Most of all, I’ll remember the laugh.
It was infectious. And it was loud. Real loud.
The sound of that laugh coming from down the hall always made me smile.
Mac Sisson of Arkadelphia died Monday morning of a heart attack at the far-too-young age of 62. He was a mentor. He was a friend. He was one of those salt-of-the-earth people who make me glad to live in Arkansas.
Mac, a Crossett native, was a fixture for years at my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University. He directed the news bureau, the sports information department, the photo lab and more. Mac was a man who seemingly wore 100 hats. But he did it all with a smile on his face and a genuine concern for the students. Mac was, in fact, one of the main reasons I attended Ouachita.
When I was in high school in Arkadelphia, I was hired as the sports editor of the Southern Standard, a weekly newspaper that no longer exists. It was a dream opportunity for someone who wanted nothing more at the time than to be a sports journalist. With Arkadelphia being a two-college town, I would be able to cover college sports on a regular basis. I would, however, have to farm out the coverage of the high school football team since I was actually playing in those games.
Mac immediately made me feel important even though I was just 17. He treated me as professionally as he treated the full-time writers who would come down from Little Rock to cover the Ouachita games for the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette. Yes, Mac was a pro, and he made me feel like one.
During my senior year in high school, I decided I was going to be different. You see, everyone in town assumed I would attend Ouachita. I had grown up just down the street from the school. My father had graduated from Ouachita. My mother had graduated from Ouachita. My sister had graduated from Ouachita. I was going to go against the grain, though, and attend either Vanderbilt or Ole Miss.
Mac never put any pressure on me. He just quietly made the point that if I were to decide to stay in Arkadelphia and attend Ouachita, I would be his student assistant and broadcast Ouachita games on the radio. He also worked behind the scenes to get me the sports editor’s job at the city’s daily newspaper, the Daily Siftings Herald, and the sports director’s job at radio stations KVRC-KDEL.
For someone wanting to become a sports journalist, the practical experience would prove invaluable. I would spend my college years as a daily newspaper sports editor, a radio sports director and a student assistant sports information director — all at the same time. It was thanks to Mac Sisson. Fortunately, I didn’t need much sleep back in those days.
Many hours were spent sitting on that old couch in Mac’s office, comparing notes, discussing stories and making plans. Like Mac, I talked loudly and laughed loudly. Agnes Coppenger, the saint who had the office across the hall where she served as Ouachita’s director of alumni affairs, would often walk over to say: “You don’t have to scream at each other. You’re in the same room.”
At some point during my days as a student, Mac became much more than a mentor. He became a close friend. I can never remember us having an argument.
My wife, who grew up in a huge state (Texas) and went to a huge school (Texas State at San Marcos), is constantly amazed by all the “Ouachita people” I run into everywhere we go.
“What’s the enrollment of that school again?” she will often ask.
“About 1,500,” I’ll reply.
“It seems more like 150,000,” she will shoot back.
I believe that in a small state and at a small school, the personal relationships tend to be deeper. So it is that I’ve spent much of this Monday fielding phone calls and answering e-mails from fellow members of the Ouachita family.
The memories have come flooding back.
— Memories of long van trips through the night as we returned from Ouachita football games (which I’m still broadcasting after more than three decades along with dear friend Jeff Root) in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and elsewhere. To keep us awake on the drive home, we would tune the AM radio to WWL in New Orleans to listen to the LSU game with John Ferguson or to WSB in Atlanta to listen to Larry Munson call the Georgia game. If it were really late, there was always the midnight replay of the Iowa game on WHO in Des Moines. How I loved those trips.
— Memories of Mac’s reputation for never driving over the speed limit. Often, long after I had graduated, his student assistants would ask, “Mac, are you sure you aren’t getting tired? Don’t you want Rex to drive?” In other words, Rex drives a lot faster and will get us home more quickly. I’ll never forget the sheer delight of everyone in the vehicle when Mac received a speeding ticket one day in Oklahoma. We never thought we would see the day.
— Memories of Mac’s love of local diners, aka greasy spoons. Mac and I made it a point never to eat at a chain restaurant. We wanted to try out the local fare in places such as Durant, Okla., and Seguin, Texas. We used to love afternoon games against East Central University in Ada, Okla., so we could do what we called “the double J.D.” That meant we would have lunch before the game at a placed called J.D.’s and supper after the game at the same spot. If the parking lot was filled with pickup trucks — and there were always plenty of pickups at J.D.’s — Mac wanted to give it a try. He also would drive us by the local attractions such as the World’s Largest Peanut in Durant and the World’s Largest Pecan in Seguin. There actually were street signs in Durant that simply said “Big Peanut.”
I drove to Mac and Donna’s home on the June 2008 Saturday when they learned that their son, Alan, had been killed in an automobile accident at the age of 33. Alan, who was an Army sergeant, had survived a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006-07. How sad and how ironic that after surviving Iraq, his life would end in Killeen, Texas.
