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Alma Matters

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Winter 2013
Regional Clubs
BOSTON—Jul. 31: More than 25 area Spartans attended the Red Sox vs. Tigers game. Prior to the game, a reception was held at The Baseball Tavern near Fenway Park.
Over 40 area Spartans attended a family picnic at Broad Ripple Park in Indianapolis.
DALLAS-FORT WORTH, TX—Jun. 23:  About 40 area Spartans attended the second annual Sparty Boat on Lake Lewisville.  About $200 was raised to support the club’s charity from the event sponsored by the DFW Young Alumni Committee.
DAYTON, OH—Jul. 14: 
Almost 20 area Spartans enjoyed an annual summer picnic at the lake home of Joe and Jane Loper in Jamestown, OH.
About 50 area Spartans attended the Shindigz National Soccer Festival, which showcases several collegiate soccer teams.  Special guests included the MSU Men’s Soccer team.  Jul. 21: About 30 area Spartans attended the third annual Spartan Summer Picnic at Swinney Park.
GREATER CADILLAC—Jun. 22: Over 100 area Spartans attended the fourth annual Greater Cadillac Area MSU Alumni Club Golf and Tennis Outing at Caberfae Peaks Ski and Golf Resort.  Special guests included MSU Trustee Mitch Lyons and former basketball player Austin Thornton (middle, back row).  The event raised $5,000 for scholarships for entering MSU freshmen from Wexford, Oseola and Missaukee Counties.
GREATER NEW YORK—Aug. 4: Over 40 area Spartans gathered at Central Park’s Ross Pinetum for the annual Spartan Family Picnic where alumni, MSU students and MSU student interns enjoyed the opportunity to network and socialize.
LIVINGSTON COUNTY—Aug. 12: About 60 area Spartans, including president Jo Smith (middle, back row), gathered at the annual picnic at Thompson Lake in Howell.
MANISTEE COUNTY—Aug. 8: About 85 area Spartans, including scholarship winners and their families, attended the Annual Scholarship Picnic at Lutz Farm in Kaleva.  The event raised $3,500.  Special guests included MSU basketball radio announcer Will Tieman (wearing coat and tie).  Jun. 9:  About 80 area Spartans gathered for the third annual Spartan Scramble Golf Outing at Bear Lake Highlands.  The event raised almost $2,000 for the club’s scholarship fund.
Aug. 24:  Nearly 100 Spartans boarded Chicago’s First Lady for the Annual Spartan Summer Yacht Cruise.  Aug. 11:  Almost 100 area Spartans gathered for an annual picnic in Harms Woods, Skokie, for Spartan families and area incoming MSU freshmen.  Aug. 7:  About 65 area Spartans attended B1G Night at U.S Cellular Field for a pre-game mixer in the park’s Bullpen Sports bar.  Jul. 28: More than 600 Spartans lined up to dominate the Big Ten Network’s inaugural B1G 10K.  After the race, runners and fans attended the FanFest tailgate at Soldier Field. 
NEBRASKA—Aug. 26: About 30 area Spartans met to enjoy a picnic lunch and watch the Omaha Storm Chasers play baseball.  Jun. 18: About 30 area Spartans gathered for a reception at the Union Pacific Center during the College World Series.
ORANGE COUNTY, CA—Aug. 12: About 50 area Spartans gathered on the beach in Cameo Shores for the MSU Student Send-Off Picnic.
OREGON & SW WASHINGTON—Aug. 19: Over 40 area Spartans gathered at Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park for a day of hiking and BBQ at the park ranger’s house. Special guests included Kevin Strandberg, director of Silver Falls.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN, CO—Jul. 20: Over 100 area Spartans gathered at Washington Park for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, raising over $1,500.
SAN ANTONIO, TX—Aug. 11: About 54 area Spartans attended the Detroit Tigers vs. Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington, TX.  Jul. 21: About 30 area Spartans attended the first annual San Antonio River Rally, a walking scavenger hunt along the world famous Riverwalk.
—Jun. 23: About 50 area Spartans paddled for the Smoky Mountain Spartan Dragon Boat team in Knoxville.  $1,300 was raised for a local charity that provides services to the homeless.
