Text of Dr. Julio León’s farewell address

Good Morning. I want to welcome all of you to the start of a new academic year. As you know it has been my custom to use the fall conference to speak about academic matters and to try to set the tone for the new academic year, this year it’s for a different reason.

As you probably know I have submitted my resignation to the Board of Governors so that I may retire as president of Missouri Southern State University. After 25 years in the presidency. I think it is the right thing to do and it’s time, so let me just take a few minutes to reminisce a little bit with you and I promise you I will be short. Laughter

I’m very proud to have been president of this University for this long a period of time, but unlike some of the things you would think I am most proud of I’m going to mention a couple of them that are usually not mentioned very much, yet they are very, very important to me.

During 25 years as president we had to go through three national, major economic recessions, and in the ensuing state budget cutbacks and withholdings we managed to hold this institution together and never did we have to lay off a single employee. That’s one of the things that I am most proud of.

When I became president we had some turmoil on campus, some dissatisfaction with policies and procedures. One of the first things that we did was to develop a process by which grievances could be heard and addressed. We developed a grievance process and I’m proud that in 25 years as president only one grievance was filed that went all the way up to the final decision, actually it went to the courts, and Missouri Southern was found to be in the right.

I know quite well that many department heads, many directors, many deans and vice presidents have addressed, many, many issues at the lower level and never gave rise to the need to file a grievance, that I believe, and the reason for that is the spirit that pervades this institution.

Of course I am proud of the international mission. I’m proud of the distance learning program that we instituted. Not many universities across this country, not many faculties across this country can say with pride that they do have an international mission and a program, a program that allows students anywhere in the world to acquire a bachelor’s degree in business administration, in general studies or in criminal justice fully from Missouri Southern State University, online and without having to set foot on this campus. I submit to you that there may be none in the country that can claim that. So in a sense that is a reflection, a reflection of how good you are. That is why I am very proud to have been associated with each one of you. I want to give proper thanks, number one to the faculty and the employees of this institution.

There is no question that while a president of a university must have support and the authority from the Board of Governors and the Board of Regents the reality is that no president can stay on the job unless the faculty want him or her to be on the job, It’s just as simple as that.

So I am very proud of the fact that for 25 years, anyone who can claim that many years can also claim that he counted with the trust of the confidence of the faculty and I thank you very much for that.

I want to thank those individuals that, over the years, have made up the Board of Regents and the Boards of Governor of this university, because I have had their support their encouragement in order to advance the University forward and I am very grateful for that. I’m grateful, to all the administrators of this university and I am particularly very proud that two of my vice presidents over the years are now successful university presidents. I want to let you know that when I first came to this university I really did not expect to be here very long. But on the other hand it didn’t take Vivian and I very long to realize that we had come to a very special place with very special people, and that’s the reason why we have been here this long.

I want to thank, as I said, every one of you. I will single out one individual. I want to thank Jim Gray in the business school.

It’s strange how things work out in life. It’s particularly interesting that a boy from Iowa and a boy from Chile can somehow find a way of making certain things happen. Because you see, in 1968 Jim Gray was working on his MBA at the university of Arkansas and he was counting on an extension of assistantship so he could continue to work on his MBA and when he went to talk to the dean of graduate studies about the renewal on his graduate assistantship he was told that … the dean of graduate studies told him that he had given the graduate assistantship to a guy from Chile, a brand new PhD candidate that needed a teaching assistantship but they were out of teaching assistantships so they would have to give him a graduate assistantship.

Later on as I started taking my course work as for the doctorate, there were many classes at the graduate level where MBA and PhD graduate students would take the classes together. And there was this particular very important and required course in human relations in business and industry that everybody had to have for graduation and when Jim Gray enrolled in it the professor told him that the last spot in that class had been given, you guessed it, to this PhD student from Chile.

A year later Jim Gray found himself at Missouri Southern, these were the Vietnam years when being employed or being a student was very important. And Jim Gray had been teaching here in the business school. And he needed the renewal of that job offer and when he went to see Keith Larimore, the chairman of the division at that time, about the renewal of his job he was told that the job had been given to this PhD candidate from Chile.

So Jim, I want to thank you very much for everything you’ve done for me. As life would have it obviously this university also I believe has been good to Jim Gray and I am grateful for that.

I want to conclude by giving one final thanks to my partner Vivian León. For 25 years you have conducted yourself as an exemplary first lady. It is very difficult to be the spouse of a president or to be the first lady of anything. It is usually a no win situation, no win period. And yet over the years you have conducted yourself with grace and with class and you have dignified this institution. As I became president our son was 1 year old. And in spite of the difficulties of being the first lady and organizing events and affairs for the institution and representing us so well … picnics, special events ice cream socials, Christmas dances, faculty dinners. You managed to also raise our son to be an exemplary citizen.

Furthermore because we were so interested in advancing the idea of an international mission the music department had organized an international piano competition. And after two editions of it the music department decided that it was really too much work, so in order to preserve that initiative you were asked to take it over. In addition to being the first lady, being a mother, you took it, developed it into a world-class event. And unfortunately, because you are the wife of the president, all the credit for developing such a well-respected event around the world has been given to you only because you are the wife of the president. Not because of your qualities as an individual and organizer. But throughout all these years, together, we have managed to play an important role at this institution and we must be very, very proud. So thank you very much for what you have helped me to do for this institution, thank you for what you have done for our son.

I know that this institution has a bright future because all I have to do is look and see each one of you. I know that you all have hopes for your students and for our university. So I’m quite confident that you will continue to give the person that replaces me all your support, your energy and your encouragement. I want to conclude by thanking you very, very much for 25 wonderful years. Godspeed with each one of you and to Missouri Southern.