On that day, Mac was the strongest man in the house. His faith in God had never been more evident. Mac never had to wear his Christian values on his sleeve. That’s because he lived them.
One last story: My wedding was on a Saturday in October 1989. I’m not sure what I was thinking to let my wife schedule our wedding on a college football Saturday. Did she not realize that fall Saturdays are high holy days for those of us who love college football?
At any rate, it seems to me that every Baptist church has a little ol’ lady who runs the weddings. She acts as a drill sergeant of sorts. The First Baptist Church of Corpus Christi had one of those drill sergeants. I sat in a room with my groomsmen late on that Saturday afternoon, awaiting the early evening start of my wedding. And, yes, I was nervous.
The drill sergeant walked into the room.
“You just received a phone call from Arkansas,” she said matter of factly. “I told them you were not to be bothered, but he insisted I pass along the message.”
It scared me at first. Was someone in my family seriously ill?
The drill sergeant then gave us the message.
“It was a Mr. Mac Sisson,” she said. “He wanted you to know that Ouachita defeated UAM this afternoon.”
She rolled her eyes, turned around and exited the room.
The tension was broken. My groomsmen and I cheered. I did a “Tiger roll” (you will have to ask one of the groomsmen to describe that).
Early this afternoon, my wife called. I had informed her this morning of the sad news.
“Guess what?” she said. “You have a large envelope in the mail from Mac Sisson.”
I haven’t been home yet to open it. But he was thinking of me still.
I know I will bask in the warm glow of memories like these in the years to come. But it’s still too fresh. My body aches on this Monday afternoon. Writing this has been somewhat of a catharsis I guess, but I want more than memories. I want to talk to Mac. I want to hear that laugh.
I don’t want to be selfish in my grief. There are a lot of people hurting today. I do know his family is hurting more now than we can realize.
Donna and Stephanie, we love you and are praying for you. Mac loved you dearly.
It was too soon to go, Mac. Way too soon.
Hi Rex: Wow, your article brought tears. The laugh, yes the laugh. We could spend hours “reflecting” on Mac Moments. What a great man.
Thanks for your great tribute to our mentor and lifetime friend. You nailed it. Your call this morning stirred so many memories. I always say Mac makes Zig Ziglar look like a pessimist. I know he slept on that couch in his office many nights, working around the clock for the school that he loved. He is the essence of a Worthy Ouachitonian. He was a special friend and counselor to students for three decades – his office door was always open. Every student he knew trusted his wise counsel.
In case you don’t know, there is no doubt that Mac was more quietly proud of all of your professional accomplishments, including your 30 years as the signature voice of OBU football than any other student he ever mentored. It will be fitting if you and Mac are inducted together into the next class of the OBU Hall of Fame. I have been pushing for that for several years.
Mac Sisson – a man we loved for his smile, laugh, guidance, friendship and Christian example. My prayers, like yours are with Donna, Stephanie and the family. The nicest man I knew.
Thanks Rex for putting into words what many are thinking about today. Growing up in Arkadelphia and attending Ouachita was definitely a privilege and with that privilege came knowing the Sisson family and Mac Sisson. The Ouachita Family lost an amazing man today. The memories will carry on though he is gone. The Lord welcomed home an angel. Mac treated everyone with the respect they deserved. We were all better for knowing him. Thanks for paying tribute to a very special part of our OBU family! Our prayers are with the family during this very difficult time.
It was the speeding ticket in Idabel, OK; the early morning breakfasts at the Ole’ South Pancake House in Russellville with Larry Smith; and the infamous “White Envelope.”
It was the laugh, the way he genuinely cared what was going on in your life, and the hesitancy to go from doing stats by hand with white-out to doing them on the “devil’s machine” (most people called it a computer.)
It was Mac. And Mac was why many of us have traveled the career paths that we have. Including myself, Ted, Rex, Brent, Cris, Chris, Jeff and Brent S. among many others.
Thanks for training. Thanks for caring.
(And as I look at the reCAPTCHA words to type in to make sure it’s a real person typing this, one of them is football — kind of fitting.)
I saw Mac Sisson in a number of settings, in a number of locations, but I never saw him in anything other than an upbeat, positive state of mind. He was a great role model for any kid, like myself, who aspired to be a top-notch journalist.
Mac was a leader, a friend, a cohort and a gentleman, the embodiment of class and a true symbol of what kind of greatness can be accomplished even in the smallest of college settings. I will never forget him, and I will never be able to repay him for all he did for me.
