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Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Alumni leader tackles change

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Mike Parker
SIKESTON -- Mike Parker is all for moving forward.

So last fall, when Parker took on the role as president of the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association at Southeast Missouri State University, he welcomed being thrust into the controversial issue of changing the University's mascot and name.

"We all were Indians back in our days; we were passionate about our mascot, but that's been set aside," noted Parker of Sikeston. "There hasn't been a mascot or nickname (officially) being used by the University for 17 years."

The Board of Directors of the Alumni Association took the stance last summer to change the mascot and name as a proactive approach for the current student body, Parker said. They did this so the current students, too, would have a mascot to rally around and use through athletics and tie them to the University, he explained.

Parker realizes not everyone is ready for the change, but he said he must remain positive.

"We just deal with the reality of why change is needed and what our process has been and how thorough the committee has been studying this issue," he said.

And Parker welcomes the attention -- whether for or against the name change.

"If it gets people stirred up about the University, and they start communicating with us, then great. You're not going to change everybody's mind since the University does serve a community as diverse as it is," Parker said.

On Wednesday, Semo's Board of Regents will consider a proposal to make official changes to the University's name and mascot, which has been narrowed down to two choices: Redhawks and Redwolves.

Parker explained the Alumni Association wanted red for the mascot color and symbols that would be indigenous to the region. Both the Redhawk and Redwolf have been in Southeast Missouri for years, he said.

"People are quite passionate about their mascot and that's what we're going to get back with a new mascot. The Indian mascot is not coming back, and it's time for a change," Parker said.

But the whole mascot/name change isn't the only issue Parker has focused on since he began his two-year term in September.

"It's an opportunity to give back to the University," Parker said about serving his position. "Anytime you serve on a board of a large institute like the University, it's always fun."

A 1967 graduate of Southeast Missouri State, Parker continued his education, earning a master's degree from University of Southern California and other professional designations. As president, Parker meets approximately three times a year with a group of 20-25 alumni from various chapters throughout the nation.

"It's quite a diverse group of graduates from all different ages, and it's a lot of fun serving the Alumni Association," Parker said. "We have almost 58,000-60,000 members from Southeast so it's quite a challenge trying to communicate with all these folks and keep people updated with what the university is doing."

The Alumni Association works on how individuals can help the University and how to plug alums into the University -- and not just through homecoming and fund-raising, Parker said. While the Alumni Association doesn't allocate the University's funding, it is important to be informed about the situation, Parker said.

"State monies have been cut back and budget is in lean times with the economy. We don't make those decisions, but we do give input where our money is put for scholarships. As state money is reduced then private money is needed," Parker said. In September, the Board of Directors will vote to update the wording in the mission statement of Alumni Association, which was recently changed from the National Alumni Council to the Board of Directors of the Alumni Association, Parker said.

"We'd also like to get back to marketing the University as Semo again rather than Southeast," Parker noted. "We know it as Semo, and when games are on TV, they put SEMO in the score box."

In addition, the Alumni Association will get a new home in the next 2-1/2 years. It will move from in front of the Show Me Center to near the front of the University, where the First Baptist Church currently stands next to the football field.

Parker works as a certified financial planner with Lincoln Financial Advisors in Sikeston. He served in the U.S. Air Force for four years and has been involved in numerous organizations including the Sikeston Kiwanis Club, Sikeston Chamber of Commerce, Alliance Bank Advisory Board and many others.

"For most of us, college is a formative time from high school with unique experiences and mixing in a bigger melting pot of the world, so to speak," Parker said. "It's a time for making lasting friends and relationships. With the (alumni) connection, we try to keep it all alive through newsletters and e-mails."

For more information about the Alumni Association, visit www.semo.edu.