As Jeanie Webb walks toward the construction zone at Rose State College in Midwest City, a student stops her with a quick hello.
Webb pulls Isaac Watham, president of the RSC President’s Leadership Class, over for a quick chat before continuing the journey to the chain-link fence blocking the nearly completed student union building.
In a bright mustard-yellow suit, Webb looks just as natural posing among piles of red dirt and heavy machinery as she does in her office as president of Rose State College.
Webb doesn’t like to talk about herself. She’d rather talk about the progress the college in Midwest City has made over its 50-year history. She touts the support of community partners like Tinker Air Force Base, the work of the regents and board of RSC and how the college is one of the leading workforce development campuses in the state.
But the story of Rose State College, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is surprisingly similar to that of its first female president.
Both came from humble beginnings. Rose State College began with a single business building and a handful of students when it opened as Oscar Rose Junior College in 1970.
Webb came from an even more humble home in Tulsa’s east side, and although poor as the red dirt she posed on, her family encouraged her despite the hardships.
Over the past 50 years, RSC has educated more than 270,000 students, not including workforce training, community learning and wellness programs.
RSC now has 22 buildings and serves students from 66 counties in Oklahoma, 34 states and 25 different countries. It offers on-campus housing and serves more than 40 different student groups.
Webb was born in Tulsa in 1960 and grew up in east Tulsa, a low-income area of the city at the time.
“We didn’t have any money. My mom was a data entry keypunch operator in the day and my dad was a barber. He was a barber who had a stroke at 36, so my mom basically had to support the family on her income, which was not much money,” said Webb.
When Webb graduated from high school, her parents didn’t know scholarships were available. Despite that, Webb was offered a Fulbright scholarship to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M to work on the pom and dance team.
Webb eventually attended Northeastern State University. She was on a fast track and graduated in three years with a bachelor’s degree in education. She was offered a job at Northeastern after an internship and earned her master’s degree in a year. She completed her doctorate degree from Oklahoma State University in three years while working full time and driving more than three hours back and forth to school.
“A lot of times people think a college president has all these opportunities and all these academic opportunities, but I created that academic success. It was through the encouragement of my mother and the faculty.”
Webb went on to serve as dean at Northeastern, at Northeastern’s Muskogee Branch campus and at the University Center in Tulsa.
In 1997, then-Rose State President Larry Nutter and board members visited the Muskogee campus and began talking about a new performance arts theater that was being built at RSC.
“I took a tour and they started talking about all the exciting things that were happening at Rose State,” said Webb. “I came here in 1998 as associate VP of external affairs and started the theater with the Civic Center (now Civic Center Foundation).”
Webb moved up the ranks and served as vice president of external affairs and vice president of student affairs under President Jim Cook.
In 2011, Webb became the seventh president and first woman president of Rose State College.
In 2017, the college opened the new state-of-the-art Learning Resources Center building, which includes a library, a tutoring center and academic testing. Students, faculty and staff also have a coffee shop in the building.
The new student union is the next big project. Slated to open this fall, the building will include admissions and records, student support services, student recruiting and the Student Engagement office. An all-new student lounge, a multi-station cafeteria, a campus bookstore, multiple conference rooms and a 400-seat ballroom are also included in the new building.
“It’s going to be a one-stop shop for students, said Webb.
The college has also embraced its role in training a workforce for the aerospace industry in Oklahoma. RSC started an Aerospace Expansion Program that partners with Metro Tech, the University of Oklahoma and other institutions.
Rose State also has multiple programs aimed at jobs listed as a critical occupation in Oklahoma, like engineering, dental hygiene, healthcare and cybersecurity.
Rose State was recently awarded an $880,000 grant from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to develop Oklahoma’s cybersecurity workforce and build a cybersecurity center. It also opened the MOOG Additive Manufacturing Learning Lab in 2019.
“The most rewarding to me is seeing a student graduate, seeing a student be successful, seeing the light bulb go on. I love working with students. We change lives,” she said.
Link to Journal Record article by Heide Brandes https://journalrecord.com/2020/04/10/rscs-first-female-president-rises-to-challenge/