The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


April 23, 2014

Lipira: 'I felt like it would be a good fit'

Former MSSU coach selected for Missouri Sports Hall of Fame

Growing up in St. Joseph, the only time Pat Lipira remembers being in Joplin was for a summer softball tournament at Ewert Park and Bassman Field.

Then after earning her master’s degree from Kansas State, Lipira applied for an opening at Missouri Southern.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“I hit it off from the first crack,” she said. “After an interview with Sallie Beard and Max Oldham, I felt like it would be a good fit. I didn’t realize it would mean 33 years.”

Lipira’s 897 total victories as volleyball and softball coach are more than any coach in Missouri Southern history.

She receives another honor on Thursday when she is inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural Women in Sports Luncheon at 11 a.m. at the Ramada Plaza Hotel and Oasis Convention Center in Springfield.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Lipira said. “What it means is you’ve had some success, and that means you had a lot of good people around, a lot of good players over the years. I’m grateful for all the good years we had.”

She arrived on campus in 1981 as both the volleyball and softball coach. She coached volleyball for seven seasons, compiling a 265-90-11 record and winning the Central States Intercollegiate Conference title in 1984.

But she’s most remembered as the Lions’ softball coach, posting a 632-275 record in 19 seasons from 1982-2000, headlined of course by the 1992 NCAA Division II championship.

“One of the things rewarding about coaching is not only do you develop life-long relationships with the players, but you also develop relationships with their families and the fan base. Weddings, babies, funerals ... you develop long relationships with families that you don’t really develop in the classroom. There are very few parents that I got acquainted with in the classroom, but in 19 years of players and families, that’s pretty cool.

“Another thing is some of the players are sending their kids here. Shelly Hodges-Garr’s son is here and on the Student Senate. Sheila Hunter, her daughter is coming here next year. They enjoyed themselves here so much, they want their kids to come here. That means a lot.”

After retiring from coaching, Lipira has served as chair of the kinesiology department and is now the vice president of academic affairs at the university.

Lipira is one of four inductees.

Mary Jo Wynn, longtime coach and administrator at Southwest Missouri State, will be named the first female Missouri Sports Legend. She retired in 1988 after 41 years at SMS (now Missouri State University).

Coach Teri Clemens, who had a 529-77 record and guided Washington University to seven NCAA Division III volleyball championships in 14 years, and sports writer Mechelle Voepel, who has covered the Olympics, World Cup soccer and women’s college and pro basketball for since 1996, also will be inducted.

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