Dr. Julio Leon, president emeritus, talks with his former secretary, Nancy Messick at a reception in his honor.

Dr. Julio Leon, president emeritus, talks with his former secretary, Nancy Messick at a reception in his honor.

Alexandra Nicolas

As is tradition at Missouri Southern, Julio León, president emeritus was honored Wednesday, for his 25 years as “the patriarch of the Southern family.”

“I have been called many things in my life,” León said, “To be called a patriarch, it makes me seem old, but I don’t feel old. I never have.”

The reception, held at 2 p.m. in the Connor Ballroom brought three decades worth of the Southern community back to give a few hugs and to shake León’s hand as he worked his way through the crowd. Attendees included members of the Board of Governors, faculty, staff, administration, community members and Southern retirees.

“It’s great to see so many faces we haven’t seen in a while,” said Acting President Terri Agee.

The reception concluded with a formal presentation honoring Leon and his wife, Vivian León, along with a few presenters’ favorite León anecdotes.

“One of my favorite things about Dr. León was the phone calls,” said Dr. Jack Spurlin, former vice president for lifelong learning. “It would start out ‘Dr. Spurlin, this is Julio León,’ as though I didn’t recognize the accent, ‘I need a favor’ and it would go from there.”

Others recalled “more unusual” incidents, including one where Leon had to climb out the window of a Mission Hills Mansion bathroom after the door jammed shut.

“They had to get me a ladder,” Leon said, laughing as the story was recounted for the second time.

In addition to the official presentation of the President Emeritus plaque, Vivian Leon was also honored for her 25 years as the first lady of the University and her direction of the Missouri Southern International Piano Competition.

Leon also spoke on his appreciation for the secretarial staff that has supported him through out his presidential term.

“It was quite a task to take care of a very mess and unorganized President,” Leon said, “They kept many problems away from my door.”

Though a large part of the reception was dedicated to Leon’s formal recognition, past and present members of faculty and staff also recalled their memories of Leon in his 38 years at Southern.

“We were a family,” said Dr. Jim Gray, professor of business, “We took care of each other and I hope we do that in the future.”

The evolution of Southern under Leon’s leadership was also a subject brought up by both Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of the institute of international studies and Dr. Richard McCallum, vice president for academic affairs.

“Someday I envision a Leon Hall for international studies,” Stebbins said.

The reception concluded with Leon’s final thoughts on what he calls “one of the best occupations in the world,” however the underlying theme of the event was what is being called “Leon’s Legacy.”

“People come and go in two or three years they won’t remember me,” Spurlin said, “But they’ll remember Leon forever.”