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Does this add new meaning to C of O's Five Fold Mission or what?

by Gary Groman aka The Ole Seagull
published: Jan 25, 2004

Seagull Musings for January 25, 2004


An article in the Jan. 15 edition of the Springfield News Leader reported that "The education credentials of Larry Cockrum, the school's dean of administration and director of its Keeter Center for Character Education, were called into question last fall by C of O, (College of the Ozarks), biology professor Jonathan Davis." What really caught the Ole Seagull's attention however was what immediately followed, "Davis was suspended in December for the spring semester and will not be offered a contract renewal for next year."


"Surely that must be a misprint," he thought but alas, and to his disappointment, it wasn't. The article went on to report that "Virginia Fry, the school's attorney, said earlier that if Davis had done things properly and reported what he learned to his division chair, he'd likely still be working at the school." Well Virginia there might be a Santa Claus but, in an Ole Seagull's opinion, given the apparent facts of this situation, short of Davis backing off, even Santa couldn't have kept Davis in his position.


What had Davis "learned?"  According to the article, Larry Cockrum, C of O's dean of administration and, the school's director of its Keeter Center for Character Education, had received a Ph.D. in 1991, from Crescent City Christian College. The article went on to point out that the "college" was being operated out of a residence, that "investigators from Texas and Louisiana have said the degrees from Crescent City were fraudulent," that "the school is no longer operating," and that "C of O still lists Cockrum as having a Ph.D. in its most recent academic catalog."


From the Ole Seagull's point of view, here's where it gets interesting, in a sad sort of way. It appears that C of O knew about the Cockrum's "sham" Ph.D. when they hired him. William Todd, former C of O administrator and board member was reported to have said, "everyone on the board was aware of Cockrum's degree when they hired him in 1992, but 'It didn't matter at the time. ... We didn't consider it that important.'


Why didn't it matter at the time? Why didn't they consider it that important? In an email received from C of O's attorney, Virginia Fry, she said, "During this process, the credentials of the candidate are reviewed and, if necessary, questions are asked. Since you may be wondering about Dean Cockrum, the position that he applied for initially at the college was Dean of Students. The position required only a master's degree. The Ph.D. has not been required for any position that he has held at the college."


No Virginia, an Ole Seagull would respectfully disagree. The position required more than a masters degree, it required a person with a character consistent with the qualities that the college's "Five Fold Mission" program seeks to impart to its students. If it doesn't start with its faculty where does it start?


The fact of the matter is that it appears, whether required or not, Cockrum submitted an employment application holding himself out as having a Ph.D. that, given the circumstances under which it was received, no reasonable person, let alone a college trained professional with a masters degree, could reasonably consider legitimate. It also appears, in spite of what he knew or should have known that for over a period of 13 plus years Cockrum has compounded the situation by holding himself out as a Ph.D.


Unfortunately, the situation only gets worse. It appears that "everyone on the board was aware of Cockrum's degree when they hired him in 1992, but "It didn't matter at the time" because they didn't consider it that important. Yet, knowing what they knew about the way Cockrum obtained his Ph.D. the college administration not only hired him and holds him out to the public, students, accrediting associations, and potential donors as a Ph.D. but, in an oxymoron turn of events, made him the director of the colleges Keeter Center for Character Education.


How does the process that the college has followed relating to the hiring of Cockrum, holding him out as a Ph.D., and its "firing" of Davis for the way he exposed what appears to be a "living lie," illustrate the application of C of O's "Five Fold Mission?" (Academic Goal, Vocational Goal, Spiritual Goal, Patriotic Goal and Cultural Goal) Exactly where did either the actions of Cockrum or the college, in this situation, help "provide a sound education," "promote a strong work ethic," encourage "the development of good character and values" or demonstrate an "adherence to high personal standards?" Sadly, from an Ole Seagull's perspective the answers, in order, are "it doesn't" and "nowhere."



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