How the Mansion got its groove back


Curtis Almeter / The Chart

The sun sets behind the newly renovated Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center, the new building for the Alumni Association. The center’s renovation was recently completed after a five-year process.

Kate Inman / Staff Writer

You may have noticed some men working on a white stucco building with Spanish tiles. They are working with the Director of the Alumni Association Lee Elliff Pound to revamp the house formally known as Mission Hills Mansion. The house is being restored back to its original footprint from the 1920s with a new name: Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center.

In 2004, the Alumni Association Board of Directors appointed a committee of current and former board members, donors and outstanding alumni, and they sat down with a purpose of what they could do to support Missouri Southern.

“There were ten steps in that strategic plan and the largest and longest was the renovating of Mission Hills Mansion on campus, and it really has taken five years to get us to this point,” says Pound.

Raising money for this project started long before that. In 1991, Dr. Renner wrote a book on the history of MSSU and the board sold these books to raise money for the project, but it takes more than selling books.

“It’s helpful, but in today’s environment, you need underwriters and donors to help you get where you are, and we have had such an outpouring of Alumni, friends, services, volunteers. They says it takes a village, and it has taken quite a community of support to get us to where we are,” says Pound.  

Restoring the mansion back to its original footprint involves the inside and out. Two interior decorators volunteered their services to the board with research along with selecting furniture relevant to the 1920s. Mary Helen Harutum was the first donor to get this project started. She left her estate to the Alumni Association that included several furniture pieces that have been restored and refurnished.

“I know that she’s looking down on us and she’s very pleased. The home is similar to the one she and her husband, Miney, used to share,” says Pound.

Ralph L. Gray’s volunteerism, along with many other donors, have also made this renovation turn from a dream into reality.

In the summer of 2008, the Alumni Association moved into the Hempen House located on Duquesne Road, south of Joe Becker Stadium. The Hempen House allowed the association to spread out, but slowly did they realize that they were bulging at the seams. The Alumni Association will be moving over to the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center this month with a Chamber ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 20.

“I think Alumni and the campus community will be so impressed with what the Alumni Association has been able to do not just for MSSU, but also our Joplin community as well,” says Pound.

Everyone is invited to take a look around the newly renovated Alumni Center, and guests shouldn’t forget to sign the guest book. Also, if anyone has memorabilia they would like to donate and have hung up on the walls, he or she should bring it by. A plaque will be placed by the item signifying the donor.

The next thing Pound and the Alumni Association will be preparing for is Homecoming.

“We’re looking forward to having alumni come back to visit and see the changes we have made,” says Pound.