Martin Jones retires as dean of College of Liberal Arts

Thursday, June 1, 2006

When Dr. Martin Jones arrived at Southeast Missouri State University as the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts in 1989, the university had no online classes and the River Campus arts school wasn't on the drawing board.

The university had an open admissions policy. Some students, Jones said, weren't really equipped academically for college.

A lot has changed in 17 years.

Jones retired Wednesday, leaving a university that has expanded its curriculum to include more than 150 Web classes, stiffened its admission requirements to be a moderately selective institution and proceeded with construction of the new River Campus School of the Visual and Performing Arts.

With construction well along -- the River Campus is scheduled to open in August 2007 on the site of a former Catholic seminary in Cape Girardeau -- the 67-year-old Jones said it's time for him to retire.

"Most all the planning has been done," he said of the River Campus project.

Jones, an amateur magician, won't pull a vanishing act in retirement.

Jones and his wife, Edith, plan to stay in Cape Girardeau. His wife is a speech pathologist at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

Jones plans to perform part time as a magician. "It has been a hobby of mine since I was 10," he said.

He even has a stage name. "Munroe the Mystifier." Munroe is his middle name.

Over the years, he's done a few magic tricks at university fund-raisers.

"He's an excellent magician," said Dr. Gary Miller, music professor in the College of Liberal Arts.

"My 8-year-old son was mesmerized when he appeared to pull a quarter out of his ear," Miller recalled.

Besides performing magic tricks, Jones plans to cultivate gourmet mushrooms and learn to speak German fluently.

Miller said Jones already speaks some French, Spanish and German.

"He is a man of enormous talent," Miller said.

But Jones hasn't basked in the limelight. Often soft-spoken, Jones finds satisfaction in seeing his faculty members and the college's students succeed.

"He won't talk about himself," Miller said.

"He has always been concerned that top-quality learning has been taking place in the classrooms of his college," said Miller.

Jones has been an advocate for hiring minorities and women for faculty positions, Miller said.

"He has enormous care for students," Miller said.

Although he's reluctant to talk about himself, Jones proudly talks about the College of Liberal Arts.

The college, which has been restructured over the years, has nine departments: Art, communication, English, foreign languages and anthropology; history and music; political science, philosophy and religion; psychology; and theater and dance.

The college also has two research centers, the Center for Faulkner Studies and the Center for Regional History.

The university museum, KRCU public radio station and a campus radio station for students also came under Jones' supervision.

He's been a strong proponent of public radio in Southeast Missouri, helping to see KRCU grow from a small, 100-watt station to a 6,500-watt station.

As dean, Jones oversaw 145 full-time faculty, 50 part-time faculty and 30 professional staff and clerical employees.

Liberal arts is the largest of the university's colleges both in terms of the number of faculty and the number of students majoring in degrees offered by the college.

The college has about 2,100 students each semester majoring in various liberal arts fields, Jones said.

As dean, Jones has been a staunch supporter of the River Campus project. Litigation and funding woes hampered the project early on. But Jones said he remained confident that the project would be built.

When the River Campus opens next year, he intends to be on hand for the celebration.

"The River Campus will provide cultural programming for the whole region and help improve the quality of life in Southeast Missouri," he said.

As Jones sees it, that's something to celebrate.

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