Thank you for the tribute and the memories you brought home to us about the “Mac” we all knew and loved. I was just thinking about him last week, realizing it had been way too long since I last talked with he and Donna. I recalled spending time (weekends) with his family when the children were not yet teens. The many wise words he shared with me about maturation, preparation and direction. I recall him guiding me during my senior year to be focused on graduation. He definitely helped me secure my first job at the Pine Bluff Commercial. He trusted me to be the home Public Address Announcer for the Men & Women’s Basketball program; then the Football team; to raise and lower down the U.S. Flag on days he was not available to do so; and other tasks that seem so miniscule, but huge in his overall influence in my life. Like all of you, I loved Mac and the Sisson family. Today, I lower my flag to half-staff in honor of a man who never ceased to show his love to others.
What an awesome tribute, Rex. Thanks for letting us know and thank you, Tim Taylor, for the link. Mac Sisson was a true Ouachitonian and wonderful man. You did him justice in sharing some of your memories.
Great tribute, Rex. Not much I can add to the true words already written. Even as a college student Mac was someone who worked tirelessly to report on Ouachita athletics. He was a sports journalist who sought to make every player and team look good on paper even when efforts were less than the best. He made athletics at Ouachita special. No school other than the Razorbacks got more ink thanks to Mac’s efforts. I never heard of anyone who didn’t like Mac. The Ouachita message is being furthered in heaven. It is always “first down, Tigers” in Mac’s message! Rest in peace, dear friend!
Thanks for sharing your memories so eloquently, Rex. Mac’s laugh will be missed, as well as the contagious enthusiasm that it embodied. My prayer is that Donna will be comforted by memories of happier times during the days ahead.
Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Mac. He was one of my mentors as well…a truly great man who always shared his knowledge and kindness. Like Mac, I have been a volunteer with the Miss America Organization for many years and love the program. As much as I love the Miss America Program, I think that Mac may have loved it even more!! I remember him making special accommodations for me so that I could work around my insane travel schedule to still judge the very first Miss Teen Arkansas America Pageant for him. I will surely miss his personality, smile, and positive energy he brought to the Miss America System. I’m sure that he will be missed by many!
Miss Nevada Scholarship Organization Board of Directors
Treasurer – Miss Nevada Scholarship Organization
State Director – Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen Program
Chairman – Miss Nevada Silver State Princess Mentor Program (SSPMP)
PO Box 98175
Las Vegas, NV 89193
I remember one semester when one of our professors had to leave his post mid-term not to return. We all had questions: What will “they” do?, Maybe “they” will just give us credit for the class. Maybe “they” will make us take the whole thing over again. The next class period who did “they” send? Mac Sisson. We were all very excited. This class was going to be an absolute cake walk. WRONG! Mac drove us like dogs…I mean tigers. How could this sweetheart of a guy who was always so concerned, who always knew your name, your family’s name, your pets your girl friend, your bad habits and where you were last night be so dog gone hard? Simple. Mac wanted us to be better. Mac wanted us to learn to work as hard as he worked. Mac wanted us to see what would be expected at the next level. Mac Sisson gave us far more than we ever gave him. Just like everything thing else that Mac did. He gave more than he got. What a legacy! This world would be a better place with more Mac Sissons.
I sat at my house a few moments yesterday after Rex called to tell me the news about Mac. The memories came flooding back covering many years and how he impacted my life.
In 1979 I read an article in SI talking about the sports information director at Notre Dame. At that point I was a semester away from graduating from the school across the ravine. I visited the athletci department at Henderson and was told “we really don’t have anything like that.” I drove across the street where I was directed to Mac. He asked if I could type (I could not) but I saod sure! H said then you will be typing our paly-by-play. Little did I know how quickly that had to be done. I survived the season, a former Wonder Boy now Reddie pulling for the Tigers-actually pulling for Mac.
A few weeks after the season Dr. Martin Garrison summoned me from a final to his office to ask if I wanted to become HSU’s first SID. I stayed for ten years and probably never went more than two days without calling Mac. He basically became the SID at both schools that first year, telling me how everything should be done.
He also introduced me to Rex Nelson who has become one of my best friends for thirty years.
I have always joked that Ouachita is on the lower side of the ravine in what both schools call the “Battle of the Ravine.” But Mac Sisson leveled that Ravine for me and set me on the course for the rest of my life.
Thanks Mac, your friend Mike Dugan
Thanks, Rex. I remember Jimmy Volvano said in his famous speech at the Espys many years ago that if you laugh, think, and cry over the course of a day that’s a full day. It’s not even 8:30 in Indianapolis and I guess it’s a full day as I sit at my desk with a smile and a tear. It hardly seems like 17 years ago when Mac gave me a chance to hang around and ride vans to football games. The first trip was to Bolivar, Missouri and the first meal was Trotters BBQ in Springfield. As I look back many people have helped me in my career and life but it all started with Mac and that day in the News Bureau. Thanks for sharing your memories and bringing back some to me that I have let slip away. I wish I could be there with you all and we’ll keep the everyone, especially Donna and Stephanie, in our prayers.
