Syracuse University Magazine

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Doris Cox-Peterson ’46 (in blue T-shirt) joins alumni and current cheerleaders at the Homecoming game against Florida State in the Carrier Dome.



Alumni Cheerleading

Enduring Orange Spirit

Wearing a dark blue Syracuse University T-shirt, Doris Cox-Peterson ’46 stood on the sidelines in the Carrier Dome and cheered, pumping her arms and yelling into a megaphone with other alumni cheerleaders at the Homecoming game against Florida State University in October.

To reach that moment, the 90-year-old soon-to-be great grandmother went through quite an ordeal. With an invitation from the Office of Alumni Engagement, Cox-Peterson planned to drive from her home in West Lafayette, Indiana, to Syracuse to celebrate Orange Central, but her car broke down in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Determined to return to her alma mater, she left her car where it had been towed for repair and, with the help of her granddaughter who lived nearby, bought a one-way plane ticket from Detroit to Syracuse. “Homecoming Weekend is amazing,” says Cox-Peterson, who has returned several times as an alumni cheerleader. “I make it a point each time to endeavor to find old classmates, make new friends, and cheer for SU.”

Once she arrived in Syracuse, Cox-Peterson, who had left her cheerleading clothes in her car, checked into a local hotel and immediately taxied to the SU Bookstore to look for a cheerleading T-shirt and sneakers, but found nothing appropriate.  Fortunately, two “patient and concerned” sales clerks helped outfit her by slipping tiny orange and blue pom-poms through her shoe straps. She was also thankful for the gift of a corsage to wear as she entered the stadium to cheer, and for the special attention she received from alumni office staff throughout her short stay. “I received wonderful care from each staff member when they learned of my plight, for which I am so very grateful,” Cox-Peterson says.

Cox-Peterson traces her love for cheerleading back to her junior year in the College of Home Economics in 1944, when she was selected to cheer for Syracuse’s football team. “I can cheer for SU together with all of the fans,” she says. “I particularly enjoy being a cheerleader at the football games because I love football.” For the Homecoming game, Cox-Peterson arrived at the Dome on time and was accompanied by Kim Brown ’06, associate director of alumni programs at Syracuse University Career Services, who volunteered to help her out during the game. “She wanted to do everything the others did,” Brown says. “Her visit was an amazing experience.”

Cox-Peterson stood for three hours straight and cheered as loudly as she possibly could. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Although she has endured several health-related issues in recent years, sports remain an important part of her active life.  She landed a gold medal in the 50-yard backstroke at the 2009 Summer National Senior Olympics in San Francisco and won gold medals in table tennis, the javelin throw, and the 50-yard backstroke at the 2014 Illinois Senior Olympics, after having had back and heart surgery earlier in the year. She also had the honor of being an Olympic torch bearer for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. 

After the football game, Cox-Peterson returned to Detroit by train, picked up her car, and drove back to Central New York for Homecoming at Cornell University, where she earned a master’s degree in 1949. For Cox-Peterson, a retired professor and longtime educator who earned a doctoral degree from Purdue University in 2004 at age 80, the return to Syracuse was well worth the effort. “Homecoming was exciting, although Syracuse lost the game,” she says. “Syracuse staff members’ careful concern made me feel so welcome. Experiencing such warmth and thoughtfulness served to increase my great love for Syracuse, in addition to the making of treasured memories.”    —Shi Shi



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Doris Cox-Peterson ’46 served as editor-in-chief of the 1946 Onondagan.