Longtime Educator Donates $250,000 to UM School of Education

Bob Depro's gift to support scholars of social studies

Bob Depro is most at home among his students.

Bob Depro is most at home among his students.

OXFORD, Miss. – Bob Depro has called basketball games as the PA announcer for the Sikeston (Missouri) Senior High School Bulldogs for 53 years. He’s passionate about his support of the team, but there’s one thing he’s even more passionate about: education.

“Very few people have an opportunity as I have for the last 51 years in teaching to get up every morning and be excited about going to their job,” Depro said. “I know that I owe that to Southeast Missouri State and to Ole Miss, so I made a gift to both schools in the exact same dollar amount, $250,000, for the same purpose: to encourage social studies education.”

The Cape Girardeau, Missouri, native received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Southeast Missouri State University in 1966 and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Mississippi in 1970. He returned to Missouri, where he taught social studies and history at Sikeston High School for 34 years and Southeast Missouri State University for 15 years and counting.

His gift to the UM School of Education has established the Bob Depro Education Excellence Scholarship Endowment for Social Studies Majors, a fund he hopes will give students the support they need to earn master’s degrees in social studies or history and then become teachers.

“We have too many people who have degrees in administration and counseling and not enough people with graduate degrees who are teaching in the field,” Depro said, adding that he hopes to inspire other teachers who have financial ability to make similar gifts in support of their respective fields.

“We desperately need good, young teachers with master’s and specialist degrees in social studies to remain in the field and improve upon it. That will make our teaching area more exciting and more relevant to students.”

Depro’s generous gift will be appreciated for generations to come, said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education.

“I have great respect for Bob Depro, who had the foresight to provide such significant support for our students, knowing that gifts like this will ultimately have a great impact on the profession itself,” Rock said. “Mississippi and our country need great schools of education. That is what we are constantly working toward at Ole Miss.”

Depro knows the importance of private giving.

“If you rely on public funding, all universities are going to be in sad shape,” he said. “They have to have alumni and interested individuals step up and help support the programs the university offers. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s paying it forward. I’ve had a great career. I’m still teaching for Southeast and I just think it’s the time to do it.”

Billy Crews, development officer for the School of Education, traveled to Sikeston twice last fall, had lunch with Depro and observed him at work in the classroom.

“Based on my observation, he must have recruited many students from Sikeston to attend Ole Miss,” Crews said. “There is a regular pipeline of students from that area who have come to Ole Miss for years. I suspect Bob is influential in inspiring many of those.”

Recently, Depro personally accompanied three high school seniors on a campus visit. In fact, he has invited hundreds to campus through the years.

“I always look for an excuse to go to Ole Miss,” Depro said. He hopes the students will grow to love his alma mater as much as he does.

“I had a cousin who went to Ole Miss and lived right across the street from me,” he recalled. “She kept saying what a beautiful place it was and how nice the people were. In my senior year at Southeast, I was looking for a place to do my graduate work, so I came down and just fell in love with Ole Miss and Oxford.

“I owe a deep debt of gratitude to people like Dr. Roscoe Boyer, who was one of my instructors at Ole Miss, and others who helped to hone my teaching skills and make me a better teacher. The thing I appreciated most was that everything I did in graduate work, I could bring back home and use in my classroom.”

Depro considered being a journalist until high school, when one of his teachers, Carl Wright, inspired him to become an educator. He has never looked back.

“It’s seeing kids excited about learning,” Depro said. “It’s seeing kids who are inspired to go further than just textbook material. It’s seeing students of mine 10 or 20 years after I had them in the classroom come back and realize what great citizens they are and they tell you they appreciate what they learned in your class. That’s what’s really rewarding.

Among many other professional achievements, Depro was named Missouri Teacher of the Year in 1988 and was the Missouri winner of the 1996 National Teacher of the Year competition. He also received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Missouri State Teachers Association.

He has served as president of a number of organizations, including the Southeast Missouri Teachers Association, Sikeston Community Teachers Association, Missouri Council for Social Studies and the Missouri Council for Geographic Education. He is a 16-year national delegate to the National Council for Social Studies and has served on the executive committee of the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Depro is also active in his church and community, having served on the Sikeston School Board (2000-2004) and Sikeston City Council (2011-present) among other organizations.

For more information about including the university in a will or other estate plans, contact the UM Foundation at 800-340-9542 or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/planning. To give to the UM School of Education, contact Billy Crews at 662-915-2836 or wlcrews@olemiss.edu.