September 19, 2013 9:15AM
Joplin resident Barry Williamson (BS ’74, MS ’77) was so eager to get a Pitt State license plate that he rose early on the day the applications became available and drove to Pittsburg to wait for the PSU alumni offices to open.
“Barbara (his wife, BS ‘75) and I sat up the night before thinking of what we wanted to have put on the plates,” Williamson said. They settled on “IM4PSU” and “GO PSU.”
This week, after a longer than expected wait, the Williamsons and PSU alumni across Missouri were finally able to pick up and install their new license plates and these proud Pittsburg State alumni couldn’t be happier.
Williamson noted that for a time, they didn’t think they were going to be able to get the plates. PSU’s Office of Alumni and Constituent Relations began working to get approval for the plates through the state’s specialty license plate program in 2011. They collected applications and fees from alumni, submitted everything to the state and expected the plates to be delivered in the spring or early summer of 2012. Then politics intervened.
The University of Arkansas already had license plates in Missouri and PSU was about to, but when Show-Me-State lawmakers learned that the University of Kansas also was working through the application process, they put their collective foot down. The 150-year-old border war was on again and legislation passed with bi-partisan support to block license plates for universities from other states.
“We were really disheartened when we got the letter (informing us that the PSU plates wouldn’t be issued,)” Barbara Williamson said.
The legislation clearly targeted KU, making Pittsburg State and the University of Arkansas unintentional victims. Over the ensuing months, the rhetoric cooled and Missouri officials worked to ease the restrictions enough to allow exceptions for universities that had already been approved for plates. Translation: PSU and Arkansas. Gov. Jay Nixon signed the new legislation in July.
“It was a lot of work and it took longer than we had hoped, but it was well worth it to help our alumni have this new way to show their Gorilla pride,” said Johnna Norton, director of Alumni and Constituent Relations at PSU. “The patience and the enthusiasm of our Missouri alumni throughout this process has been amazing and is a reminder of how proud they are to be Pitt State alumni.”
Norton said there are more than 10,000 PSU alumni living in Missouri, where she expects the PSU specialty license plate numbers to grow.
“When alumni see the PSU Gorilla on the highways, we believe they will want one, too,” Norton said.
For more information, contact the PSU Office of Alumni and Constituent Relations, 620-235-4758 or visit www.pittstate.edu/alumni.