Story by Erik Potter

Sarah Stone. Photo by Kristyna Kresic

Sarah Stone’s love of theater started with a fuse box.

She was still in junior high school when a teacher asked for a volunteer to flip the circuit breakers to turn the stage lights on and off during the school play. It was a low-budget technical solution and almost certainly a fire code violation — but it was utterly amazing to Stone.

From the back of the room, she watched the lights go on and off at her command, saw the audience respond to the performers illuminated under the different hues, and she was hooked.

She did theater tech in high school, then majored in theater tech at Mizzou. She worked in the student-led MSA/GPC Tech, a group funded by the Missouri Students Association and Graduate Professional Council, which offers staging, lighting, sound and other technical support for campus events.

In 2005, Stone returned to her alma mater to become the first full-time staff coordinator of MSA/GPC Tech. Graham Haerther joined the program in summer of 2015 as assistant coordinator.

Since 2005, the group has worked nearly 2,400 events. For Stone, the most difficult event is also the most memorable: Fall Welcome.

Fall Welcome is a week of activities set at all times of day. “It’s a massive amount of hours,” Stone says. As a leader, she won’t ask someone to do something she wouldn’t, so she works alongside the students, late into the night, weary but smiling. “At the end, we pack it up, take the trucks full of equipment back and say, ‘We survived.’ ”

Over the course of the week, Stone and Graham see their team of 15 students come together to meet challenges the students might initially have thought were too big for them. It’s a bonding experience. “They could find jobs that take less out of them,” Stone says. “But they do this because they love the team.”

She also knows the work they do is important. “We have had people who met their best friends at the midnight barbecue,” Stone says. “We had a marriage proposal at the barbecue — those are big events. They are Mizzou.”

Stone’s work and contribution to Mizzou were recognized May 21, during Staff Recognition Week, with the Mick Deaver Memorial Award for Student Relations Excellence. The award comes with a plaque and a $1,000 prize.