TAMPA BAY, FL—Aug. 25: Over 600 alumni, including over 70 area Spartans gathered for the third annual Big Ten Tailgate Party at Boston’s in Tampa to kickoff football season.
Jun. 21: About 100 area Spartans attended the Summer Solstice Sparty Party, which raised $1,200 for a scholarship fund.  Special guests included former MSU President Dr. Gordon Guyer (left).
UTAH—Aug. 31: Over 40 area Spartans gathered at the Legends Pub & Grill, Salt Lake City, to watch the MSU-Boise State season opener.
Sep. 23:  Area Spartans participated in the B1G Annual Golf Outing at Laurel Hills Golf Course in Lorton, VA.  Aug. 31: Over 200 area Spartans gathered at the Capitol Lounge for a pre-game happy hour.  The event raised over $2,000 for the Rachel P. Kahan Memorial Scholarship.  Aug. 25: About 24 area Spartans participated in the 2012 Green & White Kickball Game.  Aug. 11: About 20 Spartans participated in the Capital Alumni Network Co-ed Softball League. 
The entry of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln into the Big Ten served as a lightning rod for Spartan spirit among Nebraska Spartans.
Nowhere was that more apparent than in Omaha, where area Spartans formed a new club by the fall of 2011 and set an impressive goal. They aimed to raise the largest amount of money faster than any previous MSU alumni club for the purpose of endowing a scholarship fund to entice area high school students to attend MSU.  Eight months and more than $100,000 in pledges later, they had done it.
“We are grateful for the efforts of this group and tremendously proud,” says Scott Westerman, MSU’s associate vice president for alumni relations and executive director of the MSU Alumni Association, who hosted an appreciation dinner for lead donors to the club’s new scholarship fund.  “What they have done speaks volumes about the power behind Spartans helping Spartans.”
Ed Willis, ’75, MBA ’81, one of the spearheads of the scholarship initiative, credits the club’s success to establishing a strong advisory board of seasoned professionals, successful in owning or running a business.  Many are executives from Omaha’s two major employers: ConAgra Foods and Union Pacific Corporation, including Ed, who is an associate vice president with Union Pacific.
“It (the club) had to have a stable structure and some legs,” explains Ed.  “We needed people to be engaged across the career spectrum.  And we needed to engage back to the university.  We knew a scholarship fund would bring everyone together with a common goal of making MSU a destination for local high school students.”
Starting with several generous donors on the club’s advisory board, commitments to the scholarship fund grew quickly.  One member offered to match gifts up to $25,000 and a second member decided to match a second $25,000.  In all, nine advisory board members and an additional three club leaders committed more than $111,000 to the fund.  For several of them, it was their first gift to MSU.
The scholarships will be available to students in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa.  Not only will the scholarship fund provide financial support but it will also raise awareness of MSU throughout the region.
“It’s very exciting to be able to play a part in building a new club and establishing connections with other local Spartans,” says Gail Tavill, ’90, club president and vice president of sustainable development at ConAgra Foods.  “It’s nice to finally have a strong and enthusiastic pocket of green in the sea of red here in Omaha.  We continue to develop and engage with our membership and network of alumni and friends, striving to reinforce the value of long term affiliation with MSU.  And, of course, we look forward to sending some would-be-Huskers to East Lansing with the help of this endowment.” 
To learn more or to contribute to the MSU Alumni Club of Nebraska Endowed Scholarship Fund, or to establish a scholarship endowment of your own, contact Jennifer Bertram, senior director of development for University Scholarships and Fellowships, at, (517) 432-7332.
THE NEMESI CLAN—Gathered by Spartan Stadium prior to the Boise State game are 18 members of the Nemesi clan—all graduates of MSU.  Joe and Claire Nemesi bought MSU season football tickets in 1964 and started a legacy.  Seven of his eight children graduated from MSU.  When in-laws and grandchildren are included, the number of MSU graduates totals 18.  “Michigan State is a big part of all our family get-togethers,” says Bill Nemesi, ’84.  “The eighteenth in our family tree is a freshman this year.”
