foundation and Granting Grace Outreach.
Looking back on her accomplishments over the years, Janet said she is proud to be able to give back through dentistry. She has participated in eight dental missions to Haiti; five Missouri Missions of Mercy (MOMOM) — a large-scale dental clinic that provides free oral healthcare to patients who cannot otherwise afford or access care — with the Missouri Dental Association. She has also donated dental work through Oral Health Coalition and Donated Dental Services, and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, United Way of Southeast Missouri and the Cape Girardeau Public Library.
“I feel very humbled upon receiving the Alumni Merit Award,” Janet said. “I was brought up with the philosophy that to whom much has been given, much is expected.”
Patrick said he, too, is proud of the opportunity to perform dentistry on multiple missions to Jamaica and Haiti.
“It is very satisfying to be able to provide dental care to people who are in such desperate need,” he said. “I am proud that SEMO and my profession have afforded me to practice dentistry, a profession that I love, with the love of my life.”
The Ruopps live in Cape Girardeau and have two children — both of whom are Southeast alumni and practicing dentists — Dr. Alyssa Ruopp Baker, and Dr. Brenton Ruopp, and four grandchildren.
Giles is the executive director and chief executive officer for the Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA), and chairman of the Board for Knowledge Finance. He also serves as chairman of the Board for the Missouri Scholarship and Loan Foundation.
Giles previously served as the deputy executive director and chief operating officer, while transitioning into the CEO role. Giles also previously served as the director of finance and the chief financial officer for MOHELA from 2006 to 2018 and as Treasurer from 2005 to 2006.
Before transitioning to CEO at MOHELA, Giles spent a few years in Round Rock, Texas, where he served as the president and chief executive officer of Trellis Company, Trellis Ventures and Waypoint from 2018 to 2021. There, he was a member of the Texas Business Leadership Council and the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce.
In his prior roles with MOHELA, Giles was responsible for the Finance, Accounting, Treasury Management, Procurement, Printing and Mail Support Services, Facilities, Contracted Loan Servicing, and Lender Services and Reconciliation departments, as well as the issuer’s capital structure strategy, financing transactions, interest rate risk management, cash management, investing and insurance.
Prior to joining MOHELA in 2005, he served as the director of the Missouri Student Loan Group of the Missouri Department of Higher Education. Giles is currently the immediate past chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Council of Higher Education Resources, and he previously served as a member and chairman of the Board for Mapping Your Future. He has also served as a commissioned bank examiner with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and as an assistant bank examiner with the Missouri Division of Finance.
Giles holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance from Southeast Missouri State University and Master of Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
“I have so many great and vivid memories from my time at Southeast,” Giles said. “My summers working as a Southeast orientation co-leader for new students and families with a great group of Southeast students, faculty and staff was an amazing experience.”
Giles said his time at Southeast, both in and outside the classroom, provided an amazing foundation for a successful career. A “critical turning point” in his life, Giles said, was taking his first finance class with former Southeast Professor of Finance, Dr. David Kunz.
In recognition of all that Southeast did for his career, and to honor his family’s support throughout his time at Southeast, Giles made a gift to the University Foundation to name a finance classroom. The Giles and Kreter family classroom is on the second floor of Robert A. Dempster Hall.
“I am most proud that the organizations I represent have helped make the college and career dreams of countless students and families come true,” Giles said.
Giles and his wife Jennifer have one daughter, Abbey. They reside in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, after recently relocating back from the Austin, Texas area.
Dr. Steven Hoffman
Hoffman is professor of history and coordinator of the Historic Preservation program at Southeast Missouri State University and is director of the Bollinger Center for Regional History. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Master of Heritage Preservation from Georgia State University, and a doctorate in history from Carnegie Mellon University. He joined the faculty at Southeast in 1995.
As the coordinator of Southeast’s Historic Preservation program since 2003, Hoffman oversees the curriculum, collaborates with other faculty in the program, recruits, advises and mentors students during their degree programs and early careers, and collaborates with the Historic Preservation Alumni Association, which he helped found.
A hallmark of Hoffman’s work as a teacher, advisor and mentor is his commitment to the engagement of his students in preservation experiences inside the classroom and out. His courses include projects such as historic surveys and building analyses, field trips, and interactions with working professionals in Historic Preservation and the Main Street Program.
According to many of his students, Hoffman’s Field School course in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, is a highlight of their experience. This course results from Hoffman’s collaboration with local preservation specialists, the Missouri State Parks and the National Park Service. Students learn historic site management at local, state and federal levels. They also experience hands-on skills used in the preservation of historic buildings, such as hand hewing a log, doing measured drawings and maintaining a vertical log structure.
Hoffman has engaged in several curricular efforts to expand the offerings of his discipline by developing the Master of Arts in public history degree as well as the 4 + 1 BA/MA program in Historic Preservation/Public History. He added courses relating to the built environment, urban design and African American history. Hoffman has served on and chaired key department, college and University committees.
His work as an educator was recognized by his receipt of Southeast’s Provost’s Research, Instruction and Development for Excellence (PRIDE) award in 2015, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education in 2016, the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce’s University Educator of the Year in 2011, the College of Liberal Arts Outstanding Teaching Award in 2010, as well as the Civic and Global Engagement Awards in 2009 and 2021. Recently, Hoffman was honored by Old Town Cape with an endowed scholarship in his name.
Hoffman’s commitment to engagement extends to the larger community through his efforts at the national, state and local levels. Hoffman believes that making connections with the community allows his students opportunities for experiential learning that they can point to as they enter their careers in historic preservation or Main Street.
He has been involved with the Old Town Cape, LLC. Main Street program since its inception in 1999, serving as President, Vice President, Treasurer, Committee Chair and Board Member of the organization, and currently as advisor to the executive committee. After ten years as the president of the Board of Directors for the state-wide Missouri Main Street Connection he is now the immediate past president. He also served at the national level on the Education Committee planning four recent National Main Street Conferences. In addition to Main Street work, Hoffman is secretary of the National Council for Preservation Education and serves on that group’s Diversity and Inclusion committee. He is a longstanding member of the editorial board of the scholarly journal “Preservation Education and Research” and a board member of the Missouri Association of Museums and Archives.
His scholarship centers on Southern urban history and historic preservation. He has published several books and articles, and has helped place many area properties on the National Register of Historic Places, such as the Court of Common Pleas, the Southeast Missourian building, St. James AME Church, and the Broadway Theater.
He and his wife, Margaret Waterman, are the parents of Russell, an attorney. He is the son of Joan Knight of Cape Girardeau and the late George Hoffman.