If you heard tiny feet running down Johnson Hall at Southeast Missouri State in the 1970's, it was probably one of the Wencewicz kids. This family has seen SEMO through at least five decades. It all started when Dr. Thomas Wencewicz and his wife Dorothy moved to Cape Girardeau for a new position at Southeast Missouri State University. From there, a new family tradition was born.

In 1966, Tom and Dorothy Wencewicz started a journey that would forever intertwine their lives with Southeast Missouri State University. Their story is one of dedication, family, and a lasting love for SEMO.

Tom Wencewicz secured a teaching position within Southeast's Depratment of Mathematics under Dr. Russel Michel, the head of the mathematics department at that time. Tom embraced this opportunity and set the stage for a remarkable 42-year tenure at SEMO.

Southeast became more than just a workplace for Tom and his family; it was a warm, inviting community that fostered lifelong friendships. The faculty's camaraderie extended beyond the classroom, manifesting in potlucks, pizza parties, and even working together on home improvement projects.

Tom thoroughly enjoyed all his years of teaching at SEMO. The math department was known for its comradery and pleasant working environment. The heads of the department always started the year with a pot luck supper which often ended in a game of bridge. Later the men would host a pizza party at one of the homes some time during the year. Later the wives were also invited and brought salads or desserts. The men often helped each other out with home repairs. They put a new roof on our house that lasted 35 years! They solved car repair problems together. Many became life-long friends.

Dorothy Wencewicz

Over time, Tom emerged as a departmental leader. From instructing night classes in Sikeston to pioneering remote instruction at satellite locations and embracing the move to online classes, he faced each new challenge with enthusiasm.

Tom Wencewicz's children recall how he possessed an extraordinary ability to remember his students' names, a talent that persisted throughout his career. He kept a treasure trove of yearbooks from Southeast and neighboring schools just in case his memory needed a little help. Even after retiring, his loyalty to SEMO endured, leaving an indelible mark on the University.

Though Tom passed away in April 2022, his legacy and love for Southeast continue through his family. SEMO holds a special place in their hearts, as it's where many of Tom's children found their life partners, and several of his grandchildren have chosen to pursue their education. The Wencewicz family has been an integral part of Southeast's history since 1966, and Dorothy Wencewicz hopes this tradition continues.

 All six of the Wencewicz siblings line up for a photo at Tim's SEMO graduation.

The Wencewicz kids fondly recall Southeast as more than just a university; it was their family hub and a place for their dreams to take shape. Ruth Hester, the eldest among the six siblings, describes SEMO as a home away from home. As the Wencewicz children grew, they considered Johnson Hall their playground.

Their cherished memories often revolve around their father's office and the welcoming staff lounge in the mathematics department, where they would enjoy meals, snacks, or tackle homework between classes.

They witnessed SEMO's evolution, from the rise of the Show Me Center to the renovation of Dempster Hall and numerous other changes. Throughout these developments, Ruth emphasizes that Southeast has never lost sight of its rich history while embracing the future.


SEMO has made updates and modern additions while keeping its history and a timeless quality. Academic Hall, the terraces, Kent library, the Towers Dorms ; they are iconic and such a part of SEMO. Even though they may have been updated, they still feel the same.

Ruth Ann Hester

In 2021, the youngest Wencewicz son earned recognition as a Distinguished Young Alumnus, further solidifying the family's deep connection to SEMO. Tim Wencewicz attributes much of his life path to Southeast, from his active involvement in athletics to meeting his future spouse. For the Wencewicz family, Southeast has always been irreplaceable.

The collective sentiment among the Wencewicz siblings was clear when they pondered their college choices: staying close to home and attending Southeast was the natural decision. Tom Wencewicz expressed this sentiment, describing Southeast as their family's anchor while they pursued their education. Between classes, they would frequent their father's office, often joined by siblings for games, homework, soda, or simple relaxation.

Today, the baton passes to future generations of the Wencewicz family, who may walk the halls of Johnson or discover their passions along the river. The family remains deeply connected to SEMO through community events and their involvement with local high schools, nurturing a continuing bond with their cherished alma mater.

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