Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, family, friends and community leaders remembered Dennis Spellmann Friday during a memorial service at Lindenwood's Performance Arena.
President Spellmann passed away Aug. 30 at the age of 70.
President Spellmann guided the incredible enrollment growth at Lindenwood University over the past two decades and oversaw construction of nine new campus buildings that changed the St. Charles skyline.
“Dennis was a unique combination of visionary and educational leader, and he will be sorely missed,” said Jim Shoemake, Chairman of the Lindenwood Board of Directors. “His positive impact on higher education in the United States, exemplified by the success story that is Lindenwood University, will be his legacy.”
Shoemake, who delivered Friday's eulogy, said Lindenwood’s chief academic officer, James D. Evans, Ph.D., has become acting president.
“We have complete and full confidence in Dr. Evans to continue the mission and purpose for the university that was established under the leadership of Dennis Spellmann,” Shoemake said.
Spellmann came to Lindenwood in March, 1989, and began an unprecedented turnaround. Not only did he eliminate tenure and switch to merit pay for faculty, he banned co-ed dorms and "refounded" Lindenwood based upon the mission of the 179-year-old university's founder, Mary Easton Sibley. Under Spellmann's leadership, the university champions a philosophy of "educating the whole person" and instilling a values-centered approach in the classroom.
Lindenwood nearly closed in 1989. Then known as Lindenwood College, the St. Charles campus was comprised of 80 acres, endowment was less than $1 million and enrollment was down to less than 800. Under Spellmann's leadership, Lindenwood became a University and now has a campus of more than 500 acres, an endowment of over $50 million, and enrollment of 15,000 students and is one of the few colleges or universities in the country that remain debt-free.
Spellmann was recognized nationally as a leader in management and fiscal responsibility. A company he owned in the 1980s, Spellmann and Associates, was called upon frequently by the White House during the Reagan Administration to provide turnaround assistance to struggling colleges. There is no doubt, however, that his greatest success has been Lindenwood University.
His accomplishments at Lindenwood didn't just include the enormous growth at its main campus. Under his leadership, Lindenwood opened satellite campuses in O'Fallon, Wentzville, Lincoln County, South County, Florissant and Belleville, IL. These sites house the university's growing adult evening program.
Often fighting what he called "the bureaucracy of higher education," he was proud to call Lindenwood an independent, as opposed to private, school. He considered his time well spent when he lobbied legislators to "keep the government off my back" and let Lindenwood be free to compete.
Spellmann's expertise was not limited to colleges. He consulted in the private sector and worked with numerous foundations and municipal organizations. He served as city manager of three Texas cities, promptly balancing their budgets by focusing on infrastructure improvements, better services and new industry.
In 1954, Spellmann graduated from El Campo High School in Texas. He received his bachelor's degree from Missouri Valley College and his master's from the University of Texas.
An Eagle Scout and active in Boy Scouting for over 60 years, he served as chairman of the Boone Trails District and received two of scouting's highest honors, the Silver Beaver Award and the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
He attained the rank of captain in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served in the infantry and in intelligence. A stellar football player at Missouri Valley College, he was elected to the Hall of Fame at his alma mater.
One of Spellmann's favorite hobbies was tree-planting, a passion that was evident not only at his farm in Cottleville, but on Lindenwood's historic campus.
Memorial contributions may be made to the university in honor of the American Humanics Program. Send memorials to the development office, attn. Charlsie Floyd, 209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles, MO 63301.
The American Humanics program is an innovative course of study that equips students to become skilled professionals and leaders in America's nonprofit organizations. American Humanics was founded in 1948, by H. Roe Bartle, a Council Executive for the Boy Scouts of America. Dennis C. Spellmann was recruited from his local troop in Texas, to the founding American Humanics program at Missouri Valley College in 1953. He was one of the first American Humanics graduates, and the first University President to become certified (1957).
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