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UCM’s Former Athletic Director Hughes’ ‘Home Away From Home’ Now Bears His Name Honoring His 40-Year Legacy

By Jeff Murphy, February 20, 2024


The former University of Central Missouri Multipurpose Building was renamed to the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center during a ceremony on Feb. 17.

(Photo by Andrew Mather)

WARRENSBURG, MO – The athletics facility  on the University of Central Missouri campus that has been described by the friends and family of  longtime athletic director Jerry Hughes’ as his second home, will now forever remind visitors of his impact on the campus community and beyond following a renaming ceremony on Feb. 17 that posthumously honored Hughes and his service to UCM.

The former UCM Multipurpose Building, where Hughes  dedicated 40 years of his life, was formally renamed and dedicated as the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center in front of a standing-room-only crowd that included the UCM Board of Governors, the Hughes family, campus and community representatives as well many student athletes. This recognition was highlighted with the facility’s new moniker being permanently displayed on the east side of the building, and a recognition wall inside the main hallway at the northeast entrance dedicated to the building’s namesake. Anyone who enters this busy facility at that location can now view a permanent display that features Hughes’ photograph and biographical information about his outstanding career and accomplishments at UCM.

A UCM alumnus, Hughes passed away in January 2023 while serving as Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics. Following his passing, the university opted to rename the Multipurpose Building as a way to permanently honor Hughes’ legacy. The ceremony immediately followed his posthumous induction into the UCM Athletic Hall of Fame, an event which took place in the Elliott Student Union on the same morning as the renaming of ceremony and the unveiling of the recognition wall. More than 100 people crowded into the facility’s main hallway to share in the event.

“I want to thank President Roger Best and our Board of Governors, as well, for approving the renaming of the Multipurpose Building to the Jerry M. Hughes Athletics Center or the ‘Hughes Center’ as it will be known going forward,” said Dr. Matt Howdeshell, who was one of the event speakers.

Howdeshell was named Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics in June 2023.  The ceremony where he delivered his remarks was conducted by emcee, David Pearce, executive director of governmental relations at UCM, and included comments from Best, Board of Governors President Ken Weymuth, and Hughes’ wife, Vici Hughes.

Howedeshell said Hughes’ name “will adorn the building where thousands of student athletes, coaches and staff will hone their craft and continue to improve themselves on a daily basis.”

“It’s a recognition of his contributions to UCM, Warrensburg and society through the leadership and impact he has made,” he added. “It’s a rightful honor that Jerry’s legacy continues to inspire future generations here for years to come, and that now his name is on his ‘home away from home.’”

Weymuth said Hughes was a friend, whom he and others refer to as the “big guy.” It's a nickname that is used affectionately for a man who wielded a strong presence and reputation as a doer both on campus and for his accomplishments in collegiate athletic circles where his impact statewide and nationally is well known. The board president said he will long remember Hughes’ welcoming presence at events such as the annual Athletics Auction which raised thousands of dollars annually to support student athletes.

“That was his baby. You walked in and he was like the proud father greeting every one of you with that cowboy hat and signature boots,” Weymuth commented.

He added that while Hughes’ “fingerprints” were evident throughout the growth and success of UCM’s athletics program, whether it was efforts that led to additional facilities or successful teams, he also had a “soft side.” This included touching the lives of young public school students in the community. One of his favorite charities was the Eleanor G. Hughes and Carol Dyetta Hughes Literacy Program which annually enables UCM student athletes from Mules and Jennies teams to share books and promote reading with local elementary school children.

“There are truly not enough words to express our gratitude for what Jerry Hughes has done for this university. By naming this building after Jerry, our intention is that people who knew Jerry will remember him and people who never had the opportunity to know him will get the opportunity to know him better by this memorial wall,” Weymuth said.

In his remarks, Best expanded on Hughes’ impact on student athletes and the physical campus. He praised Hughes’ ability to hire exceptional people who also provided outstanding service to the university, many of them were former student athletes who came back to campus to work. The president also highlighted the outstanding athletic facilities that have been the product of Hughes’ leadership. He had his hand in both renovation and new construction projects, and immense fundraising efforts to help make these improvements possible.

“As you look to the west, you see Crane Stadium. If you look to the east, you will see Walton Stadium and Kennedy Field. If you look to the south, you will see Mules National Golf Course, then to the east and south you will see the South Recreation Complex,” Best said. “So there is very tangible evidence of Jerry’s involvement and commitment to this university from his years of service. It seems only fitting to me, that in the center of all of that, we have named a facility after him.”

In her remarks, Vici Hughes spoke about the countless hours her husband spent for four decades working from his small office on the second floor of the Multipurpose Building preparing not only for major sporting events, but for significant celebrations in the building that ranged from concerts to commencement ceremonies, which he never missed. She stressed that the support Hughes’ received from members of the Board of Governors and university presidents over the years played a significant role in his success.

“In 1983, President (Warren) Lovinger hired Jerry as an AD. Two years later, Dr. Ed Elliott came to the helm of what was then Central Missouri State University. For the 14-year tenure that President Elliott had, that’s where Jerry honed his craft. He was able to watch an influential leader and an impactful administrator, and he learned how to be successful as an athletic director under the best teacher,” Vici Hughes said.

“Fast forward 38 years and we have Dr. Roger Best. Not only did Dr. Best continue that instrumental support that Jerry needed to be successful, with all of you from donors, coaches and student athletes,” she told the audience, “but then for the last 13 months, he added more to that for our family. He allowed us guidance. He gave us opportunities to make decisions and do what we are doing today. He made those opportunities happen for us, so thank you very much.”

During the naming ceremony, Howdeshell shared information about some of Hughes’ many accomplishments which were also noted during the Hall of Fame event. As athletics director from 1983 until his passing, Central Missouri won 179 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association championships; 10 national championships; and claimed 50 other top-four NCAA-II finishes, while also making more than 300 NCAA postseason appearances.

Hughes’ leadership skills were tapped by numerous athletics organizations. He held multiple positions within NCAA Division II, including governance roles, was on the NCAA Executive Committee, and chaired the Division II Championships Committee. He also served a term as NCAA Vice President of Division II and was a member of the NCAA-II Council (both before the NCAA federated its governance structure in 1997), making him the only person to twice hold the highest-ranking office available to Division II athletics administrators. After the federation, Hughes chaired the Division’s Management Council and Membership Growth Project Team.

Howdeshell also noted that Hughes “served on countless other committees and was the only athletics director to receive the (NCAA II) Central Region Athletics Director of the Year four times.”

“So, this is pretty incredible, not to mention being inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2005, being named a Missouri Sports Legend, the highest honor bestowed by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, in 2016, and his more recent honor, the (NCAA II) Conference Commission Award of Merit, the highest honor presented by the organization and reserved for individuals who made exceptional contributions to the entire NCAA Division II membership.”

To learn more about Hughes and the ceremonies honoring him on Feb. 17, please click on the link to the UCM Athletic website


Surrounded by family members and UCM leaders, Vici Hughes, second from right, unveils the new recognition wall honoring her husband, Jerry Hughes, who passed away in January 2023. The wall is inside the former Multipurpose Building, which was officially renamed in honor of the longtime athletics director. 



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