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In Pursuit of Excellence

A History of Missouri Southern State University

April 18, 2016

Missouri Southern welcomed over 2,000 area high school students to campus for the second-annual "Sophomore Day."  The high school students attended a series of orientations to Missouri Southern departments and courses of study and received their first look at university life. Tours were provided by members of Missouri Southern faculty and staff. 

December 2015

Yours to Lose Missouri Southern and the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) established a formal partnership. The “Yours to Lose – Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program” will allow up to 25 Missouri Southern students to be admitted into KCU’s new medical school at the same time as they are accepted to MSSU. KCU will open a new medical school at 2817 St. Johns Blvd in Joplin in August 2017.

March 30, 2015

Missouri Southern announced that Dr. Paula Phillips Carson will serve as the institution’s new Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs. Carson has been a longtime administrator at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She will step into the role at MSSU following the retirement of Dr. Pat Lipira who had served as VPAA since 2012.

2014 through 2015

Fve major projects- totaling more than $30 million – helped to reshape Missouri Southern’s landscape. The progress is unprecedented since the mid-1960s. The projects include: Warren Turner Field baseball stadium; End Zone Facilty; Residence Halls (called "The Quads" because most rooms have four apartments); FEMA shelter; and renovation of Reynolds Hall.

December 8, 2014

Missouri Southern prepared to launch an open book management initiative, the first of its kind in the world of higher education. The Great Game of Education represented a groundbreaking partnership with the Great Game of Business division of SRC Holdings Corporation in Springfield. All campus departments were invited to participate. “Through open-book management practices, everyone will have a voice and a vested interest in our future,” said Dr. Alan Marble, university president.

August 19, 2014

The Missouri Southern Board of Governors gave the green light to the construction of a DNA lab on the MSSU campus. The DNA will hold workshops for local food companies and will serve as a recruitment tool for potential MSSU students. 

June 20, 2013

The Board of Governors at Missouri Southern State University announced Dr. Alan D. Marble will serve as President of the University. Dr. Marble began his new responsibilities at MSSU on July 1, 2013. Read more.

June 17, 2013

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors' Chair Dr. Sherry Buchanan announced that Bruce W. Speck, Ph.D., was no longer President of the University. Dr. Speck served as the fourth President of Missouri Southern State University.

August 2012 - May 2013

75th Anniversary 1937-2012

The University celebrated its final event of the year-long 75th anniversary with a Gala on Thursday, May 23, 2013. During the 2012-2013 academic year thousands of alumni, supporters, faculty, staff and students participated in special events designed to celebrate the growth and development of MSSU, including its contributions to the cultural and economic vitality of the region and communities served by the University. The University now turns toward the next quarter of a century and looks forward to celebrating 100 years during the 2037-2038 academic year.

September 19, 2010

MSSU Ralph L. Gray Alumni CenterA Grand Opening celebration for the newly-renovated Mission Hills Mansion marked the opening of the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center. The opening of the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center was the culmination of a project underway since 2004. Mr. Gray, a graduate of Missouri Southern, became a successful investor in real estate. The Mission Hills Mansion, built in the Spanish motif by Lucius P. "Buck" Buchanan in the early 1920s, is the oldest building on the MSSU campus. Following the renovation of the building, it became permanent home of the MSSU Alumni Association, which raised approximately $1.8 million for renovation of the structure.

November 19, 2010

In 2010 MSSU opened a state of the art Health Science building.A Grand Opening celebration for the newly-completed 85,000-sq.-ft. Health Sciences Building was held with a large number of dignitaries from Missouri Southern, Joplin and the Four-State area in attendance.

The building provides a state-of-the-art training facility for healthcare professionals. The Health Sciences building houses programs in Nursing, Dental Hygiene, Kinesiology, Medical Technology, Psychology, Radiologic Technology and Respiratory Therapy. The building was funded from the Lewis & Clark Discovery Initiative.

