Dr. Connie O’Neal to receive Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award
WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Dr. Connie O’Neal, former professor of English at Missouri State University-West Plains, will receive the Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award during the Missouri State University Alumni Association’s annual spring picnic for alumni and friends at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the West Plains Civic Center exhibit hall.
In its third year, the award recognizes extraordinary service among former employees of Missouri State-West Plains. Among the qualities considered are professional and/or academic achievements, as well as a demonstrated commitment to the university’s mission. Nominees must have been employed by the university for at least five years and must not currently be employed by the Missouri State University System.
“I am delighted Dr. Connie O’Neal has been selected to receive this honor from Missouri State University-West Plains,” said Director of Development Elizabeth Grisham. “Her nominator, Nancy Pease Gallavan, said Dr. O’Neal ‘epitomizes academic professionalism,’ and I couldn’t agree more. During her 22 years of service to the university, she was an exemplary teacher, leader and role model.”
O’Neal’s affiliation with Missouri State-West Plains extends back to its earliest days in the 1960s when, after raising her three children, she enrolled in classes at the newly-formed residence center to pursue an education degree. She completed that bachelor’s degree at Missouri State University in Springfield in 1973 and followed it with a master’s degree in education at the same university in 1979. In 1984, she earned a specialist’s degree in community college teaching from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, and completed her Ph.D. in 1992 at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. She also has studied abroad at Cambridge University in Cambridge, England, and at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.
She began her career as an educator in 1971 working as a substitute teacher at West Plains High School. She became a full-time language arts teacher at the school in 1973. In addition to teaching, O’Neal served as head of the English department, sponsored both the junior and senior classes, and organized the school’s Future Teachers of America club during her 10-year tenure with the school.
In 1978, she rejoined the Missouri State-West Plains campus as an adjunct faculty member and became a full-time instructor of English at the campus in 1983. She achieved assistant professor status in 1987 and associate professor status in 1994.
During her 22-year tenure at Missouri State-West Plains, she witnessed the campus’ growth potential first hand, watching the dedications of the campus’ first two permanent locations, Kellett Hall and Looney Hall (then known as Central Hall), as well as construction of Melton Hall and the Lybyer Technology Center.
She also contributed to its growth through her various leadership roles, including assistant dean of academic affairs for community education and chair of the English department, the division of arts and humanities, and the curriculum committee. In addition, she developed and supervised the campus’ Learning Skills Center, founded and sponsored the campus’ Future Teachers Association, developed the Summerfest Program for area sixth through eighth graders, and organized one of the campus’ first study abroad opportunities to the British Isles. She also spearheaded the effort to bring bachelor’s and master’s degree completion programs in education from main campus in Springfield to the West Plains campus.
In 1995, O’Neal received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education from the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education. At the time, she was praised by the campus’ leadership as someone who had “a sincere concern for students” and “continually strives to improve her teaching skills and knowledge of the subject matter.”
O’Neal retired in 2000, but not before earning the sincere gratitude and deep respect of her peers through her enthusiasm for the profession of teaching, extensive preparation she dedicated to student learning, and professionalism she exhibited in every endeavor she undertook.
The first Distinguished Faculty/Staff Award was given at the 2010 annual picnic to former Director of Development and Associate Professor of History Carol Silvey. In 2011, the award went to former Missouri State-West Plains Dean Marvin Green.
The annual picnic is free and open to all Missouri State University alumni and friends; however, reservations should be made prior to the event, organizers said. For more information or to make reservations, call the Missouri State-West Plains development office at 417-255-7240.