I just heard about Mac. I Googled his name and your piece above was the first thing to show up. You are right. He was a mentor to a whole lot of people who have gone on to positions of journalism influence all over this country included people like me, who didn’t even attend Ouachita. And 62 is too young.
Thanks Rex, for writing this tribute to a wonderful man. While he did leave this world far too soon, no one can deny that Mac got the most from his life. He lived with a passion and enthusiasm for everything he did and, more importantly, everyone he touched. May all of Mac’s family and friends, particularly Donna and Stephanie, find peace as they work through this most difficult time. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
Another true Mac Sisson story: I was a student at OBU with my friend of 30+ years Rex Nelson. I was not a journalism student and never took any class even near Mac’s office. Yet, he knew me, my brother, and my freinds. He encouraged us and seemed to know far more about us than we had ever shared with him. Last year my son became a freshman at OBU. Mac Sisson walked up to me, knew my name, and offered to help my son in anyway possible. He cared for every person that went through OBU. He epitomized Ouachita.
Rex, I am stunned by this news. Mac was my role model when I first became an SID at UAM. I can’t count the number of times I picked up the phone to ask Mac for advice or help as I learned the profession. I will always remember his graciousness, his genuine kindness. We’ve lost a really good guy, and we’ve lost him way too soon.
I worked for Mac my entire 4 years at OBU. Rex, I remember a trip with you and Mac in the van driving us to Monticello for a football game. Your story brought back that memory. What a great guy Mac Sisson. He had no idea how he taught this young kid from Searcy and I’m sorry that I never told him.
I was lucky enough to be on many of those late night trips through Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, and Lousiana with you and Mac. I was also lucky enough (very) to be introduced to the countless diners/greasy spoons that we ate at. Those are some of the fondest memories of my days at OBU. Mac was such a professional at everything that he did. Many times Mac had to gently “correct” us when our humor got a little out of hand or we were just being to “over the top” in the booth. Maybe that is why he allowed us to eventually drive seperately from the rest of the crew.
Mac was a good friend to everyone he met. He mentored me in many, many ways. He was just such a good guy. Kind to everyone. I will truly miss him.
On a completely unrelated matter, one of my readers wants to know where the White Pig is located.
Rex, such a touching tribute. I wasn’t as close to Mac as many students. But I recall from the years I worked in the Printing Department across the hall, that Mac was always so nice and never passed me in the hall or came into the shop without speaking. And, yes, the laugh always made its way across the hall where I worked. Thanks for bringing back memories of OBU and of Mac.
I often borrow a phrase that Mac taught me every time I go home to Crossett — “Mecca! Yes, Mecca!” Both Crossett alums …. we did not meet until after I graduated from ASU and moved to LR and began working in the media here. But we had a instantly hit if off and we had that hometown bond that so many of us in our state have. I still remember the times would badly hum “Eagles Fly High” to agitate the Badger folks we would run into. He is one of those guys you meet in life that you are glad you had the opportunity to get to know. I have not seen him in years …. but meeting him made an influence. His family will be in my prayers.
Rex: Your tribute to Mac was told like no others can tell it. I know you have touched the hearts of many as they have read it.
Mac’s days at Ouchita were before the computer, e-mail, and websites. It amazed me how he would have compiled statistics to us each monday after a football game and also have all the information we needed for the next opponent.
Many of us will remember Mac as the PA voice for the Tiger football games. You never ever had to worry about the way Mac would run the game. A true professional. We will miss Mac Sisson.
Alan Sisson was my best friend and college roomate. Mac (daddy), his father was a mentor. Donna and Stephanie, my heart was broken when your son died and I can only pray for you to have the courage and strength and understanding to override your grief. Time will allow death of loved ones to be bearable, but a broken heart never heals. I send you blessings and will see you soon. Love and Peace, ck
Quite simply, I would not be where I am today without Mac Sisson. I will miss that laugh, pimento cheese sandwhiches, the Elvis Blue Christmas party, and that great big bowl of candy on his desk. Mac was the most caring, loving and genuine man I’ve ever known. To say he was a major influence in my life is the mother of all understatements.
Rex, those van trips are some of the best memories I have. I’ll hold on to them a little bit tighter now. My heart hurts. I miss you, Mac.
Mac was one of the best sports information professionals I have ever known at any level of intercollegiate athletics. He loved both the work and his institution. He was an asset to OBU and, indeed, all of higher education. During my years at HSU, Mac was on the other side of the ravine but I never lost respect for him. He was a special person and his influence through Rex, Mike, and countless others will continue for decades. Rest in peace, Mac.
Thank you for the wonderful tribute to Mac. He was such a special man. I will always remember him from church, but I will remember him most from attending football games he announced. As stated before, he was always so professional! He will be missed so much by sooo many.
That memoir of your friend made my whole day–I hope and know it will make the grieving process a whole lot better for all involved.