The new building's features include a Nursing Skills Lab with 12 state-of-the art Hill-Rom beds, four simulated hospital rooms; two controls rooms behind one-way glass that control three full scale patient simulators and one baby patient simulator/incubator, 22 Dental Hygiene stations each with its own dental chair, sink, computer and monitor, along with vacuum, oxygen, and nitrous oxide connections; eight Digital Dental X-Ray Stations; two Radiology labs; two Respiratory Care labs; Psychology classrooms and labs; and many other areas designed for use by Missouri Southern students, faculty and staff.

August 31, 2009

In 2009 MSSU opened the Beimdiek Recreation Center.The 71,000-sq.-ft. George S. Beimdiek Recreation Center and Willcoxon Student Health Center officially opened. Included in the new addition is a triple basketball/volleyball court gymnasium surrounded by a suspended indoor walking/running track, weight and exercise areas on two levels, aerobic dance and exercise rooms, a state-of-the art movie theater, a new bookstore, student commons area with computer access and flat screen TVs and the Willcoxon Student Health Center. The Beimdiek Recreation Center is connected to Billingsly Student Center, which also underwent extensive renovation during the new recreation center.

January 18, 2008

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors announced that Dr. Bruce W. Speck, Ph.D., was selected as the fourth President of Missouri Southern State University. The announcement was made by Chairman of the MSSU Board of Governors, Mr. Dwight Douglas, at a news conference on campus. Mr. Douglas also chaired the 15-member Search Committee. Dr. Speck previously served as Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs at Austin Peay State University (APSU) in Clarksville, Tenn., one of six universities in the Tennessee Board of Regents System. From 2001-2005, Dr. Speck served as Vice President for Academic Affairs and tenured Professor of English at APSU. Mr. Douglas said Dr. Speck was chosen with the unanimous approval of the Board of Governors and the Search Committee as well as a vote of confidence from the MSSU Faculty Senate.

August 17, 2007

The Missouri Southern State University Board of Governors named Dr. Terri Agee as Acting President of MSSU. Dr. Agee served as Vice President for Business Affairs for six years, and was Director of Human Resources for nine years. Prior to coming to Missouri Southern she worked at Leggett & Platt, Inc. in Carthage, where she specialized in labor and employment law.

August 17, 2007

After serving 25 years as only the third President of Missouri Southern State University, Julio S. León announced his retirement Friday, Aug. 17, 2007 during the fall Faculty Conference in Webster Hall Auditorium.

January 19 , 2007

University President, Dr. Julio León, announced during a Board of Governors meeting that the University had successfully completed a land transaction that increased the size of the University's campus by 8.2 acres. The University closed the transaction in December 2006 to purchase 4.6 acres at 704 North VanHoorebeke Drive, which included a 2,600-sq.-ft., 4-bedroom home with outbuildings that were to be moved. Another 3.6 acres included all of Travis Acres, except for two lots, in the northeast corner of Newman Rd. and VanHoorebeke Dr. After this transaction, the University campus covered 373.2 acres of land.

May 20 , 2006

The 46th Commencement at Missouri Southern State University was especially historic with the University's first group of Master’s Degree students receiving diplomas. Six students received Master’s degrees in Teaching as a part of Missouri Southern’s Cooperative Graduate Program with Northwest Missouri State University.

July 12, 2003

Governor Bob Holden signed a bill on the Missouri Southern campus that elevated the status of the institution from College to University. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and Rep. Bryan Stevenson (R-Joplin), changed the name of the institution from Missouri Southern State College to Missouri Southern State University - Joplin. The legislation officially became effective on Aug. 28, 2003.

April 2003

As a result of generous contributions of more than $800,000 from the community, Missouri Southern's effort to replace the artificial football playing surface and the running track at Fred G. Hughes Stadium became a reality in April 2003. The support allowed the University to make lighting improvements as well. In late March, the Board of Regents approved awarding the contract to Sprinturf for the replacement of the artificial turf. In April, the Board then approved awarding a contract to Beynon Sports Surfaces for a new track. Sprinturf installs an artificial surface with a ground rubber infill and has its product currently in use on football playing surfaces at the University of Montana and at Youngstown State University (Ohio), among several others. Beynon, which will install a full-pore track surface, similar to ones the company has installed at the University of North Carolina, the University of Tulsa, and James Madison University. Plus, Missouri Southern's indoor track in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center is a Beynon product.

