Southwest Missouri State University
After 18 years as an organic chemist and administrator at Murray State University in Kentucky, Dr. Marshall Gordon came to SMSU in 1983 as its seventh president. Characterizing the University as an “institution on the move,” President Gordon challenged the school to “transcend the average.”
During the Marshall Gordon administration, enrollment exceeded 20,000 for the first time, bringing an economic impact of more than $1 million a day to southwest Missouri. An expanded scholarship program attracted increased numbers of highly qualified students, leading to the re-establishment of the honors program. Academic restructuring established six colleges housing 37 departments.
The College of Business Administration, the largest business program in the state, was successfully examined for accreditation by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business. A graduate program in Defense and Strategic Studies was added to the curriculum and the first specialist degree was awarded in education. Faculty research was encouraged through a University grants program, and Excellence in Research and Excellence in Teaching awards were established to recognize faculty achievements.
The Missouri legislature authorized the appointment of a student regent to the Board. The first official efforts to change the institution’s name to Missouri State University failed in the legislature. An aggressive capital expansion program added several new facilities to the campus, including David D. Glass Hall, the Professional Building, Kentwood Hall, Robert W. Plaster Sports Complex, and the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. A new standard in residence halls was established with the building of Hammons House and New Hall (now Hutchens House), while the Greek community began gathering north of the campus.
Central High School in West Plains was purchased and renovated to accommodate the growth of the West Plains campus. The SMSU Foundation purchased the Centerre Bank Building in downtown Springfield to establish what is now the Kenneth E. Meyer Alumni Center. A comprehensive landscaping project enhanced campus appearance.
Success in athletics included moving to the Missouri Valley Conference and finding both the Bears and Lady Bears competing in NCAA Division I post-season tournaments. The baseball Bears made their first appearance in the Division I tournament.
The University drew international attention in 1989 with its contested decision to stage Larry Kramer's “The Normal Heart” portraying the cruel realities of the AIDS epidemic, while in 1992 the debate squad won its first national championship at the Cross Examination Debate Association Tournament.