I may not have made it through college if it hadn’t been for Mac Sisson. I had left Ouachita and was trying to figure out how to get an education in spite of financial hardships and the challenges of being just plain young. During a visit to campus to visit some of my friends from school, Mac practically took me by the collar, went to the business office FOR me to get me re-enrolled, sat me down in the newsroom to type and earn a few dollars, and willed me through to graduation. While he was at it, he also taught me the beginning of a strong work ethic that has served me well ever since.
Mac didn’t even KNOW me when he did this! I never did know why he did this for me, but I have tried to use those memories to help others when I can, and am renewed in my wish to do so reading about him today. It’s really wonderful to read how many have memories as strong as special as mine.
Rex’s words about Mac’s laugh…the really loud laugh…ringing through the hallways of the OBU news offices, brought it back like it was yesterday. How fast the years go, and how all too fast to get this news about the loss of this truly great man.
Thanks to all for the many wonderful comments about Mac.
I hope he knew just how many lives he touched in a positive way.
Chris Babb mentioned the infamous “white envelope.” I have to share one more Mac story.
As noted, Mac was a bit averse to modern technology. He didn’t like computers. Heck, he still preferred manual typewriters to electric typewriters.
He also liked to pay in cash. Before each out-of-town football trip, he would get a cash advance from the Ouachita business office and put the money in a plain white envelope.
After games, at whatever greasy spoon we had stopped, we would ask: “What is our limit, Mac?”
If the Tigers had won and he was in a great mood, he would say, “No limit.”
That meant to order the biggest steak on the menu. Of course, we weren’t in fancy places. The most expensive steak might have run $10 at most.
One night in Shreveport, Mac declared “no limit” at a Mexican restaurant following a Ouachita victory over Baptist Christian.
So we all ordered the all-you-can-eat feast, which was listed on the menu as the Mexican Orgy.
When Mac received the receipt, it indeed listed five Mexican Orgies.
“How on earth am I going to explain this to the business office?” he asked when we got back into the van.
“Tell them it was a great deal at $9.50 each,” I replied — Rex
Rex- I came back to the blog to see the other posts. Mac will be smiling to see all the names attached. Add old friends Larry Smith, Stan Green and Bob Valentine to the group and we could have the AIC SID annual meetings. We might even make it a road trip to Stevenson’s Apple Orchard in Kansas City where Mac loved to eat!
Thanks for the memories Rex.
The people I met while at Ouachita, like Mac, are the reason I always tell my young kids, “When you go to college, you are going to Ouachita.”
My prayers are with his family.
By the way, Mike, the White Pig is on East Broadway in North Little Rock.
I know Mac would approve us discussing the White Pig on this thread. It was his kind of place.
As I said, our “rules of the road” included “no chain restaurants.” — Rex
Thanks for writing about so many of the things I’ve been thinking about since I heard of Mac’s death. White envelopes, greasy spoons, those newspaper engagement photos on the wall of the news bureau (even one in a deer stand!), and the football games on the radio in the van. I remember stopping at the “Troy Aikman” McDonald’s in Oklahoma, and, when we were in the foothills, how we would race to the top of a hill for better radio reception only to have it go to static as we descended the hill. Then we would repeat the process hoping not to miss the next big play. Of course, we could always pull over if it was a really close game!!
Mac, OBU will never be the same now that you are gone. But you will never be forgotten. Thank you for being a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration.
Dugan is right. The notes of praise read like a roll-call from the old AIC. I understand from Ken Bissell that Stan Green is coming in from OKC for the funeral. Mac, indeed, is smiling. Rex, great piece. Thanks Mac!
Thanks for sharing your memories of Mac.
Energy. That’s what I think of when I think of Mac Sisson. You always heard him before you saw him. Greeting everyone by name with that huge smile.
You two are forever linked in my mind. Both great representatives of Ouachita, and of excellence in journalism. He will be greatly missed.
Hmmm…I wonder if we’ll start getting news updates from heaven?
Thanks for putting your memories into words. Mac was always gregarious and kind, ready to listen, and invested in the lives of every student that crossed his path. I know this, because I was one of those students.
He will be missed.
An excellent tribute to a wonderful man. He led us “kicking and protesting” down the right path. For me, I will always hear that laugh filling the News Bureau.
Thanks for all you did for us!
Thank you, Rex. Outstanding tribute. Mac will certainly be missed. I never had him for a class while I was at OBU. At first, I only knew him by reputation. Then, I knew him as a dad of one of my students. He enrolled Alan in my gymnastics classes in Walton gym. What a great kid! What a great dad! He was always so supportive of Alan, which I fully expected, but he was also so supportive of me. He was just that kind of a guy.
