Missouri Western community mourns loss of former president

Mar. 17—James Scanlon, former Missouri Western State University president who helped the school achieve university designation, died on Tuesday at 79 years old.

Scanlon served as Missouri Western's president for seven years before retiring in 2008.

When Scanlon arrived at Missouri Western in 2001, it was his fifth university in a nearly 40-year career. During his administration, the school earned its university designation and accumulated over $10 million in private donations, which were reinvested in the campus and the quality of Missouri Western's education.

The university's Board of Governors quickly cemented Scanlon's legacy within the school by renaming one of the campus's residence halls, the 'Living Learning Center,' to 'Scanlon Hall' in his honor.

After his retirement, Scanlon and his wife, Lauren, established the Blake K. Scanlon Applied Learning Scholarship for Missouri Western students in honor of their son. Additionally, two of Missouri Western's annual faculty awards are named after Scanlon.

Councilman Taylor Crouse, a regent at Missouri Western during Scanlon's time as president, said having Scanlon in charge was a blessing for the school and community.

"Dr. Scanlon, or as he always preferred to be called, 'Jim,' he was hired as president during my term. For 18 years we had the same president, Dr. Janet Murphy, and she made things look effortless," he said. "I mean, she built bridges with legislators and with the local business community and other leaders, so it was a daunting task to try and replace her.

"We had two rounds (of interviews). The first round was fruitless. We didn't find what we were looking for, and I'm glad we didn't settle on somebody, and we opened up a second round because all of a sudden Dr. Scanlon became a candidate," Crouse continued. "He was a natural fit. You wouldn't know he was from New York City unless he told you because his entire career was basically in the Midwest from Illinois to Ohio to Missouri. He just had that folksy 'Midwestern-ness' about him."

Missouri Western President Elizabeth Kennedy issued a statement expressing her sympathies to Scanlon's family on Friday afternoon.

"Dr. Scanlon will be remembered for his warmth, his empathy and his integrity by those who knew him. He will be deeply missed by family, friends, and our University community. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Dr. Scanlon during this difficult time. Memorial arrangements are pending," Kennedy said in a statement.

After his retirement, Scanlon left St. Joseph to reconnect with a part of his family on the East Coast. He died in California.

"This is a wonderful life," Scanlon said to News-Press NOW after his retirement announcement in 2008, "but it doesn't go on forever."

Daniel Slaybaugh can be reached at daniel.slaybaugh@newspressnow.com.