Excerpts from the Neosho Daily News

By Wes Franklin
Neosho Daily News
Sat Aug 09, 2008

In immediate view from the large conference center window, the walk-under Tatum Bell Tower stands 42-foot high in the center of campus and boasts two 100-year-old-plus bronze bells and four clock faces that automatically reset every 12 hours. Inscribed on its supports are words of inspiration taken from the Bible, the Torah, famous persons from history and from the tower's namesake--- Jim Tatum, chairman of the college's board of trustees. 

Tatum is the longest standing college trustee in the nation and has served on the Crowder board since the institution's inception in 1963. It was he, along with other concerned citizens, who helped push the drive to establish the community college.

Thanks, Jim Tatum, for service

By Dr. Alan Marble
Neosho Daily News
Wed Dec 24, 2008, 04:59 PM CST

Isaac Newton once said, "If I have seen further than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants." I believe Crowder College has seen further than many others because we have been privileged to stand on the shoulders of a true giant... James B. Tatum.

With the recent announcement of Mr. Tatum's decision to step down from his position as President of the Board of Trustees, there have been many adjectives used to describe his association with Crowder College... father, founder, friend, nurturer, patron, etc. And, all of these descriptions are absolutely true and perfectly accurate. But, knowing him as I do, I think he would most appreciate being known simply as a servant, because he has dedicated his life to serving others. Fortunately, Crowder College became his focus and passion as he continued to make service to others the defining attribute of his life.

As many of you know, Mr. Tatum is a proud graduate of West Point and bravely served our country in the Korean War, where he received severe and life threatening wounds. These wounds abruptly ended his highly promising career as an Army officer, but as with all larger than life giants, he refused to fall victim to the pity trap and courageously refocused his energies on serving his family, friends, and community.

It was his strength of character that led him to accept the challenge issued by Bob Anderson and others, to take a leap of faith, and start the hard work of laying the foundation for the establishment of Crowder College and our sister community colleges across the State of Missouri. Now, all these years later, one can scarcely imagine the number of lives that have been indelibly changed as a result of Mr. Tatum's decision to answer the call.

On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administration of Crowder College, I would like to publicly express our gratitude for Mr. Tatum's 45 years of service as President of the Board of Trustees. And, we are equally grateful that he will continue to serve as an active and vital Trustee, because over the years he has helped us learn how to be true Servant Leaders who desire to be the most ethical and caring educators we can possibly be. We will continue to lean on him for guidance and counsel.

In closing, I would like to borrow a quote from David Tatum (Mr. Tatum's son), who said of his beloved father: "He is an amazing soul with still much to give and even more love to share. To that I say, good for all who know and love Jim Tatum!"

David, your words are spot on, he is an amazing soul with much more to give... he is indeed a giant. And, speaking for all of the Crowder Family, I humbly submit that it is undeniably "good for us" and we do sincerely love Jim Tatum.

Dr. Alan Marble, PhD, is president of Crowder College.


Crowder's father: Board members comment on chairman's decision

By Wes Franklin
Neosho Daily News
Wed Dec 10, 2008, 03:27 PM CST

Probably more than anyone else now living, Jim Tatum is the father of Crowder College.

That's an analogy that has popped up more than once in response to Tuesday's announcement that Tatum will resign as president of the college's board of trustees, effective Dec. 31. He will continue to serve on the board, however, for the remainder of his elected term, which ends in April 2011 (See Tuesday's edition of the Neosho Daily News).

Board member Diane Andris used the patriarchal reference to Tatum in her reaction to his stepping down as leader of Crowder's governing board, which he has served on since the college's beginning in 1963. Trustee members were notified late last August in a resignation letter.
The board will officially accept Tatum's resignation at Thursday's regular board meeting.

"You can see from what Crowder has become that Jim Tatum has been there from the beginning, nurturing the college," Andris said. "I feel so privileged to have served on the board with him. His vision of the college from the beginning has been that of a serving institution. He has made us what we are today."

She later said that Tatum "is the father" of Crowder.

That, of course, would make Crowder College his child. Which is much how Tatum sees it, though with some slight adjustment.

"I was talking to some guy and he said 'you act like this (college) is one of your children,'" Tatum said. "That's really not a good thing to say, though, because it implies ownership. I don't own this, the people own it. But I guess I do see it as part of my being, part of my family."

Tatum's role in the foundation of the college first began about 1958, when he was serving on the McDonald County School board. Camp Crowder had just been declared surplus, which opened up possibilities for the land.

He and Bob Anderson, superintendent of Neosho Schools, had talked about the idea of forming a junior college district out of Newton and McDonald counties, but up to that time nothing had really been done about it. That is, until a meeting of area school superintendents was called and Tatum was elected to chair an ad hoc steering committee to look into the matter. On the same committee were other local community benefactors such as Hale McGinty, Vernon Pogue and Fred Clark.

The committee soon discovered it had its work cut out.