I spent many Saturday afternoons running cassette tapes in the press bixh for Mac to run replays. To this day I recall those afternoons with laughter! I worked on the Signal Staff and spent many long hours for three years with Mac and rest of the staff. He always had a warm smile, a great laugh and a kind word for this Texas girl and anyone else who crossed his path. I agree Rex, it was too soon!
Great post, Rex. Regrettably, I won’t be able to join the throng at Mac’s service, including several old fellow AIC SIDs, but I will be thinking about my old friend and his family. Some of my fondest memories were the old Harding-OBU football games and Mac and Stan Green joking about the Baptists and the Church of Christs duking it out on the field. God bless his family and friends.
Thanks for putting into words the memories many of us are reliving today. Mac was an incredible man and made each of us feel like we were the most important student at OBU. You’ve posted a great tribute to a great man.
Mac was one of the first people i met when I moved to Arkansas and I will always remember his hospitality and smile. What I also remember, and will relate in part of a column tomorrow, is you couldn’t work long at a media outlet in Arkansas before you received a news release from Mac, just like everyone else in the office. Mac solved the problem of not getting the news release to the right person. He sent one to everybody. Actually, this was the primitive forerunner of those group email lists and everybody uses today. With a typewriter and paper, Mac was way ahead of his time.
I will always appreciate Mac taking a personal interest in everybody. He always wanted to know how you were doing and how the family was doing. He was the real deal! He expressed this for me personally by saving golf articles for me. He would either mail these to me or hand them to me personally. He was always caring and was a guy you wanted to be around. He was upbeat and a fun guy. His walk and talk matched up. One terrific man that will be missed.
I can hardly describe how comforting it has been to read Rex’s blog and all the comments to follow throughout the day and evening. Rex worked his magic with a tribute to Ann Vining some months ago, and he did it again last night with his words about Mac. It may have been needed even more this time since Mac’s passing was so sudden and at an age that seems younger every day. It also has been a much-needed blessing to read the words of so many who have been important to me as friends through the years.
After hearing the news at the hospital yesterday, I’ve talked with many but said little. How can I do justice to the man who became a mentor when I was 18 years old and looking for a major and career? How can I describe the man I worked with for a dozen years in the OBU PR office? How can I show sufficient appreciation for the man who introduced me to my wife of 27 years?
I can’t, but I will say this (and in much the same fashion as comments I made for OBU’s news release today): Mac Sisson was a great teacher — the kind of effective communicator every teacher would like to be. He just didn’t need a traditional classroom. Great teaching can come from the staff as well as the faculty, and Mac was a born teacher. He was great because he demonstrated his lessons.
Mac showed students how to work hard, and that’s much more effective than simply telling them to work hard. I knew as a student that whatever he asked of me, he was doing even more himself. And he was doing it cheerfully. Those are two powerful lessons: work hard and enjoy your work.
Years later, when I returned to Ouachita to work with Mac in public relations, I found his legendary work ethic had not changed. Mac came to work at 6 (at the latest) every morning, read several newspapers and checked out the morning news on TV as he organized his day’s activities. On almost a daily basis, he photocopied an article he thought I’d want to see. Mac was Google before Google.
I’m convinced the reason Mac could successfully coax hard work and long hours out of students and the reason his colleagues developed such loyalty to him was because we knew he loved us. Mac uplifted spirits with his humor. He encouraged those who missed the mark. He challenged those who were ready for the next step. He did all these things with a zeal rarely seen. He expected us to do well, and we didn’t want to disappoint him. In this sense, I will forever be his student and endeavor to pass along his lessons.
Both as a sportswriter and later a fellow SID, Mac was an absolute joy to work with. Always professional, always caring, always in a good mood. We all wish we were as good at what we do as Mac was. They don’t make them like Mac Sisson anymore. We lost a great one this week.
Thanks, Rex, for that fine tribute to Mac. But, as everyone knows, there was another side to Mac. When I was a student at OBU (1974-1978), Mac was just getting started with working in pageants. When I was Miss OBU (1976), he interviewed me for Arkadelphia radio during the week of the Miss Arkansas pageant. He had also offered me the “school car” for that week, which was some old-model fleet car — not exactly what I would want to be seen in. I told him no thanks, that I would drive my own baby-blue Cutlass Supreme. He soon became the director of the Miss OBU pageant, later becoming the director of the Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen pageant. How many lives did he touch? Innumerable! His encouragement, support and gentle “pushing” were priceless. He challenged each and every young lady to be the best she could be. And that laugh…oh, yes, that laugh! I loved Mac.
Yes, Sheri, Mac lived in many worlds, which allowed him to touch the lives of even more students. I don’t think the man ever rested.
There was his sports and news life, which is the one I was most familiar with and wrote about.
