Just like a regular family tree, many families from Southeast Missouri State University have branches that go back decades. For the Hahs family, it's been over a century since their SEMO roots were planted and that tree has grown to hold hundreds of branches.
In 1912, it still wasn't the norm for women to attend college. For Ron Hahs' maternal grandmother, Southeast was thechoice. She had a goal to become a teacher, and she made sure that happened.
Now, over 110 years later, her ancestors have made Southeast a home.
Ron's maternal grandmother was the first to graduate on that side of his family. On his father's side, his father was the oldest of eight children . From a rural home in Bollinger County, he moved on to teach in a one-room elementary school and then eventually work as a mail carrier. While a mail carrier, he was driving back and forth to Southeast to take classes.
"He helped his next sister who helped the next sister who helped the next brother," Ron said. "All eight of them in that family graduated from SEMO by each helping the other down the line. From all of those, so many children of those also went to SEMO."
Ron remembered sitting at his kitchen table and listening to the radio with his family in 1957, when they announced who the next Southeast president was going to be. It was Mark Scully, and his dad was elated because one of his best friends from Southeast was being named its new president. Ron's father and Mark Scully had sung in the Glee Club together at Southeast.
Ron is the oldest of five children and they all learned from those stories his father told. Ron received his degree from Southeast, as did all four of his siblings.
"It's easy to look around at other people I went to high school with," Ron said. "I know they didn't automatically have this instilled in them, the importance of getting a degree and a college education. I think we're blessed because of the examples that were set before us, no question about that.
"It was instilled in all of us that you go to college and get a degree," Ron said. "You can see how the family thing as it spreads out through the generations, we've been fitted for SEMO. It really has been quite generational in our family."
Ron's wife, along with his father-in-law, are also Southeast graduates.
This last year, Ron had two grandsons graduate from Southeast in 2023, making them the fifth generation of his family to get their diplomas in Cape Girardeau.
"It really all goes back to my father," Ron said. "When he talked about SEMO, his college experience, he just had a twinkle in his eye. He put almost a feeling of reverence about that college on the hill that gave him the opportunity to have a college education. There was just never any question, we were going to get our degrees because he set such an example, and his whole family set such an example."
The branches are endless. Ron talks about his immediate lineage, but there are aunts, uncles, and cousins of his who are also alumni.
In the 1980s, there was a Homecoming contest to see what family could have the highest number of Southeast graduates at the parade. Ron Hahs' family won that contest, boasting 43 Southeast alumni show up from his own family.
Feels Like Home
Ron has stayed incredibly involved with his alma mater, even beyond the family history. After playing in the college band during his time on campus and receiving his degree, he went on to work as a financial advisor with Northwestern Mutual. During that time, he taught an insurance course for over 30 years as an adjunct instructor in the Harrison College of Business and Computing. His uncle’s grandson still teaches that course.
"It's really been a family affair," Ron said.
With his success, he's also been able to give back. He's involved in a number of philanthropic efforts around the region, including working with the Southeast Missouri University Foundation. He's served as a past Board President and a Board member on rotation for many years.
He and his wife also had season tickets for basketball and football for nearly 40 years.
"It's been kind of automatic to be a part of things, to be supportive," Ron said. "We've been blessed in helping create some scholarships. We've been supportive in the building of the College of Business and the River Campus. We've been blessed and so we've tried to do our best to be a part of what's happened and what's still happening there."