By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Sallie Beard watched Missouri Southern grow.
She graduated in 1968 from Joplin High School — the final class before the school split into Memorial and Parkwood high schools. She arrived on the Missouri Southern campus that fall — the school’s first semester as a four-year college.
“I considered a couple of other colleges,” she said. “There was so much going on and so many opportunities because of my dad’s involvement in the community. And all the talk I heard about Missouri Southern, it seemed like the right thing to do to help the new four-year college get kicked off.”
After college graduation in 1972, Beard never dreamed she would spend another 37 years on campus, first as an instructor, then a coach, then athletics director.
“I never thought I would end up in athletics,” she said. “I thought I would end up being a high school teacher in physical education.”
Her career began as one of two women’s physical education instructors — Venice Yount was the other — at Missouri Southern. In 1974 some girls came into Beard’s office and said they wanted to play basketball.
“When those girls walked into my office and said they wanted to play basketball, and I said I would help them, I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” Beard said.
She was the first basketball coach, and she later coached softball, tennis and track and field before moving into administration.
Beard served as Missouri Southern’s first women’s athletics director for 25 years, then was AD for the entire department after men’s AD Jim Frazier retired in 2001.
“Working with Jim is one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences I had professionally,” she said. “He was a great mentor. He was open. He included me. He encouraged me to share my ideas and thoughts. We just had a very even-handed and open working relationship.
“We often joked at each other that it was like a second marriage. You work to make those relationships work.”
Away from Missouri Southern, Beard served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic team at the 1981 World University Games in Romania. That U.S. squad included Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She also coached in the 1983 National Sports Festival in Colorado Springs and served on the games committee for the NAIA indoor and outdoor track meets from 1979-83.
Beard also served as president of the MIAA from 1999 through 2001 after being vice president in 1998-99.
“None of this was planned. It was the direction my career took,” Beard said. “The thing that kept me going … while I enjoy sports and sporting events, it wasn’t the sport, it wasn’t necessarily the games. It was watching those kids, both men and women, perform and watching them grow through their experiences.
“Watching Danielle DeVader (basketball player) coming in as a freshman and seeing what kind of woman she had become at the end of her career. Or Kellen Cox (football player) coming in as a freshman and seeing the man he has become in his five years in the program … that’s what fuels you. That’s what keeps you motivated for 37 years.
“The wins are great, but it’s watching young people grow through that experience. That for me was the most rewarding.”