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Bob Samples retiring after 31 years as spokesperson, key policy advisor at UMSL – UMSL Daily

Bob Samples will retire as UMSL’s chief of staff on January 4. He spent 31 years at the university helping to lead communications and marketing efforts. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Pop samples have been a visible and influential presence at the University of Missouri-St. Lewis campus for more than three decades.

Even those who have never met him outside or in one of his offices over the years—in Woods Hall or the Marketing and Communications office in the J.C. Penney Building—may know about him.

Odds are good that they’ve seen him quoted in their newspapers or on TV in his role as a university spokesperson, or more likely, they’ve discovered frequent letters alerting them to various parts of campus news delivered to their email inboxes from his address: bob@umsl.edu.

“I’ll meet the graduates, and I’ll say my name, and they’ll go, ‘I know you. Samples said. “Because they used to get my emails about school closures or something else. We didn’t have the communications account, so all these things would always come under bob@umsl.”

He joked, “I always felt like I disappointed people when they met me.”

For the people he has worked with and for—including consultants Blanche Tohill, Tom George and Kristin Sobolek, and the legions of marketing and communications professionals who have served the university over the past 31 years—the samples have been an indispensable part of the campus community. He has helped lead UMSL’s marketing and communications efforts, crafting messages and addressing the media during challenging times. He has also provided thoughtful advice on countless institutional decisions as a member of the Cabinet, and for the past two years, as the university’s first chief of staff.

Both samples, 63, are scheduled to retire on January 4 and were praised by both Tohel and Sobolek for his support and advice during a retirement gala last Friday at the JC Penney Building’s Summit Lounge.

“Bob was one of the first people I met when I came to UMSL five years ago, and he has remained one of my most important advisors and mentors – someone I always seek his input on any issue because of his hands-on approach, told like that, his wisdom and advice, and because of his long-standing foundational dedication to the University of Missorini in Spain,” Sobolic said. “There can never be any doubt about Bob’s dedication to UMSL and his insight and presence will be missed.”

Leaving college was not an easy decision to make.

“I’m at peace with the decision because I know this is the right time for me to move on,” Simmens said. “It’s a good time for the foundation to move in and bring in someone who can really give me energy for the next five years, which I won’t be able to do.”

He has undoubtedly spent a lot already in his 31 years.

Samples arrived at UMSL in September of 1990 after spending more than two years working in media relations at the University of Missouri System office in Columbia, Missouri. This followed stints as a news reporter for the Dyersburg State Gazette in Tennessee and the Edwardsville Intelligencer in Illinois, as well as serving as an aide to Congressman Mel Price.

His move to UMSL was a homecoming of sorts. The samples love to joke that he was born on campus before it became a college campus. He was born at the former Saint Vincent Hospital in Normandy, which UMSL bought after the hospital closed.

Samples remember his first day on the job as UMSL presented the late John Denver with his first Global Environment Award. Specimens were not at the university for long when, following the departure of Betty Lee, he was appointed interim director of communications, who left to join the staff of Congressman William Clay Sr.

Working as a temporary consultant, Tohel eventually appointed him Director of Communications after her appointment became permanent.

“The appointment gave me an opportunity to literally build the communication function here,” Siemens said. “At one point, for various reasons, I was the only full-time employee of communications.”

His responsibilities have grown to include marketing direction as well, with promotions to vice-chancellor and associate vice-chancellor along the way.

“One of the things I have enjoyed working here is, on the one hand, the lack of staff, but on the other hand, it has given me an opportunity, by necessity, to enhance my skills in many areas that I have not,” said Siemens, who noted his successful work in helping to develop videos, writing speeches, and creating presentations throughout his career.

He is quick to appreciate the people who worked under him in marketing and communications to help him succeed.

Samples is particularly proud of three things he has worked on and championed during his career.

The first is UMSL Magazine, the semi-annual publication, which existed before its arrival but has helped grow into a publication that now reaches over 100,000 audiences, including alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of the university.

“The magazine has really been and remains the only medium for us to reach all of our constituents, particularly our alumni, about positive stories across campus,” Siemens said. “It’s not an alumni magazine. It’s an on-campus magazine, and I’ve always been very proud of its quality, especially considering there’s no publishing staff. We’ve won gold awards against much bigger universities that have staff dedicated to just these jobs. That’s a real source of pride.”

He was an integral part of creating UMSL Daily, the university’s online news blog, which served as a forum for sharing under-covered campus community success stories. He has been particularly helpful in getting the message out about the good work going on at the university in an age when newspaper and television newsrooms are shrinking.

The samples also helped develop and launch the I Chose UMSL marketing campaign, which became the basis of the university’s marketing efforts for a decade. In its early stages, it featured notable alumni on billboards displaying UMSL’s role in launching them into successful careers as business executives and civic leaders.

One of the things I enjoyed most about my time at university was meeting people as students and then meeting them again years later when they were established in their careers. He called up former Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zoeville, whom he first met when Zoeville was an undergraduate working as the managing editor of the current student newspaper.

As Samples looks toward retirement, he has no immediate plans except for a February trip to Florida to visit friends and participate in the Delray Beach Open tennis tournament.

The Samples, part of a four-member team that won the Super Senior World Tennis Championships last month in Orlando, Florida, will undoubtedly spend some of his newfound free time on the court, helping his elderly parents and babysitting his grandchildren.

He will miss his teammates over the years.

“I appreciate the people I’ve worked with directly and the people I’ve worked with directly, mostly in the communications and marketing team, because we have outstanding people coming through Marcom,” Samples said. “They have all been great. We have been really fortunate to have been able to hire some talented people who have worked hard and done so well.”


short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=91763


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