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For two decades, Mississippi College Athletic Department staff have relied on Missa Turman to handle ticket sales for Choctaws football and basketball games and other special events, ensure the department’s payroll is in order, and maintain purchase and travel requisitions, all while keeping the office humming.
For more than a decade, MC’s student-athletes have depended on her husband, Grady Turman, to handle game-day management for all sports, ensure playing fields are in top condition, maintain the Athletic Department’s fleet of vehicles, drive teams on road trips, and coordinate facility usage for events.
The two stalwarts of the Athletic Department were recognized by Dr. Blake Thompson, MC president, who presented the couple with his Most Valuable Person Award for August. Thompson surprised the duo by appearing at an athletic department meeting Aug. 8 in the Quick Rebounders Room adjacent to the basketball court in the A.E. Wood Coliseum.
In front of the MC Athletic Department staff and Mandy Phillips, Baptist Student Union director and the DBT’s MVP for June, Thompson presented the Turmans with the honorary “golf cart” bobblehead of the president, passed from one award recipient to the next; T-shirts; $50 gift cards; and a special parking place for a month.
Thompson noted that Missa, administrative support supervisor, and Grady, transportation director and assistant equipment manager, are the first co-recipients of the monthly prize.
Kenny Bizot, MC athletic director, said the husband-and-wife team models excellence in the athletic department each day.
“Grady and Missa are very important to our athletic department,” Bizot said. “They have served Mississippi College with great loyalty for many years. They are willing to help in any capacity to make MC and our athletic department a better place.
“Missa does a great job of assisting with the day-to-day operation of our department and all individual sports. She has a talent for handling many tasks at once and always has a pleasant attitude. She has been a part of our department for many years, and we are fortunate to have her at MC.
“Grady has strong organizational and communication skills that make him effective. Scheduling all our teams’ road trips and having our home events ready for a great experience is a difficult job. We are thankful for everything he does for our department and Mississippi College.”
Athletics have been a constant in the high school sweethearts’ lives. The Clinton residents each grew up playing sports, and after meeting in ninth grade and eventually getting married, they gravitated toward athletics for their careers.
Mike Jones, legendary MC basketball coach and athletic director, hired Missa in 2002 from the athletic department at Millsaps College, where she had worked in a similar capacity.
“Grady and I both had family members that graduated from MC, and I had taken some classes here,” she said. “MC was a place I always knew I wanted to come back to. I loved working with Mike – it was a great move for my family and me.”
Grady followed her to MC three years later. The former assistant baseball coach at Hinds Community College was working for the City of Clinton Parks and Recreation Department when he accepted a part-time opportunity in the MC equipment room under Tim Yancy, longtime football equipment manager.
“I had been a student trainer when I attended MC in the early nineties,” said Grady, who completed his degree in 2013. “Athletics is my life. It’s kept me busy and very active, but I really enjoy it.
“The City of Clinton and MC have always been home to my family and me.”
The Turmans have instilled their love of athletics in their children, both of whom attended and coached at Mississippi College. Their son – also named Grady – served as an assistant baseball coach for the Choctaws before joining the Clinton High School diamond staff, while their daughter, Darby, was a student assistant volleyball coach at MC before taking a head coaching position in Marietta, Georgia.
Their shared interest in Choctaw athletics has helped fuel the Turmans’ success at work and at home. Some couples may bristle at the thought of working for the same employer; Missa and Grady, married 30 years, consider it one of God’s blessings.
“A lot of the time on game days, I’m working on game management, and she’s running the ticket booth,” Grady said. “She has been known to climb on a lawnmower a couple of times and help me. Anytime we do special events, she’s always around to help.
“We complement each other in different ways. We have a good working relationship.”
“I love being around my husband,” she said. “We work well together. We try to help each other out in any area we can. We can separate our work life from our home life.
“Actually, we consider MC to be our home, and we’re here a lot.”
Much of the couple’s responsibilities lie outside the limelight. You don’t hear too many cheers hours before game time when you’re setting up for games or taking care of ticketing issues. That makes being recognized by the president especially meaningful.
“We’re not looking for recognition – we love what we do, and we do it for our student-athletes – but we appreciate being recognized,” Grady said. “We want the student-athletes to have the best facilities and transportation we can provide, and we want to do special events the right way.
“It was cool that Missa and I got it together, but I would rather she be recognized. She has her hands full, does a lot for the department, and puts in the time and effort. She is more deserving than I am.”
On that point, at least, they disagreed.
“It was exciting to receive this award,” said Missa, whose brother, Mac Culpepper, is a senior network technician in Information Technology. “We spend a lot of time with each other, and I know how hard Grady works. To see him get recognized was something special.
“It’s nice for people to notice our work, the time we give, and our love for MC. The support we get from the people here and the values MC displays are wonderful. My kids have grown up in this athletic department, around these people, and they mean so much to them – it’s such a family environment.”
As a constant in the lives of MC’s student-athletes, Grady recognizes the sway he has over them. It’s a responsibility he never takes for granted.
“As a former coach, I understand how you can have a great influence over student-athletes,” he said. “Being involved in their lives and trying to be a positive influence on them is important. I’m around a lot of athletes on the bus, and road trips, and I try to interact with them and encourage them whenever I can.
“The University’s mission is to serve Christ. Missa and I are here to do that any way that we can.”
The DBT’s MVP award comes with only one parking spot and one bobblehead of the president to display, but the Turmans, masters in the art of compromise, refuse to let the honor’s spoils sow marital discord: Missa will receive both.
“I’m on the run a lot anyway, so she’ll get more use out of the parking space,” Grady reasoned. “And she gets to stay in the office most of the day, so she can put the bobblehead on her desk, where everyone can see it.
“My office is mostly in my truck or on my lawnmower, and I don’t think the bobblehead would ride too well on the mower.”