Southeast Alum Creates Teaching Scholarship
Charles Robert "Bob" Depro of Sikeston, Mo., loves the moments when knowledge and understanding collide.
"When you see in a student's eyes that ‘click' when it finally makes sense and they're excited about something—that makes it all worth it," says Bob.
Bob is a part-time history instructor at Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston, but his love of teaching began more than 50 years ago. He was inspired to pursue an education degree because of a high school teacher who had the ability to inspire students to go above and beyond.
Bob graduated from Southeast in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in secondary education with a major in social studies. He received a master's degree in education from the University of Mississippi.
"At Southeast I had instructors with Ph.D.'s and the classes were small," he says about choosing to attend Southeast for his undergraduate degree. "I felt like the education was better."
While at Southeast, Bob was a member of the College Republicans, the Golden Eagles Marching Band, Pi Kappa Alpha and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Whether it was studying or marching to the Southeast fight songs, his time at Southeast prepared him for his future career and life.
"I really feel the education I got at Southeast was very practical and the education courses helped me to be a better teacher," he says. "I was extremely well prepared coming out of Southeast. I was very proud of my degree, and when I went to Ole Miss for my graduate degree, I was never prouder because I had done things and knew things that students who went to far larger universities did not know."
Today, Bob is a Sikeston City Councilman and has served on the board of directors of the Delta Area Economic Opportunity Corporation, the Sikeston Public Schools Board of Education from 2000-2014, and the board of trustees for the Sikeston Public Library and as a trustee. He is Sunday school teacher and member of the chancel choir at First United Methodist Church. He also served the Sikeston School District from 1966-2000. He continues to teach at Southeast's Sikeston regional campus where he tries to excite and inspire every day, whether it's with a discussion about affirmative action or John F. Kennedy.
"In two weeks, I tried to capture the magic of his administration and why he was such an inspiration to young people," he says of JFK. "Students today have never gone through identifying with a candidate that excites or motivates them like he did."
Kennedy's call to service is another reason why Bob was inspired to become an educator and teach the next generations of young leaders.
To help future teachers along their path to service, Bob recently made plans for his legacy through a $250,000 bequest to the Southeast Missouri University Foundation to establish an endowed scholarship in his name.
He said he hopes his scholarship will inspire young teachers to expand their educational career and to be passionate about education.
"I'm a very lucky person because I've been teaching for 50 years and I still get up every morning excited about going to work," he says. "Very few people have that feeling. I want Southeast students and graduates to be excited about their profession and enjoy teaching."
Bob has worked with young teachers throughout his career and often hears students say they can't pursue a master's degree because they cannot afford it.
"If I can step up and help them, then I think I should do that," he says. "That will be a legacy that lives on for many years in the future, and hopefully many students will benefit from that."
He hopes his gift will inspire other alumni to support the University whether it's monetarily or through service.
"There are a lot of teachers who have the ability to do far more than I did, and the question is, if we're professionals, then why don't we help our profession?" he says. "A lot of people think, ‘Well, it's a public institution that gets help from the state,' but in this day and age, with the cost of education continuing to rise, they desperately need alumni to help, as well."
When awarded, the Bob Depro Endowed Scholarship for Social Studies Education will be a renewable scholarship for students enrolled at Southeast Missouri State University who have a minimum 2.0 grade point average and are in need of financial assistance.
Bob feels blessed to have the ability to help students be better teachers and-as his own career demonstrates-Southeast prepares some of the best.
"It's a great school and it gives them a great head start in life," he says. "I owe everything I got to Southeast-my career, my happiness, my profession right now. If I hadn't gone to Southeast, I wouldn't have any of that. I'm just pleased I have the opportunity to give back to the institution."