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The First Mom: Mary Jo saw son’s leadership abilities early on

When “John R” and his little sisters, their spouses, and the nine grandchildren get together at Mom deSteiguer’s Edmond home, you can count on a few laughs, a few pranks and a lot of fun.

“They are still my little kids,” said Mary Jo deSteiguer about her children, including “John R,” better known as OC president John deSteiguer.

A retired junior high school teacher, Mary Jo has a high mirth tolerance.

“You have to be a little dingy to teach that age. We had a lot of fun,” she said.

Although her son jokes that Mom deSteiguer admonished him against “getting the big head,” when he came to Oklahoma Christian in 2003, she feels deeply the responsibility her son now has as president.

Before John took the job, Mary Jo said he asked her whether she could take criticism.

She said yes, as long as it wasn’t criticism against her family.

“I am still a Mother Hen protecting her chicks,” she laughs. “I ask everyone to pray for his protection.”

But she doesn’t worry. She trusts. Mary Jo and John Sr., knew early on that their son would lead. One of the first glimpses of that came when John was six years old.

It was during the Vietnam War, and Commander deSteiguer was being deployed for a nine-month tour. The father looked to his young son, the oldest of three (and the only boy), and told him he would be the man of the house while he was gone.

When John Sr. returned safely home, Mary Jo recalls that little John asked to spend the night with a neighbor buddy. Mom said yes, but asked why he had never asked before. The little boy told her his dad was home, releasing him from the man-of-the-house duties.

Mary Jo said her husband would not have placed that burden on their little boy if he had known how seriously John would take it.

They continued to watch their son grow, and became increasingly aware of the leadership abilities God gave him.

On the day of “John R’s” inauguration, Mary Jo greeted new friends, longtime friends, family and well-wishers from near and far. The line to greet her was nearly as long as the line to congratulate the new president.

Amid the joy, there was a poignant tear remembering John’s father, who passed away in 2005, prompting Mary Jo’s move from Tahlequah to her new home in Edmond. Still, she knew he was watching and pleased.

Mary Jo said she doesn’t like to use “proud” when talking about her kids, as the word is defined as “having or showing a high or excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.”

Placing humility over pride is a family trait. As the campus dubs her “deMom,” we would all do well to remember to laugh, pray and not get the big head.

By Dawn Shelton (90)