Brigadier General (Ret.) Robert L. "Steve" Stephens, vice president of External Relations for Clayton State University, went home to West Virginia Saturday, to give the commencement address at Bluefield State College, and to receive a singular honor. "The General," as he's known around the Clayton State campus, is now a doctor as well.
As part of his keynote speech for the Bluefield State graduation ceremonies Stephens, a native of Welch, W. Va., was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humanities, becoming the first Clayton State administrator in recent memory to receive an honorary degree from another institution of higher learning. The award comes as Stephens prepares to retire from Clayton State after 10 years of service. His final day will be June 30, 2012.
Located in Bluefield, W. Va., and largely serving students from southeastern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia, Bluefield State was founded to serve the racially segregated public schools in the local coal camps in 1895. The institution eventually evolved into a black teacher‘s college, and was renamed Bluefield State Teachers College in 1931. The name Bluefield State College was adopted in 1943, reflecting a growth in the number and diversity of the institution‘s academic programs.
Bluefield State College was integrated after 1954. By the 1960s, the College had a comprehensive four year program of teacher education, arts and sciences, and engineering technology. Gradually, a variety of two-year technical programs evolved in response to local needs. Bluefield State College has since emerged as a diverse, four-year state supported college with a primary academic emphasis in professional and technical programs.
Stephens started at Clayton State in the fall of 2002 as director of Academic Advisement for the Clayton State School of Business, and as a visiting assistant professor. He was appointed executive assistant to the president in April 2005, with duties including serving as the University's Affirmative Action Officer and handling special projects and assignments for the Office of the President.
Stephens he began serving as interim vice president of External Relations in September 2006 and became vice president on Nov. 1, 2008. He has been responsible for Clayton State's Development, Alumni Relations, Image and Communications, and University Relations functions. Kate Troelstra, currently senior director of Development at Clemson University, will assume the vice president's role on June 11, 2012.
Born in Welch, W.Va., Stephens majored in English and Social Studies at West Virginia State College (WVSC), a historically black college in Charleston. While attending WVSC (now West Virginia State University), he served in the Reserve Officers Training Corps, playing a role in leading the largest Corps of Cadets in the history of WVSC.
His ROTC service led to more than 30 years of service in the United States Army. He received the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Army Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with "V" device and two oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Special Forces Tab, the Master Parachutist Badge and other various honors before retiring as a Brigadier General in 1993. While in the military, he graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College.
In his civilian educational career, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from WVSC in 1962, and a Master of Science degree in Education from Alfred University. His other postgraduate studies include attendance at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and the Terry Stanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University. He is also a graduate of the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs.
His civilian accomplishments include; Who's Who in American Colleges and Universities, Who's Who in America, The African American Hall of Fame, the Council of State Governments' Toll Fellowship Program and twice being named a Distinguished West Virginian.
Those who have served with him at Clayton State consider him a Distinguished "Laker" as well.