Missouri Western faculty and administration received an email from President Vartabedian that announced the retirement of not one, but two prominent figures on the university’s campus on on Friday, April 13, at 2:11 PM.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeanne Daffron and Dean of Professional Studies Kathleen O’Connor will both retire from Western effective June 30th. Daffron, who began at Missouri Western in 1977, has served as provost since 2009.

These women would begin the first decade of their time at Western as officemates, and spend the next several years developing programs both in their field and across numerous professions.

O’Connor joined Western’s faculty in 1980. She has led the College of Professional Studies since 2013.

Western President Robert Vardebedian has worked with Daffron by his side for the past nine years.

“I tried to talk her out of it, but I guess when you’ve been here for 41 years you have the right to call your own shots,” Vartabedian said. I’m very very sorry to see her retire. In my career I only know a very small handful of people who have been at the same institution for that number of years.”

Associate Provost for Research, Planning and Institutional Effectiveness Doug Davenport will be serve an interim provost. He has been with in higher ed for over 25 years and has worked with seven different provosts in his time.

“She has been outstanding,” Davenport said. “She’s very caring, she’s a servant leader and it will indeed be a lose for the institution.”

While Daffron will be retiring, she will continue to serve in a half-time position, helping Davenport make the transition as the university conducts a national search for the next Provost.

Daffron and O’Connor, who both began at Western teaching in the nursing department, have worked together to make several developments to the program.

Having taught with Daffron as chair of the department for many years, O’Connor also served in this same role for 15 years.  

Under the administration of Daffron as Provost, O’Connor lead the development of Western’s Master of Science in Nursing program.

The two also worked to create a partnership with Metropolitan Community College that allowed Western to implement an RN-to-BSN program for its nursing students. The program, which only offered an associates degree when both women started, has developed to offer both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in several different areas of health services.

When asked about what she looked forward to most about her retirement, Daffron had a few different ideas in mind.

“There’s just so many things that I’ll have opportunities to do,” Daffron said. “Some kind of silly things. I can read a lot more. We all have stacks of books we know we really wanna read.” Daffron also mentioned an interest in learning to play the drums.

The Dean of Professional Studies position will be filled by Ben Caldwell, who will continue to serve as dean of the graduate school. “The chairs in the college of professional studies are very much on board with it and they think it’s a good plan,” O’Connor said.

Department of Education Chair Dr. Dan Shepherd will also begin serving as the assistant dean of professional studies.


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