Mary Jo Wynn
December 24, 1931 - January 22, 2019
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Schweitzer United Methodist Church, Springfield, MO.
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Schweitzer United Methodist Church, Springfield, MO.
Wednesday 1/30, 12:00 pm

Mary Jo Wynn, 87, of Springfield passed away January 22, 2019, surrounded by loved ones. She was the youngest of seven children, born on December 24, 1931, in Hartville, MO, daughter of William Thomas and Tina (Russell) Wynn. In her early years Mary Jo grew up during the depression. Those difficult times helped to shape…

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left a message on January 29, 2019:
What a sweet, kind, lovely lady! So honored to have known her.
Suzette West left a message on January 28, 2019:
Mary Jo was president of our Horton Smith ladies golf league. I was nervous about being president-elect and following in her footsteps. I spent my president-elect year observing Mary Jo closely. She actually "coached" me through her year, and provided encouragement throughout my term as president. I was fortunate to have played in a few tournaments with Mary Jo...always the inspirational coach and a darn good player too. I will miss her! left a message on January 25, 2019:
Please except my condolences. May you find comfort in knowing that your dear one is safe in the memory of God, who will remember every detail about her and bring her back again. John 5:28, 29 gives this assurance.
Greenlawn Funeral Home East left a message on January 23, 2019:
Mary Jo Wynn, who blazed a trail for women's athletics at Missouri State University and gained a national reputation for her efforts, died Tuesday afternoon. She was 87. A post on the Facebook page dedicated to her legacy — which, in recent days, was used to update friends and family about her declining health — described her this way: "She was our Superwoman." Wynn, who retired in 1998 after 41 years at the institution formerly known as Southwest Missouri State University, remained a fixture on campus. She was the university's first director of women's athletics in 1975 and finished her career as a senior associate director of athletics. She was also the first woman to be named a Missouri Sports Legend by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. Cheryl Burnett, former Lady Bears coach, said to understand Wynn's impact, look at all that is offered for women's athletics on campus now and then recall the early 1950s, when Wynn was a student. "There was nothing for women's athletics when she was a student," said Burnett, who was hired in the mid-1980s and spent 18 years as a coach at the university. ..."She certainly had her fingerprints on, and originated, everything that had to do with women's sports." Burnett added: "It's really hard to explain Dr. Wynn because there is truly no one like her." Bill Rowe, director of athletics emeritus, said she was in her aisle seat at a basketball game last Sunday. He has known her since his undergraduate days in the late 1950s and worked alongside her for years. "I've heard people use to term 'pioneer' and that is true of Mary Jo," he said. "We didn't have the things we needed until she gave the effort she did." In a news release sent Tuesday evening, MSU referred to Wynn as the backbone of one of the most progressive and successful women's programs in the U.S. and noted that she became a national pioneer for the cause of women's sports. "Today's news comes with true sorrow," said MSU Director of Athletics Kyle Moats, in the release. "The impact she had on our campus, particularly within Intercollegiate Athletics, is felt every single day. She was a visionary and true champion for student-athletes. She was a true friend to every fan of the Bears and Lady Bears and will be deeply missed." On the Facebook page dedicated to Wynn's legacy, Tony Loudis posted: "This woman was and still is the founder of women's athletics at Missouri State and the entire nation. She was the idealist who wanted equal representation for all women in athletics leading to Title IX. "She personally asked me to join the women's athletic sports teams at Missouri State and that invitation has lasted over 24 years, and a plan to continue for many more. God bless you Dr. Wynn, you will be greatly missed and never forgotten." Nyla Milleson, who coached the Lady Bears, wrote on Facebook: "The world lost an amazing woman today. Thank you Dr. Wynn for all you did for me and many others. You were truly special and one of a kind. May you Rest In Peace!" The Hartville native was named the first director of women's athletics at MSU in 1975, punctuating a continuous and nationally acclaimed career in education, coaching and administration that stretched over four decades on the Springfield campus. Over the decades, and until mid-January, Wynn was a constant presence at sporting events. Burnett said student-athletes and coaches marveled at her stamina and love of the university and its teams. "She was at everything," she said. Burnett said Wynn worked to help each sport achieve at the highest level possible and was interested in seeing teams celebrated at the national level. "We knew that she was dedicated to the core in support of students and athletic (teams) that were trying to reach the pinnacle." Wynn played an instrumental role in making SMS a dominant member of the Gateway Collegiate Athletic Conference and Missouri Valley Conference after the school moved to Division I in 1982. "To see her do the things she did, it was not easy. She would not give up," Rowe said. "She exceeded in reaching her goal. It was good for you and I, for southwest Missouri and for the state of Missouri." Rowe said the biggest benefit was to the lives of the student-athletes and the coaches in the sports that she helped start or grow. In the early years, when funding for women's sports was low, Wynn got creative. Rowe explained: "I heard her say publicly that they made their own uniforms." A 1953 SMS graduate, Wynn organized women's athletics competition in 1958 with volleyball and tennis teams. Her tenure saw the SMS women's program grow to 11 sports. She went on to earn a master's degree at the University of Northern Colorado in 1956 and a doctorate from the University of Oregon in 1971. Wynn coached volleyball until 1972 while guiding the 1969 team to ninth place in the first AIAW championship and led the tennis program until her appointment as director of women's athletics in 1975. She also coached swimming and track. Rowe said Wynn pushed for change but not in a pointed or confrontational way. Instead, she developed respectful relationships with colleagues and administrators. "She was ladylike," he said. Rowe said Wynn advocated for more athletic options for women without trying to take away what was available for men. "She wanted female athletes to have it too." Burnett, who has known Wynn for decades, echoed that sentiment and described her as compassionate, professional and elegant. "She could get things done without ever raising her voice. She would get it done with what I called a quiet roar," she said. "It's quite amazing to have so much power as an administrator and still be so sweet." Wynn played a major role from the days SMS women's teams operated from within the physical education department to the time SMS became a charter member of the AIAW and then moved to the NCAA in 1982. She also played a key role in the formation of the Gateway Conference in 1982. Ten of the schools moved to the MVC in 1992 to put SMS men's and women's teams in the same conference for the first time. In 1985, Wynn started a support group for women's athletics — helping SMS lead the nation in women's basketball attendance in 1992-93 and rank in the Top 10 each of the last seven seasons. Wynn organized the SMS Women's Athletics Hall of Fame in 1981. She received an Outstanding Alumni Award from SMS in 1995. Newsleader Story by Claudette Riley and Wyatt Wheeler
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