But there was also his pageant life. When I worked in Washington, D.C., in the late 1980s for the Arkansas Democrat, I somehow coaxed the newspaper into letting me cover the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City for several years. I would stay with Mac, and we would have a grand time. I didn’t understand the pageant world, but he did his best to explain so I would not look like a fool when I wrote my stories — Rex
I’m over here from OBU’s facebook page…great tribute.
I just had to comment on your wife’s amazement of OBU connections. My husband went to LSU, a place where their football stadium holds more people than the population of most Arkansas towns. And he feels the same way about OBU. It amazes him that I’ve run into fellow alumni, professors, etc. at every church event we go to, on the streets of New Orleans, and even at Walt Disney World. ‘
It’s a small OBU world, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 🙂
Thanks to all for the comments. He was such a positive person, whether promoting athletes or beauty queens. He made us all better because he believed in us and communicated that support to others. A classic mentor. He was the SID when I played (in the broad sense) at OBU and back then the games were front page stories and lead in on tv sports. Looking back, Mac must have had something to do with that. I told Mac at graduation that if I ever ran for office, he was the first hire. Ouachita is special place because of people like Mac Sisson. What a blessing to have known him.
Mac Sisson helped me believe in the power of a well-written story. Sitting here now, with tears streaming down my face, I find it very fitting that Rex, and all of us who have responded to this blog, are using the very words Mac taught us to craft from the heart to describe his well-written story.
Yes, the laugh. How that laugh could right the axis of my world. Even years later when I would stop by the News Bureau to see him, it would still work its magic. And the hours spent with him in the press box spotting football games, watching the Miss America pageant through his eyes, learning more about politics and history than any class ever taught me, sitting on that old, old couch in his office……
I was a writer when I came to Mac in the News Bureau. I was a storyteller when I left. The stories I tell today are all rooted in a man who loved his God, his family and his people. And I am grateful to have been one of those people. Thank you, Mac, for believing in me. I never put a story to bed without thinking of you. -30-
I was introduced to Mac my Sophmore year in high school while attending summer journalish camps at OBU. I don’t know how he did it but everyone is right about him NEVER forgetting you, your family members names, your likes, dislikes…..his memory was awesome. And when he inquired about you are & your life he was really concerned & cared about you. I decided to attend OBU mostly because of Mac & the rest when Steve Patterson told me, “Don’t worry about college, Mac will take care of you.” And he certainly did. Mac treated me like I was his daughter. I got more involved in pageants & he was the best coach & he cheered you on or help any girl who sought his help wheter she was representing OBU or any school. The pageant system there & certainly OBU will never be the same with out Mac Daddy. I know he’s in Heaven finally getting some much needed rest.
Love you always Mac & to Donna & the Sisson family, thank you for sharing Mac with us & God’s peace to you all.
These comments have been great to read.
I find it ironic, though, that all of these comments about Mac are found on a blog.
I can hear his voice at a high pitch and see his smiling cheeks now as he leaned back in his chair in the news bureau:”A blog? What in the world is a blog? Elvis would not have approved of people communicating that way.”
It seems as though everyone had Mac’s number, I don’t think I can say anything about Mac that has not been said. He was a friend to all, a sports enthusiast who could give you information on anyone and everyone who ever played for OBU. Alway’s smiling, alway’s the encourager, that was Mac. We will all miss him and we will all cherish those moments we had with him. May God bless and be with Donna and family.
Thank you for your memories, Rex. I just found out about Mac this morning, and my heart is broken. I’m not sure if I ever took the time to tell him how much he meant to me. I worked for Mac in the News Bureau and SID Office all four years at OBU. I learned so much in those years. It was work…but he made it so much fun, it didn’t seem like work! How could stuffing thousands of envelopes with press releases be fun? Somehow, it was!
I have never fogotten some of his sayings when it came to writing. “Trust No One, Assume Nothing” and “Keep Your Ducks in a Row.” These sayings have served me well over the years!
Mac even let a few of us ride along with your gang to away football games. The season I remember doing that is when OBU won the AIC championship – 1982, I think. What memories! I also sold football programs for some extra cash, and ran the stats at halftime on that stencil duplicator in the press box…I can’t remember the name of that machine, but I remember the smell and the color of stain it would leave on my fingers!
Mac was a one-of-a-kind man, and I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to know him. He truly was a mentor. I just wish he was here for me to let him know how much of an impact he had on my life.
May God comfort you, Donna and Stephanie…you are loved.
What a perfect tribute for an incredible man who influenced so many. Rex, as I read this I could hear Mac’s laugh; I could completely see that decades old couch; and I could vividly remember how that he made a college student feel like his colleague and equal teaching me all the while. Mac will be so missed, but his thumbprint is on so many of us, myself included who have seen our professional and personal lives guided (often behind the scenes) by him. I am blessed to have known and worked with Mac and indebted to him always.
