COLUMBIA — People started cheering Tuesday as Gary Link walked to the podium in the MU Student Center to kick off the university's 175th birthday celebration.
But it wasn't enough for Link, who is the special assistant to the athletics director.
"Come on, Mizzou, you've got to do better than that. This is a birthday party," he said into the microphone. "One hundred and seventy-five years young, and you've never looked better than you do now."
A hefty, white cake shaped like Jesse Hall and flanked by the MU Columns, was eaten down to crumbs. Mizzou Forte sang "Old Missouri" a cappella. Mini Mizzou played "Every True Son" and "Fight, Tiger." The Golden Girls, in gold sequins and white go-go boots, danced and chanted, encouraging the crowd to join them.
All the hoopla was put on by MU's University Affairs to celebrate the university's founding in 1839.
Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin, who took office this month, spoke of the 1843 graduating class of two students, and how much the university has grown.
"Universities endure. They have prominence. They have impact," he said. "And I am so proud to be here."
Loftin thanked past and current leadership for contributions to the university, expressing particular gratitude to former Chancellor Brady Deaton, who attended the ceremony but did not speak, and the MU student body for his warm welcome.
Students care for each other and for the institution, which is especially evident through alumni support, Deaton said after the ceremony. It's wonderful to see the new generations of students embracing MU's history and culture, he said.
Deaton said he hoped people would take away how excited everyone is for the university. "This is the beginning of a new era, and it's great to see," he said.
Junior Charlie Koors, who plays saxophone in Mini Mizzou, said he loved being able to celebrate MU's birthday by being in the band and playing the school songs. "But it's strange to picture what the next 175 years will be like for us and those to come," he said.
Gold T-shirts that read "175 years," Tiger Stripe ice cream and chocolate and vanilla cupcakes crowned with gold frosting were given away after the ceremony.
Jake Wright, president of the Graduate Professional Council, reminded the crowd that students, faculty and staff come from a wide range of high schools, colleges and universities. He named several mascots — including the Kansas Jayhawks — which drew some boos.
But none of that matters, Wright said.
"We are and we will always be Tigers," he said. "Happy birthday, Mizzou, and here's to the next 175 years!"
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.