Applauding Others: Dr. Gerald McDougall


story by Michelle Queiser

When I sat down with Dr. Gerald McDougall in January of this past year, he was quite certain that I didn’t need to write a story about his pending retirement.

“You really don’t have to do this,” he repeated countless times over the next hour, despite my assurances that this story was about more than just his 24-year career as dean of Southeast’s Harrison College of Business.

It was about his passion and commitment to the University, easily discerned in the accomplishments and successes during his tenure. It was about the Harrison College of Business achieving and maintaining its business accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International since 1996. It was about establishing a nationally recognized Master of Business Administration program, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the Master of Science in Management program. It was about expanding the undergraduate program offerings to include a number of new majors and international programming, including dual-degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. It was about adopting new technologies to provide a wide variety of online courses and undergraduate and graduate degree programs; laying the foundation for programs focused on student and community success including the Center for Business and Economic Research, the Douglas C. Greene Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the Catapult Creative House, recently named an AACSB Innovation That Inspires.

“Those are important to me, but I didn’t do it,” he said. “The faculty and students did.”

That modesty was a hallmark of his administration style, says Dr. Judy Wiles, professor of marketing.

“He always gave praise to others–he didn’t take the glory,” she says. “He was known to do that privately as well–when he saw something he was impressed with or by, he would readily send that person a note or an email.”

His sincerity extended in and out of the office every day of his career–he had an open door policy and was always easy to talk to and with, says Sherri Jenkins, his long-time senior administrative assistant.

“We had a very special environment here, and it started with him,” she says. “He was kind and respectful to everyone–he wanted to talk and interact with you.”

Dr. Chris McGowan, dean of the College of Science, Technology & Agriculture, says, “He saw the bigger picture than just his college. Although he represented the college, he also thought about the University and students across the whole campus.”

That devotion arose in his willing undertaking of responsibilities beyond his deanship–twice serving as interim Provost and chief academic officer; twice serving as interim vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the Southeast Missouri University Foundation; and supervising Extended Learning, the Missouri Innovation Corporation, International Education and Services, Southeast Online and the regional campuses located in Sikeston, Kennett and Malden, as well as the Cape College Center.

McDougall smiled and paused for a moment when I asked him about these additional assignments.

“It’s been a varied and interesting career,” he said.

That hesitation was rare when his vision and leadership was called upon.

“He took on any task people asked of him,” Jenkins says. “He seemed tireless. I don’t know where he got the energy.”

That was a question I had for him too – how did he do it all?

“I tell people I’ve never worked a day in my life,” he said. “What makes coming to the office each morning so great is the opportunity to work with, support and encourage very bright people.”

As the interview came to an end and I glanced over my notes, I only had one more question for the man who seemed to accomplish so much–what now?

“I haven’t even started thinking about that,” he said. “There’s a lot of things the faculty want to accomplish over the next few months and my primary responsibility is to support them to continue to do great things.”

On Sunday, March 5, my article became about something else. A loss. The University lost Dr. Gerald McDougall a few months shy of his retirement. He passed away from natural causes suddenly at his home. Months have passed and the shock has subsided; grief remains, but his spirit continues to influence the Southeast community.

“He was a special friend to so many,” says Bill Holland, vice president for University Advancement. “I will continue to talk to him–he just won’t be gone.”

McDougall’s positive effect on colleagues, faculty, staff and thousands of students over the years was seen in the countless phone calls and emails he received in the days following, says Holland.

“Only he could do that.”

For many, his spirit will continue to flourish each year in the cherry trees he had planted leading to his college.

“Every year we would wait for them to bloom,” says Jenkins. “He was always so excited about that. When I walked in the other day and saw them, it made me happy.”

To honor his amazing career and leadership, the college and its student organizations will plant a white dogwood tree this fall in front of Glenn Auditorium. A bench and marker will also be placed – all in view of Gerry’s trees.

Still Applauding Others

Jenkins just had the Sherri L. Jenkins Business Scholarship established in her honor by Karen and the late Dr. Gerald McDougall.

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