Man, this isn’t easy. How do you encapsulate a guy you saw pretty much every day of your life for four years? A guy who never had a cross word to say to or about anyone. A guy who always carried a smile, a piece of homespun advice or a photo of an engaged couple superimposed over a champagne flute? From the infamous white envelopes to the “Pickup Truck Rule” to determine if a restaurant was fit for consumption to Elvis to the most comfortable and most orange couches in the world.
I remember the first time I heard Mac had an email address. I just laughed, partly because I was a member of the group herding him toward modern technology. No longer would scores of student workers (“secretaries) show up to stuff releases and mail them old school…soon it was faxing and then finally emailing.
As Mac grew into modern technology, I grew into adulthood. And Mac was one of the great teachers I had on my way. As Jeff Root said, Mac taught lessons without a syllabus, imparted wisdom without saying a word.
And if it were not for Mac Sisson, I would never have known (and still know) the words to the Crossett High School fight song.
“Eagles fly high!”
Mac was always interested, always friendly, and pretty much always loud. When mother (Agnes Coppenger) was serving as Alumni and Placement Secretary she loved sharing Mac, Bill Downs and John Slaughter (the Print Shop guy) stories and comments. She loved mixing it up with those three in Flenniken Memorial. She was the fiesty, gray-headed mother figure trying to make them all behave and be nice. “Forget about that!”
Mac’s smile, hug and memory for family names and events made me think I was his favorite. Dadgum! Now I see he was that way with everybody.
Mary “Queen” King keeps us updated on news from Ouachita Hills and FBC, Arkadelphia. She reported that Mac was ushering and taking the offering, as usual, at First Baptist last Sunday. Well done, Mac! Faithful to the end. I’m sure Mother is so proud of you.
And Donna has been a thoughtful and sensitive friend through the years. How we’ve appreciated her gentle spirit, humor, advice and handwritten notes at the bottom of each notice of OBU memorials for Mother, Anne and now Daddy.
Dear Donna & Stephanie,
We love your family. We love what you’ve meant and continue to mean to our family. We’re holding you in our hearts. We do not grieve as those without hope!
Thanks to all for the wonderful stories and memories and such a wonderful professional and friend. I didn’t know Mac the way you guys did, but I worked for many years in the same building. As a music professor, it was a nightly occurrence to work late after a recital and it was also pretty normal for me to come in early in the morning. Mac’s old car was almost always there when I left late at night and there when I returned the next morning. Nobody in my entire life had the work ethic of Mac. And we all remember when he finally got rid of that old orange/brown car!
Rex, thanks for doing such a great job at the service today! And, yes, the White Pig Inn is not in any way a chain restaurant!
Mac was fun and dedicated to his Job, Lord and Savior, and family. What more can you ask. He will be missed.
I grew up with Mac in Crossett. He was a great man with that large laugh. It is odd that I thought of him not too long ago. The mark of a good man is how many lives he touched while he was here.
Thanks for the stories about Mac. He will be missed by many people.
Thanks, Rex. This was terrific.
My brother’s and I have so many great memories of Mac. This was a great way to remember the man we all knew and loved. Thank Rex!
Being a part of the communications department and serving for two years as editor of the Signal it was a joy and honor to have a person like Mac Sisson as an invaluable ally. Am so sorry to hear of his death.
Donna and Stephanie…i am truly heartbroken to find of Mac’s passing tonight. I love you and you are in my prayers. You all, along with Mac were a great blessing in my life…Mac was such a great coach and mentor as I had the honor of being Miss OBU and first-runner-up to Miss Arkansas in 1983…Mac always lifted me up in prayer, encouraged me and helped me be the best I could be in every phase of competition. Your home was shared with me on many occasions and many dinners as we fellowshipped and prepared…your friendships will always remain in my heart. Mac didn’t just talk the talk …he truly walked the walk and I know Heaven is soooooo much richer because Precious Mac Sisson is now a resident. I know he has many rewards that he is partaking in as he loved everyone no matter who they were or what they possessed…what a wonderful Husband, Father and Friend…He will be missed greatly.
What a wonderful tribute to an amazing man! I only learned of Mac’s passing tonight… DeAnna let me know. So sorry I hadn’t heard before now… My prayers are with Donna, Stephanie, and all his loved ones. He was definitely a special, special man!
I can’t believe that I am only now hearing of Mac’s passing. I was one of his roomies our freshman year at OBU, along with Alan Pye. I can’t write much right now, as I am in total shock. I feel awful that I had been out of touch for such a long time. I will always recall his wonderful laugh, visiting in his parents’ home in Crossett, and lulling him and Alan to sleep with my all night typing of papers (for hire)–he commented on one occasion when I had stopped typing, that he immediately woke up, and insisted I continue typing—he’d gotten so used to the noise that he helped him sleep! He even commented to me that his children were “sort of” named in reference to his first roomies: me and Alan. Steve(n) Edwards (formerly of Hurst, TX; now a professor in LaGrange, GA)