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by Mark Cheffey
Despite temperatures well into the 90s, Mizzou Athletic Director Desiree Reed Francois smiled as she served pork loin to those going through the outdoor food line during Saturday’s Mizzou Student Send-Off at Jackson Park in Palmyra Saturday evening.
It’s become a tradition for the featured speaker to do so during the event hosted by the Great River Tigers Chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association.
But, it was also part of her goal during her first year as AD, to connect with students, alumni and Tiger fans.
“Our fans are critically important,” she said during an interview. “We want to make sure we’re listening to them and providing them with an incredible experience.
“When we host fans at Faurot Field, we want our team to see it as we’re having big party for 60,000-plus fans.”
And, Reed-Francois and members of the athletic coaching staff have been busy connecting.
Palmyra was the final stop of 25 in what has been billed as a “Come Home Tour,” travelling more than 8,000 miles all over the state connecting with alumni and members of the fan base.
One of her goals is to make sure the student athlete experience is the best it can be as well.
“It’s truly a privilege and honor to serve the University of Missouri,” she said. “I get to come to work everyday and try to impact positively 550 students’ lives, and that is a great responsibility.”
Reed-Francois, the first female athletic director in the Southeastern Conference, sees herself as part of an early stream of women getting their chance to be a part of university athletic administration.
When she started, there were two other university athletic directors at this level and now there are six, along with other women who are going through similar doors in the professionals sports world.
However, she wants to help make sure those doors stay open and that, eventually, gender won’t even be a question.
“Leadership is leadership, rather than gender,” she said.
Also speaking during the gathering were Larissa Anderson, the Mizzou softball coach, and Josh Taylor, the Mizzou volleyball coach.
A total of 38 students attended the send-off, and 24 of them went home with scholarship money totalling $18,000, all donated by members of the great Great River Tigers chapter of the Mizzou Alumni Association which hosted the event.
Desiree Reed-Francois, director of athletics at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the first female AD in the SEC, speaks to the crowd at the Mizzou Student Send-Off.
Larissa Anderson, Mizzou softball coach, speaks to the crowd Saturday.
A total of $18,000 in scholarships were awarded to MU students from the region during the annual Mizzou Student Send-Off at Jackson Park in Palmyra Saturday. Receiving $1,000 scholarshps were Kaylee Spencer, Luke Chevalier, Kayla Spence, Chris Ebbesmeyer, Shayla Young, Claire Bartly, Hallie Ray, Savannah Utterback, Carlee Long, Kristine Devine, Abby Baumann and Preston Eckler. Receiving $500 scholarships through a drawing were Scarlet Burton, Paige Lannerd, Jackson Lundburgh, Chase Goldinger, Josh Dyer, Boyd Triplett, Victoria Singh, Kaden Malone, Zildjian Smashey, Alison Ross, Georgia Robbearts and Nick Mudd.
Kaden Malone, one of several MU students from Palmyra, who attended Saturday’s Mizzou Student Send-Off, introduces himself to the gathering.
Al Kennett, who served as master of ceremonies for the Mizzou Student Send-Off, has the 38 MU students in attendance, introduce themselves.