Six hours to cancel a year’s worth of planning

They had six hours to cancel events that took a year to plan. The Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center was a frenzy of activity Saturday morning, Nov. 2, as campus leaders, departments and alumni came together to work at the daunting task.

“The president and the President’s Council had six hours from when they were first aware of the incident and when our first Homecoming event was scheduled to start,” said Alumni Association Director Lee Eliff Pound. “I am so amazed how every department pulled together in some form to help each other.”

The event in question was the shooting death of Missouri Southern Assistant Football Coach Derek Moore on Nov. 1. Southern canceled all Homecoming events and postponed the scheduled football game against Lindenwood University.

In the process of canceling the game, Sports Information/Athletic Media Relations Director Justin Maskus worked with Cassie Mathes, director of University relations and marketing, to develop the news release and prepare for working with media covering Moore’s death.

Interim University President Alan Marble, Athletic Director Jarred Bruggeman and Head Football Coach Daryl Daye were also working with the team of leaders to develop one united message. The Student Affairs office become like a war room.

“The whole President’s Council was there Saturday morning in that room,” said Mathes. “They were all very involved in the messaging and in the decisions being made.”

Mathes admired Marble’s leadership in the process.

“His decisiveness and his ability to make the right decision quickly … was exactly what the University needed. His leadership is what made the process work so well.”

JoAnn Graffam, vice president of University advancement/executive director of development, worked closely with Pound and the Alumni Association Board of Directors to begin the process of canceling every Homecoming event.

Pound said everyone they spoke with was very understanding.

“They were so sorry for the Missouri Southern family. They asked, ‘How can we help?’” she said.

“People would ask, ‘How are you doing?’ We were thankful for the kindness extended. But it wasn’t about us. It was about Coach Moore, his family and the athletes.”

All of the food was saved or reallocated. The buns were donated to Children’s Haven, a local non-profit organization.

“Student Activities helped contact the royalty and RSOs who made floats for the parade,” said Megan Adams, alumni relations coordinator.

Student groups and community leaders were among the people scheduled to participate in the parade. Webb City High School’s ROTC group was planning to carry the flags. Roper Auto was contacted to cancel reserved vehicles for the parade.

The Alumni Association is not only a service for alumni, but also for departments on campus. The association can assist in planning department and organization events. The theater and honors departments and Joplin Junior College group worked with the Alumni Association to plan their reunion events around Homecoming weekend. Alumni are invited to RSVP for events through the association.

“We work with departments each year,” Pound said. “So we have an idea of who is coming in. But there are other groups that plan more of a casual tailgate party and we are not always aware of those. That’s why social media and working with local media was so important, so we could reach the people that we did not have contact information for.”

Ten area high school bands were planning to play in the parade. Some of the bands were coming from far away, so they were trying to contact the bands before they headed to Joplin.

“We had problems with one that was coming from farther away,” said Pound. “We did not reach them until they were already on the road.”

Local high school superintendents assisted in the process of contacting band directors. Pound said she is grateful for the relationships the MSSU family has developed with the Joplin community over the years.

“It’s all those relationships and friendships [that] are the key to life,” she said.

“Megan has been busy issuing refunds for the brunch and for game tickets that were purchased through the alumni association office,” said Pound.

One event could not be canceled. Homecoming royalty were crowned Nov. 1 at noon, before the incident that led to cancellation. Traditionally, they would have been featured in a ceremony at halftime of Saturday’s Homecoming game. Because of the cancellation, Pound said, the 2013 Homecoming royalty recognitions and alumni award presentations will take place during basketball season.

“We want them to have the full experience,” said Pound, “so we will also have them join the 2014 recipients for a bigger, brighter Homecoming next year.”