SPRINGFIELD — Some things never change on the first day of college.
Freshmen wander aimlessly, campus maps in hand. Fraternity and sorority members wear their Greek letters with pride. Professors pass out syllabuses and crack cringe-inducing jokes.
But at Southwest Missouri State University, a big change is just days away: the christening of Missouri State University, a name students and campus leaders hope will bring the growing school added prestige, brighter students and greater athletic success.
Years in the making, the change becomes official Saturday at midnight, with a full slate of concerts, free food, ceremonial unveilings and other festivities planned.
“We’re ready for it,” said William Francis, a 20-year-old junior from Festus. “We’re not going to be known as a regional school anymore.”
Supporters of the name change say the directional designation no longer reflects the 21,000-student, multi-campus university’s broader mission and scope. Earlier this year, they persuaded legislators and Gov. Matt Blunt to rename the state’s second-largest university.
Not everyone is waiting until Saturday for the official ceremony. Road signs on Interstate 44 and U.S. 65 point drivers toward Missouri State University. Schedules and posters for the fall football season and other varsity sports herald “The First Season” of Missouri State athletics.
Only the fine print notes the details, in parentheses: “Effective August 28, 2005,” the date all new laws take effect in Missouri.
The first phase of the name change — from creation of the university’s own ZIP code to new logos, signs, stationery and an Internet domain address — will cost an estimated $200,000, said Mark Nietzel, new president of the university. Private donations, not state money, will cover those costs.
The looming retirement of the SMSU moniker has some alumni feeling nostalgic, said Mark Brixey, director of the campus bookstore.
“People are really gobbling up the soon-to-be-old SMS stuff,” he said. “People are trying to get their last piece of history.”