Remembering Dr. Al Cade: a look back on a life lived for others


Pat Lipira, vice president of academic affairs, and Al Cade, former dean of the School of Education, pose for a photo during the Kappa Delta Pi induction ceremony in March 2012. Cade, who passed away Feb. 21, was posthumously awarded the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education April 7 in Jefferson City.

Every so often, an individual comes along who always places others first. Dr. Al Cade, who served in numerous roles at Missouri Southern before his death on Feb. 21, was one of those individuals.

Cade, who served as the dean of the School of Education, lost his long-term battle with cancer on Saturday. A number of campus and community leaders mourn Cade’s death but celebrate the legacy he left behind.

“He was a great man, a great colleague and a great human being,” said Southern President Alan Marble. “He served with integrity and was a role model for students and faculty alike – he will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Pat Lipira, vice president of academic affairs, had been good friends with Cade since they met while attending college at Northwest Missouri State in the late 70s and early 80s.

“He always called me his Bearcat buddy,” said Lipira, referencing their alma mater’s mascot.

The two both wound up at Southern and their friendship continued to blossom. Lipira looked back fondly on Cade’s career, admiring his passion for servitude.

“You can ask people to describe Al Cade and you will hear words like gentle, trustworthy, integrity, honest, humble, genuine — and they are all true, but in my mind the thing he would like to be remembered for the most is having a servant’s heart,” said Lipira. “He had a passion for serving. He served Missouri Southern, he served our students and he served the community – his legacy is his model of servitude.”

Cade’s drive to help others was displayed through the numerous organizations he volunteered with. Rhonda Gorham, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Missouri, who once upon a time sat in his classroom at Southern, had nothing but praise for Cade, who regularly donated time and money to the organization she now directs.

“Dr. Cade was passionate about kids, especially those in need,” said Gorham. “He volunteered his time and talent to assist in governance of the club by serving on the board of directors and assisted with fundraising for programming.”

His involvement with the Boys & Girls Club hardly scratched the surface of his volunteer work as a whole. Cade was involved with the Joplin Area Special Olympics, the Miracle League of Joplin, the Joplin Human Rights Commission, the Southwest Center for Excellence and Joplin’s Schools and Facilities Committee, among others.

“It was always about everyone else with Al,” said Lipira. “I visited him in the hospital and I said, ‘Al, how do you do it mentally?’ because I knew he was suffering and he said, ‘I get up every morning, I pray and I think to myself that somebody has it worse than I do.’”

Throughout his career at Southern, where he served on and off in different capacities between 1984-2015, Cade accomplished a number of tasks and left a lasting imprint on the campus. One of his biggest accomplishments at Southern, according to Lipira, was the work he put in to ensure that a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration would be offered at the University.

Just days before his passing, Lipira visited Cade in his ICU room. She told him that, because of him, the new degree program was approved at the state level.

“He took my hand, raised it up and he smiled the biggest smile ever and said, ‘We worked hard, Pat, we worked really hard,’” said Lipira.

In his 25 years at Southern, Cade served as a professor in the classroom, an assistant on the football field, the chair of the department of Teacher Education and the School of Education’s interim dean.

In remembrance of Cade, Southern, together with Cade’s family, will set up a memorial scholarship to honor him. Contributions for the Dr. Al Cade Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made through the Southern Foundation office or the Multiple Myeloma Cancer Research Foundation.

A public funeral service will be held for Cade in the Taylor Performing Arts Center at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28. All students and alumni are invited to attend the service.

“It was always about everyone else – it was never about him,” said Lipira. “Now, Saturday needs to be all about Al Cade; let’s turn the table and celebrate everything he has done.”