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MSSU Celebrates Its History, Marks Day, 20-Years Ago It Became A University

The passage of Senate Bill 55 and its signing by the governor at a ceremony held on campus on July 12, 2000, was the culmination of many years of work by both Dr. Julio Leon, then MSSC's president, and members of the local legislative delegation.

Missouri Southern State University in Joplin marked the day, Wednesday when lawmakers elevated the institution from a college to a university. KRPS’s Fred Fletcher-Fierro has more.

It’s difficult to think of a time when MSSU wasn’t known as Missouri Southern State University, though for the majority of the institution's history, it was known as Joplin Junior College for 40 years between 1937 and 1977.

In the late ‘70s, Missouri Southern became a part of the Missouri higher education system, then offering four-year degrees, and was then known as Missouri Southern State College.

former Missouri State Sen. Gary Nodler speaking at MSSU's 20th Anniversary
Fred Fletcher-Fierro
former Missouri State Sen. Gary Nodler speaking at MSSU's 20th Anniversary

In 2003, another sea change for then MSSC, after decades of advocating by former President Dr. Julio Leon, on July 12, 2023, then Missouri Governor Bob Holden signed Senate Bill 55 to elevate the college to a university.

Governor Holden was on hand Wednesday at Missouri Southern to mark the day.

“Gaining university status has been transformative for Missouri Southern State University, propelling it to the new heights of academic excellence, expanded opportunities, and an increase in local and national recognition.”

The name change also allowed MSSU to offer graduate programs, including the recently approved advanced degrees in healthcare administration and data analytics.

For 89 9 KRPS News, I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro

Since 2017 Fred Fletcher-Fierro has driven up Highway 171 through thunderstorms, downpours, snow, and ice storms to host KRPS’s Morning Edition. He’s also a daily reporter for the station, covering city government, elections, public safety, arts, entertainment, culture, sports and more. Fred has also spearheaded and overseen a sea change in programming for KRPS from a legacy classical station to one that airs a balance of classical, news, jazz, and cultural programming that better reflects the diverse audience of the Four States. For over two months in the fall of 2022 he worked remotely with NPR staff to relaunch to an NPR style news and information website.