Longest serving board member to retire


James B. Tatum, Crowder College’s longest serving board member, is the only person to have been a part of the progress and growth that is Crowder since its beginning. Now, less than a year since the college hit its 50 year milestone, Mr. Tatum has announced his resignation.

“I’m 88 years old,” said Tatum. “People don’t think in terms of someone serving that long,” he commented, speaking of the 50 years he has been on the Board of Trustees, 45 of those years serving as its president.

Having been with Crowder since its beginning, when the idea of a junior college was first being established in the area, Tatum played a key role in the establishment of the college.

“The [Crowder] project goes back to 1958,” Tatum recalled. “It took from 1958 to 1963 to get all the ducks in line, which was enormous…to try to write a law and get it started.”

Starting as a chairman for a steering committee to establish a college in the Newton and McDonald County area, Tatum has served the college for more than 55 years.

“It will be a tremendous change,” said Andy Wood, president of the Board of Trustees, of Tatum’s resignation, “but hopefully, because of the foundation built by Mr. Tatum, not a tremendous loss. Mr. Tatum realized long ago that principles of ethical leadership, civility and caring must be built into the fiber of an institution, and those principles must survive the person.”

“That kind of philosophy,” said Tatum, “that we’re servant leaders, that we care about Crowder; we care about all of the people whose lives are touched by it, and we have a determination to make that caring count…I want to see those principles carried out forever.”

Having built a “civil, serving, literate, learning community of responsible citizens,” Tatum leaves behind a legacy for the future of Crowder.

“Mr. Tatum is the living embodiment of servant-leadership principles,” commented Wood. “It is our duty…to make sure all of us, as the Crowder family, continue the principles of leadership through service, but further our understanding and involvement in these principles.”

According to The Joplin Globe, Tatum’s resignation will become effective in January, with the dedication of the McDonald County campus in Jane.

“I wanted to see the McDonald County project finished,” stated Tatum, “once I could see light at the end of the tunnel on the building I knew. It seemed a lot of things fell into place to make it the right time.”

“I think his being here since the opening helped a lot, since he could see throughout the years what needed to be done to help and make [Crowder] a good experience,” commented Krista Schuler, occupational therapy major.

After Tatum’s resignation, he will continue to work with Crowder in the search for a new president. The Board of Trustees will be starting a search for an interim to fill Tatum’s seat until the next regular election.