Hearnes kept Southern in heart

Alexandra Nicolas

In 2007, the now late Gov. Warren Hearnes told a Chart reporter about his push to bring a four-year college to Southwest Missouri.Hearnes died Aug. 16 at his home. He was 86.He worked with men whose names now deck the buildings around Missouri Southern’s campus; Web-ster, Spiva, Hughes. He told them, and the rest of Joplin that if they would help him win the gubernatorial race, when legislation hit his desk to give Joplin a four-year college, he would sign it.Previous efforts to make the school a wing of the University of Missouri system had been vetoed.Forty-two years after the bill was signed to make Missouri Southern State College a four-year institution, Hearnes died at the age of 86. Making the promise to turn Joplin Junior College into a four-year school was part of what got him elected and he is remembered fondly for keeping that promise.Though the governor was out of office by the time President Emeritus Julio Leon took over, he thinks of Hearnes well and has a personally signed copy of Hearnes’ biography. “I remember how some of the former Regents held him in such high esteem,” Leon said. “He kept his word as a politician running for office.”Hearnes was Missouri’s first Governor to serve two consecutive terms and in that time he made pushes for higher education and reforms in mental healthcare. In return for the “promises he kept,” Hearnes’ photo hangs in the entryway of the building named for him. His biography is in the Spiva Library, and those with an institutional memory of Southern still have stories about him. Concluding an interview, Hearnes once said, of his time in Missouri politics, that he would never forget it. “He had very fond memories of Missouri Southern,” Leon said. “Our college had a special place in his heart.”