NEOSHO, Mo. —
A board member’s resignation is on the agenda for today’s meeting of the Crowder College Board of Trustees.
It’s not a routine resignation. The board member is James Tatum, a member of the board for all 50 years of the community college and board president for 45 years. He was instrumental in getting the college started.
“It seems like a pretty good time to leave, because I’ve been on so long,” Tatum, 88, said by phone. “I’ve had a growing realization it’s time for new blood.”
He wrote in his resignation letter that the college is in good hands, with an outstanding board, a superb interim president in Kent Farnsworth, and a wonderful staff and faculty.
“We are serving more people than ever and we enjoy a strong financial position,” he wrote.
He said by phone that he is no longer able to get around like he once did.
“Physically, I’m not able to get to all the things I would like to,” he said. “I used to get to an awful lot of events on campus.”
Alan Marble retired recently as Crowder College president, after 27 years on the faculty and in administration. He is now interim president at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
“He’s been the heart and soul of Crowder College,” Marble said about Tatum’s contribution to the college. He said it was hard to find words to describe what Tatum has meant for the school. He said it’s possible there may not have been a Crowder College without Tatum.
“His focus has been on servant leadership, ethical decision-making and moral courage,” Marble said.
Tatum, of Anderson, said he delayed resigning until he was certain that the McDonald County campus in Jane would become a reality. His resignation is to become effective upon the dedication of the McDonald County campus, probably in January.
Tatum was a member of a local committee that explored ways to establish a community college, beginning in the late 1950s. He also was a member of a subcommittee on junior colleges formed by Missouri Gov. James Blair. The Legislature in 1961 approved a bill. Tatum then negotiated with the Department of Defense and other federal and state agencies to allow the college to take over the two buildings at Fort Crowder, which the federal government had closed.
Voters on April 2, 1963, approved a property tax establishing the community college district of Newton and McDonald counties. Voters also elected six members to the new board, with the 37-year-old Tatum as the top vote-getter.
After starting with the two buildings in 1963, Crowder in recent years has established campuses in Cassville, Nevada and Webb City, and it offers classes in Carthage, Monett, Greenfield, Lamar and Mount Vernon.
It has formed agreements with area universities to allow students to pursue bachelor’s degrees. Recent agreements with high schools allow high school students to get an associate degree from Crowder upon graduation.
“I feel a oneness with the Crowder family and spirit and always will,” Tatum said in his resignation letter.
THERE IS A BUST of James Tatum in the Arnold Farber Building at Crowder College, and the Tatum Bell Tower is in the center of the campus.