"We found out there wasn't even a law allowing us to create such a thing as a junior college district," Tatum said.

He and a couple of others drafted example legislation allowing contiguous school districts to form a junior college district and sent it to the University of Missouri president for review. It was then they learned that a similar group in St. Louis was trying to accomplish the exact same thing, which drew some statewide attention.

The governor appointed a statewide six-person subcommittee to examine the possible creation of junior college districts and, once again, Tatum was chosen to serve.

It took two years to get the appropriate legislation sponsored in bill form for presentation to the Missouri legislature. In the interval, meanwhile, there were other hurdles to jump.

The land that Camp Crowder sat on and which was necessary for the establishment of the college still belonged to the federal government.

"And they weren't just going to give it to us for nothing," Tatum said. "The big thing was getting the land. We had a statement from the federal government that they would give us this land if we created the (junior college) district. But that took a lot of doing."

In 1961, the Missouri General Assembly finally passed permissive legislation that at least allowed for the creation of junior college districts, though this would be subject to verification on state administrative levels that certain criteria had been met. Tatum and others spent hundreds of hours collecting the appropriate data to justify the establishment of the college district, as well as show that proper procedures were being followed.

After that was accomplished, he and other supporters of the cause took a bus to Jefferson City to introduce the gathered evidence, which Tatum delivered in a big presentation.

Whatever he said must have had an influence because the state gave the nod shortly thereafter.

But then the matter still had to be approved by local voters, since the college district would require a property tax levy to support it.

Just to get the question on the ballot entailed a huge petition drive to authorize an election, which meant a lot of going door-to-door. After that hurdle was jumped, there was still a campaign to get the issue passed. More door knocking.

Tatum recalled that he gave at least 35 talks to local clubs and organizations, urging voter support of the creation of the Crowder College district.

On the day of the election, April 2,1963, the ballot question passed by a three and a half to one margin.

"I was incredibly elated," Tatum said. "We carried it by three and a half to one when a lot of people said it wouldn't happen. But we campaigned hard and talked to a lot people and people bought into it. But to carry it like we did, oh my God, it was just incredible."

In the same election, Tatum was voted on as a member of the first Crowder board of trustees, along with Paul Patton, Jim Landis, Venta Plummer, Bill Lee and Gene Nichols.

"They're all dead now but me," Tatum stated.

He was chosen as the board chairman, a role he served in continually for more than 45 years and which he will relinquish at the end of this month.

Tatum is now the longest serving college trustee in the nation and will carry that distinction until his term is up in two years, should he decide not to run again.

He was asked why he has stayed so actively connected to Crowder for so long and in a position of leadership.

"It just became an incredible passion," Tatum said, also referencing his involvement on the national community college scene as well. "This was a piece of passion for me and contagious.
These are the uniquely American kinds of institutions. They are where the people live, the grassroots of it all. Its the biggest opportunity to make a difference in society. I don't know, I just got so passionate about it that it became a part of me. And there's no question that it still is and always will be."


Along with Andris, other Crowder board members also commented on Tatum resigning from his longstanding leadership post on the college's governing board.

Vice-chairman Andy Wood, who is expected to step up to the top spot, said Tatum has actually talked for the last few years about handing the reins over but that board members have always dissuaded him.

"I think Jim decided that he just wanted to take a lesser role on the board and we all decided to finally let him do that," Wood stated.

He said Tatum's leadership on the board had groomed any one of its members to take over if need be, though its generally understood that he will be tabbed. If, or when, that happens, Wood said he's learned a thing or two from Tatum in the 16 years he's served on the same board with him.

"There will be a continuation of how Jim has led by example, by just his absolute devotion to servant leadership, which hopefully is ingrained in Crowder College," Wood said. "And Jim has made sure to set up the framework to where any one of us should be able to handle it, if we do our jobs right."

Board member Rick Butler was quoted in Tuesday's report on Tatum's resignation, stating that "its a sad day for Crowder, but the school is in good hands" and that Tatum would still "be around."

Board member Al Chapman said he was just glad that Tatum wasn't planning on leaving the board altogether.

"We feel bad about it in the sense that he's the guy who has been our chair since Crowder began," Chapman said. "But we're lucky that he's going to stay on the board and he'll still be an active participant. So I think the transition is going to be smooth and I'm just so pleased that he's going to stay with us."

Echoing Andris' comments, board member Vickie Barnes also called Tatum "the father of Crowder."

"There is no one I can think of that embraces Crowder's mission, vision and values far more than Jim Tatum," Barnes stated. "...As Crowder College board of trustee president for over 40 years, Jim has demonstrated his enormous love for Crowder by encouraging and promoting each person to see their own value and influence within our community. He is a thoughtful man with curiosity and enthusiasm to create a positive change for all of humanity. It has been a tremendous honor for me to work with Jim and learn the meaning of board participation and leadership. Although Jim is stepping down as president, his commitment to the shared vision and goals of the board will continue."