HOMECOMING PARADE 2012—Oct. 12:  This Spartan riding a chariot was one of 169 entries in this year’s Homecoming parade.  “I think this is the largest parade we’ve had, ever,” says Regina Cross, chairperson of the Homecoming Committee.  In social media, a live webstream of the parade received over 900 views at  Serving as Grand Marshal of the parade was MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis, who was named the 2012 Athletic Director of the Year by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal.  MSU continued to advance the “Glow Green” tradition, where Spartans swap their porch lights for green lights during Homecoming week.  A photo of W. Holmes Hall with green lights spelling “STATE” won a photo contest sponsored by the MSU Alumni Association.
NORMANDY AND PARIS—Sep. 3:  Travelers with the MSU Alumni Associations’ Normandy and Paris tour pose in Bayeux, where the group visited the famous Bayeux tapestry detailing the Norman conquest of England in 1066.  For more information about MSUAA tours, visit
Recently, I received a very cool photo.  It has three alumni showing the S flag in Pamplona, Spain, during the San Fermin Festival.  In the background were thousands awaiting to join in the running of the bulls.  
A caption suggested itself, “The S Also Rises.” 
Over the years, planting the S flag has been a popular way for alumni to show Spartan spirit.  In the past three decades, I’ve received photos taken everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the top of various peaks, such as Mt. Kilimanjaro.  The S flag has been shown in just about every iconic place around the globe—the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Canyon, Ayers Rock, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge and the Acropolis, to name just a few.  
Travelers with the MSU Alumni Association tours have sent me S flag photos from just about every touristic destination we ever listed via Spartan Pathways—from Patagonia and Machu Picchu to Tanzania, Thailand and Tahiti.  I’ve included one in this page from a 2008 Costa Rica tour, hosted by President Emeritus Gordon Guyer.
Some S plantings have been unique.  About 10 years ago, for example, one MSU alumnus with the U.S. Navy was sent on assignment to Antarctica.  He thoughtfully took along an S flag and took a photo of it planted in the exact theoretical South Pole.  We’ve also received photos from Spartan soldiers showing the S flag in various undisclosed locations in Afghanistan.  In August, two MSU students showed the flag atop the Mackinac Bridge—an apparent first. (see top right, next page)
One personal favorite is an amazing flag planting at the 1988 Rose Bowl.  One lone, brave Spartan showed the flag amid a swarm of Southern Cal fans.  A photo of this intrepid stand ran in a national sports magazine. 
Some flag plantings result in controversy.  In 2005, a few MSU football players planted the flag on the Notre Dame stadium field after an exciting 44-41 overtime win.  Much criticism ensued in the media.  Personally, I thought the act was unnecessary, given that it was the fifth of six straight MSU wins in South Bend.    
I myself try to show the S flag wherever I travel.  In 2005, when hosting an alumni tour in Krakow, Poland, I ran into actor John Voight, who was on a location shoot for a biopic about Pope John Paul II.  He agreed to a photo, but I did not have an S flag handy.  The best I could do was have him hold a Sparty doll.  (Don’t ask me why I was  carrying a Sparty doll.) 
Carl Liedholm, professor of economics, says he started the tradition of planting the S flag.  I know the great Walter Adams, MSU president emeritus and renowned economics professor, was an advocate of this tradition as well.  
“It started back when our dean, Richard Lewis, gave us a list of things we needed to do to get a raise—publishing, teaching and so on,” explains Liedholm.  “He also included showing the flag on the list.”  So, Liedholm says, he dutifully began showing the flag everywhere he traveled.  “That didn’t get me a raise,” he chuckles, “but it’s something I’ve continued to do to this day.”  His flag showings include one by the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.
Liedholm deserves a pat on the back, as do others who may have followed his lead or just spontaneously done it to show their Spartan spirit.  With the advent of social media, I’d like to see this tradition rise to the next level.  The MSUAA is working on a contest involving a portable Sparty of some kind.  
To all readers, keep those photos coming.  I suspect with the great success and leadership we are enjoying in MSU athletics, Spartans everywhere will have more reason to keep showing the flag.