September 11, 2002

September 11 2002 MSSU held a memorial service with a large dedicated flag.A September 11 memorial service and dedication of a memorial "Flag of Freedom" plaza was held at Missouri Southern on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002. The memorial service took place in Taylor Performing Arts Center with area veterans, firefighters, police officers and community representatives in attendance. Following the service, a dedication of a "Flag of Freedom" took place on the campus oval near Billingsly Student Center. A donor, who wished to remain anonymous, funded construction of the memorial plaza that features a 20-foot by 38-foot American flag raised on a 100-foot pole. The words "Flag of Freedom Memorial" and "Dedicated September 11, 2002" in 3-inch brass lettering are embedded in textured decorative concrete. The flag (pictured at the top of this page at the time it was dedicated) is visible for miles as it waves from the highest point on the University's campus. Offering a stunning night image, the memorial is illuminated in the evening hours with 1000-watt lights on 12-foot poles.

November 6, 1996

After experimenting with a brief Gopher site, Missouri Southern State (College then) published its first Wold-Wide Web site on Nov. 6, 1996 at http://www.mssc.edu.

September 1996

A major expansion of the Mills Anderson Justice Center begins. The $4.5 million project will provide a 300-seat auditorium, an expanded crime lab facility, offices, classrooms, a modern firing range, a multi-purpose room and a lower level classroom that will allow access for training with police vehicles and ambulances. R.E. Smith Construction Co., Joplin, served as the contractor for the project.

Summer 1995

Construction of a Student Life Center was completed .The $1.4 million center provides a computer lab, laundry facilities, vending machines, aerobic workout room, weight room and a large-screen television lounge for all students, faculty and staff.

May 1995

Governor Mel Carnahan signed legislation that authorized Missouri Southern State College to establish international education as a distinctive theme of its mission. The bill (HB 442) also established Missouri Southern as a moderately selective institution for admission standards and authorized the College to offer a master's degree program in accountancy.

August 1992

Richard M. Webster Communications and Social Science Building opened. The $7.5 million, three-story building houses a state-of-the-art communications center, a 420-seat recital hall/auditorium and classrooms and offices.

June 1990

The Board of Regents approved a recommendation to pursue an international approach to undergraduate education. To be implemented over the next few years, various programs and activities will be introduced to internationalize the College.

December 1982

Dr. Julio Leon becomes President of MSSC after serving as interim President during a national search.

July 1979

Dr. Donald C. Darnton assumes the Presidency of MSSC following the death of Leon C. Billingsly.

July 1977

Missouri Southern State College became a state assisted four-year college and part of the State of Missouri's higher education system.

November 1973

A $1 million general obligation bond issue was approved to help with the construction of new 2,000 seat Performing Arts Center and to renovate and refurbish other areas of the campus.

June 1969

The first class of 198 baccalaureate degree candidates graduated.


Leon C. Billingsly became the first President of Missouri Southern State College.

Fall 1967

The new 320-acre campus, with five new buildings and an extended Mansion House, opened to 2,399 students and 95 faculty members.

July 1965

House Bill No. 210 was signed by Governor Warren E. Hearnes in ceremonies held in Joplin. The bill established a state college offering third and fourth year courses leading to a baccalaureate degree.

October 1964

Residents of Jasper County pledge over $300,000 toward the purchase of the Mission Hills farm and a building fund for the new campus.

April 1964

Voters created the Junior College District of Jasper County, ending the junior college's 27 years as part of the Joplin Public School System. Voters also approved, by a margin of 8 to 1, a $2.5 million bond issue for the construction of a new campus.


Joplin Junior College opened with 114 students and nine faculty members. Classes under the supervision of the Extension Division of the University of Missouri and held in the Joplin High School.


The school's first Dean was H.E. Blaine. He served in the post until 1947.