Rainy ‘Opening Night’ still fun for ne...

Rainy ‘Opening Night’ still fun for new students, families (+VIDEO)

An hourlong summer thunderstorm may have canceled the official MTSU Opening Night Ceremony, but it did not dampen spirits or curtail the annual President’s Picnic Saturday, Aug. 23.

Last-minute rain and lightning convinced university officials to call off the scheduled one-hour ceremony in Floyd Stadium, which was to have featured MTSU Summer Reading Program author Jay Allison and other speakers.

Murphy Center renovations forced university officials to switch the usually formal Convocation welcome ceremonies to a different day, time and venue and give it a slightly different name this year. Convocation is a formal Week of Welcome event for new students, their families and friends of the university and has been held on Sunday afternoons before classes start each academic year.

The President’s Picnic always follows Convocation, but it turned out to be the only event this year after Mother Nature upstaged the President’s Opening Night Ceremonies.

“We had to cancel, but we think folks still had a good time in the rain and picnic,” said Dr. Deb Sells, vice president for student affairs and vice provost for enrollment and academic services.

Sells said the attendees all had something in common — sitting or standing safely out of the weather and enjoying barbecue, hot dogs, potato salad and other picnic fare.

Tina Smith, left, shows Lynne Skinner the local radar on her phone while in line for the annual President’s Picnic on the concourse of MTSU’s Floyd Stadium Saturday, Aug. 23. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

“This was a great ice-breaker,” Sells said. “This will make the Class of 2018 different from every other class.”

Freshman Taylor Gordon of Columbia, Tennessee, joined her 350-member Band of Blue for three songs including “Get Ready,” the MTSU Fight Song and “2001,” plus some other pregame songs.

“I’ve had fun in the rain. It didn’t bother me,” said Gordon, who was joined by her mother, Jill Gordon; an aunt, Karen Clark; and nephews Ryan and Brady Clark, all from Columbia, at the event.

“We sat and talked, and then played. I really wanted to be on the field, so everybody could see us, but we got to hang out with everybody.”

Gordon said her bandmates also planned to attend to a get-together later in the evening.

Donnell Reynolds, a junior graphic design major from Chattanooga, Tennessee, said it “seemed like everybody had an enjoyable time,” even with the rain.

“It’s a good way to meet new people, and the food’s pretty good, too,” said Reynolds, who was eating with recent alumnus Ed Lester.

Jay Allison

Luther McGee, a freshman accounting major from Memphis, Tennessee, said he still enjoyed the event, despite the weather.

“I still got to connect with other people and feed my tummy,” said McGee, who was joined by his mother, Nicole Martin; sister, Monae McGee; and cousins Sienna, Miranda, Erica and Micah Bills, all from Memphis.

A foursome of freshmen friends —Ceosha Wiseman and Moesha Yancey of Collierville, Tennessee; Ann-Hali Blewett of Portland, Tennessee; and Spenser Crutcher of Memphis — was surprised when university President Sidney A. McPhee showed up to personally greet them.

Allison, who penned “This I Believe” about the personal philosophies of remarkable men and women, will appear at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at Linebaugh Public Library, 105 W. Vine St., in downtown Murfreesboro.

He will sign copies of his book and meet attendees in the second-floor reading room. Registration is required and the cost is $10.

An independent producer and journalist, Allison lives with his family on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. He will visit two MTSU classes Monday, Aug. 25, the official start of the fall semester for MTSU and other Tennessee Board of Regents institutions.

Sells and other campus officials expect the formal University Convocation ceremony to return to Murphy Center in August 2015.

You can see more photographs from the President’s Picnic here.

— Randy Weiler (


Members of MTSU incoming freshman class and their families go through the food lines inside Floyd Stadium Saturday, Aug. 23, after a rainstorm prompted the university to cancel its Week of Welcome Opening Night ceremony for the Class of 2018. The President’s Picnic was already set up for inside the stadium, so organizers dismissed the crowd and opened the food lines. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee chats with a freshman and her family in the concourse of Floyd Stadium Saturday, Aug. 23, during the President’s Picnic. (MTSU photo by Andy Heidt)