COLUMBIA — More than 1,700 class of 2011 graduates crowded onto Francis Quadrangle and squeezed through the MU Columns for the MU Senior Sendoff on Friday.
Where the quadrangle had once been empty save for a handful of students throwing around a Frisbee 30 minutes earlier, seniors filled the quadrangle lined with professors, deans and advisors.
The celebration began with a speech by Zach Parolin, president of the Alumni Association Student Board. He spoke of different memories during the class of 2011’s four years, including beating Kansas in 2008, rushing Faurot Field on ESPN College Gameday during the last Homecoming, hosting Barack Obama on a stop during his campaign, and last winter’s three consecutive snow days, which earned the most cheers from the audience.
“On top of those milestones, the personal accomplishments you’ve achieved during your time here have brought you a long way from the 18-year-old freshman you once were,” Parolin said. “You’ll come full circle from that first day of freshman year, carrying the spirit of Mizzou with you to the new chapter of your life.”
At this point, a collective "aww" could be heard throughout the crowd.
Senior Sendoff, also known as Tiger Prowl, has been an annual tradition since 2000. While MU freshmen run through the MU Columns toward Jesse Hall to symbolize their entrance into the university during Tiger Walk, graduating seniors walk the opposite direction through the columns toward downtown Columbia, not only to celebrate their new status as Mizzou alumni, but also their transition from academic students to the “real world.”
However, not everyone exiting the historic columns will be leaving MU after next Friday’s graduation ceremony.
Rhianna Andrews, a social work major, plans to stay for graduate school. “The emotions haven’t really hit me yet,” Andrews said. “But then again, it might be because I’m sticking around for another year.”
Andrews laughed with her friend at the group of girls across the quadrangle trying and failing to capture a moment of airtime on film. They kept jumping up and down, not quite in sync with one another. “Yeah, we tried to get a high-five from Truman,” she said. “But there were just too many people.”
Another senior not ready to leave his sociology major, Robert Neporadny, who will be graduating this December, said, “It’s still fun for me, but it doesn’t mean as much because I’m still going to be here next semester."
Seniors then hurried over to the long lines at Mel Carnahan Quadrangle, where live music played, free food was served and organizers gave out cups of Budweiser to students 21 and older.
In Chancellor Brady Deaton’s earlier speech, he captured the feelings of the day. “After the Tiger Prowl, you’re going to prowl the world and join the 250,000 living Mizzou alumni around the world,” Deaton said.
“You can leave Mizzou, but Mizzou will never leave you,” he said.