For Overcoming Challenges to Best-laid Plans, MC Events Manager Earns DBT’s MVP Award
Lori Bobo takes pride in coordinating the large-scale events at Mississippi College that attract guests, donors, and alumni to the Clinton campus and showcase all the Christian University has to offer its faculty, staff, students, and community members.
After almost 12 years of service in the Office of Alumni Affairs, including the last seven as assistant director, Bobo transitioned to MC’s Office of Marketing and Communication in September 2019 to focus on arranging these events, which serve as the lifeblood of the institution’s marketing efforts.
Mere months after settling into her new position as university events coordinator, however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought most of her plans to a screeching halt.
“In March 2020, we had a campus-wide emergency management tabletop exercise at MC,” Bobo said. “It included a small section about medical-viral emergencies. On the very next day, we had the pandemic.
“I was asked to serve on the original Covid task force. As a result, I had the Covid phone line and email coming directly into my office. All Covid reporting filtered through my area.”
Bobo was asked to transition her primary responsibilities from planning events to assisting Dr. Beth Stapleton, MC’s campus Covid coordinator, and the Rapid Response Team with institutional pandemic communication efforts. A year later, Bobo succeeded Stapleton as CCC.
Throughout her time on MC’s Covid Task Force, Bobo has served as the official “voice of the University” where the pandemic was concerned, communicating MC’s COVID-19 protocols with faculty, staff, students, and families.
In recent weeks, she has also helped the Christian University gradually recover from the pandemic by jump-starting its important events programs, successfully hosting and preparing fund-raising dinners, such as the Dr. Don Phillips Athletics Dinner Feb. 8 with former University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, and the upcoming Spring Scholarship Banquet featuring Reba McEntire, scheduled for April 12.
Dr. Blake Thompson, MC president, and last month’s DBT’s MVP winner, Mrs. Rose Griffin, surprised Bobo March 10 by presenting her with the honorary DBT’s MVP bobblehead, which is passed from one award recipient to the next each month. Bobo also received a T-shirt, a special parking place for a month, and a $50 gift card.
For the newest award winner, the best part of the surprise presentation was getting to celebrate the achievement with her colleagues without having to wear facial coverings or stand six feet apart.
“I thought about how great it was that there was no hesitation in giving a hug to someone, and seeing peoples’ smiles was special,” Bobo said. “At various points, we’ve had to wear masks outdoors, we’ve had to wear them indoors, we’ve had to remain socially distanced.
“During the pandemic, we couldn’t note MC’s Distinguished Staff Member of the Year or the Professor of the Year on campus, so I drove the van, and Dr. Thompson had to surprise the recipients at their homes. To have Dr. Thompson show up and surprise me in the ‘personal space’ of my office just made everything come full circle, which is quite exciting.”
Although she is grateful for the recognition, Bobo said she couldn’t help feeling a little embarrassed by it as well.
“My personality is that I do everything 100 percent,” she said. “I’m all in because I love what I do, and I love who I’m doing it for. I find such joy in the MC community. I don’t view it as something extraordinary or outstanding.
“I’m humbled by it and very thankful for the opportunity to serve MC. It’s a real honor to be a part of this group of DBT’s MVPs.”
Tracey Harrison, associate vice president for marketing and communication, said Bobo has played an indispensable role for the University.
“Leading Mississippi College’s efforts as the campus COVID-19 coordinator, Lori stays focused on coronavirus issues daily,” Harrison said. “She coordinates communication efforts for the campus, from updating the COVID-19 dashboard on MC’s website to answering the COVID-19 Hotline and responding to email questions.
“We appreciate Lori’s excellent care and commitment to our faculty, staff, and students.”
It’s a commitment that comes with a demanding schedule. The most challenging aspect of her role is not taking a break from the pandemic – especially during weekends and when caseloads are at their peak.
“The need to have an open line of communication for the last two years solid has been difficult,” Bobo said. “I can’t say I’ve loved managing Covid communications, but I have enjoyed being able to talk with students and their families. When the students were upset, scared, and worried about their classes, I was able to calm them, reassure them that everything is going to be fine with their classes, and let them know I was there if they needed any additional assistance.”
Amy Rowan, executive assistant to the Office of General Counsel, said she admires Bobo’s outgoing personality, strict attention to detail, and willingness to approach other people on behalf of Mississippi College.
“She’s knowledgeable about most everything at MC,” said Rowan, who accompanies Bobo to Dallas each year to volunteer at the Operation Christmas Child Distribution Center. “She’s good at guiding and advising people about what’s best for the University and what’s best for their event. She’s a devoted friend who doesn’t ever meet a stranger – she can talk to anybody.
“She’s a strong Christian who will pray for anybody who asks her to pray for them. She’ll send Bible verses to people to encourage or to sympathize with them. She is open to all kinds of people, she enjoys entertaining, and she is going to do whatever needs to be done to make any event a success.”
Family ties bind the California native’s devotion to Mississippi College. Her husband and three children are all alums of the Christian University, as is one of her sisters. Another sister is an alum of MC Law. And her mother-in-law retired after a 38-year career at MC.
“I have a lot of Choctaw ties, which I’m very proud of,” Bobo said.
She first came to MC in 2004 as a coordinator of male housing in the Office of Residence Life. After three years, she moved to the Alumni Office, where she established herself as part of the Scholarship Banquet Team. From the onset of the banquet, when former vice president Bob Dole served as keynote speaker, Bobo treasured the opportunity to help bolster the University’s scholarship fund by assisting in coordinating the important development event. She has also played a pivotal role in the annual Athletic Dinner.
Her favorite keynote speaker? Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Richt has been her favorite athletic dinner special guest.
“I love being a part of these events,” said Bobo, who delights in sending a photo of herself with each speaker to her father, whose collection of his daughter’s “celebrity selfies” numbers well into the double digits. “But I also like some of the newer events, such as the SAAC Athletic Banquet coming up this spring. I’ve been working with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, helping them learn a little about what it takes to create, plan, and execute a large-scale event.
“Coordinating a fund-raising dinner from scratch is a lot of fun. It’s challenging to develop a theme and plan the décor.”
She said her biggest event challenge to date was being tapped to plan and execute the president’s annual Christmas party last December.
“That was the first event I had ever planned an event for the court level of Alumni Hall,” she said. “There were a lot of elements that were different, and we were working with a limited budget. And I was trying to think how we would decorate Christmas trees in that space.
“Some events like that party are more stressful than others, but my favorite part of any event is when it starts and you look around the room, and you see people enjoying themselves and benefiting from all the work that was put into it. That was the goal from the beginning – for them to have a great time in support of the University.”