A talented athlete in his own right, Lloyd George and his late wife Gladys knew from an early age that their young daughter, Millie, had an enormous amount of athletic potential. They also knew that in a time where women weren’t always provided the same opportunities as men, that it would be of vital importance for their little girl to get an education.

A talented athlete in his own right, Lloyd George and his late wife Gladys knew from an early age that their young daughter, Millie, had an enormous amount of athletic potential. They also knew that in a time where women weren’t always provided the same opportunities as men, that it would be of vital importance for their little girl to get an education.

So at an early age, Lloyd began ingraining into young Millie the importance of staying in school. His words hit their mark. She made the most of her talent and used it to pay for her education — every dime of it.

Determined to make her daddy proud, Millie George turned Lloyd’s wishes into reality when she graduated high school and moved on to Crowder College in 1982. Flash forward 32 years and that hard work and determination has become nothing short of a success story.

Millie George, now known around the Crowder College campus as Millie Gilion, athletic director, will forever be known as one of the most important figures in Crowder College sports history. She began her career with the Lady ‘Riders in 1982 as a basketball recruit for coach Bud Powell. A basketball standout and state champion track and field athlete (she long jumped over 18-feet) at Miami High School, a school with no softball team at the time. Gilion was encouraged to try her hand on the diamond for the Lady ‘Riders soon after arriving on campus despite never playing in high school.

After some prodding, she gave it a shot. The rest is, literally, history.

Playing both basketball and softball at Crowder from 1982-83, Gilion, then George, still holds records for single season batting average (.500) and career batting average (.485) and was named All-Region, All-American and was selected to play for the U.S. Pan-American team in softball. She was also named All-Region in basketball, but it was her prowess on the softball field that allowed her to receive a scholarship to play at Division I Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe, La., where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree without paying a dime out of her or her parents’ pocket.

“It was stressed by my mom and dad, especially with my father, that because you’re a female, you have got to get an education,” Gilion said. “I’m very thankful that my father stressed that so much, because it was never, ‘Are you going to college, or not?’ It was, ‘Where are you going to college?’”

When her playing days were over, she moved on to Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., where she earned her Masters Degree while serving as a graduate assistant. Soon after graduating, she returned to Crowder and became softball coach for the Lady ‘Riders in 1988, concluding her tenure in the dugout 13 seasons later after compiling a career record of 506-141 while winning three regional championships and finishing second in the nation at the National Tournament in both 1991 and 1992 and fifth in 2000.

She also spent time coaching the U.S. Olympic Festival softball teams and was inducted into the NJCAA Fast Pitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002. Though Gilion stepped away from coaching at Crowder in 2000 when the team was disbanded, she continued coaching summer teams, and even served a stint as head coach at Neosho High School.

Now Gilion, who has been teaching in the P.E. Department at Crowder for 27 years and is the school’s athletic director, says she’s ready to cut back a bit on the stress in her life and has resigned her post as athletic director at Crowder. She’ll still be around the school as Division Chair of the P.E. Department, so no worries there. After all, she says she still bleeds Crowder blue. But there’s no doubt her plate should be less full.

“Ultimately, I wanted to have more free time,” Gilion said. “(Being A.D.) involves lots of hours, and I just wanted to have more free time and not spend so many hours (in the office). I think that was the biggest reason; and a little less stress.”

Gilion’s career as an athletic director was put into motion when the school decided to drop softball in 2000. It also came at a time when there weren’t a whole lot of women in place as athletic directors across the country. But being a woman in a field dominated by men didn’t sway Gilion in the least.

“I think once we dropped softball it was just a natural fit,” Gilion said. “I really wasn’t ready to get out of athletics at the time. So it was a unique way for me to still be involved in athletics, even thought I wasn’t coaching. I think it was a good fit for me and a good fit for Crowder.”

Highly respected by her peers, Gilion has become an advocate for her coaches during her career as athletic director, something she said stems from her time as a coach herself.

“I feel like I’ve tried over the years to do some things for the coaches that I didn’t like to do when I coached,” she said with a laugh. “I think if you ask any of them they’d probably agree with that. I’d hope they would agree with that. If they ask for something unreasonable I’ll step up and say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that,’ but they don’t. They’re very black and white like I am. They’re very reasonable. Being fair to all of the sports, those kinds of things are important to me.”

Though she’s handing the reigns off, Gilion said there are some things she’d like to see from the new A.D. that go beyond the field of play and reach into the classroom. Much like the words her father spoke to her.

“One of the things I’d like to see is the emphasis on academics continue,” Gilion said. “I want there to still be an emphasis on the academic side and our graduation rates continue to get better and improve. I was all about academics first and softball second. I would also like the next person to be an advocate for the coaches and have the coaches’ back. I wan them to support the coaches. Even thought I’m a female, I will stand up to anybody if I have to, and I want that kind of personality.”

Wherever her future takes her, sports are sure to be a part of Millie Gilion’s life. They always have been. Jamey, her husband, is a longtime coach and teacher at East Newton High School. Her daughter, Ashley, is a former NHS standout currently in her sophomore campaign as a softball player at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in her mother’s hometown of Miami, Okla. Gilion said their support has helped her get where she is today.

“They’re great,” Gilion said of Jamey and Ashley. “Jamey is a coach and a teacher, so we’ve got that common bond. After we had Ashley, if I hadn’t had a supporting husband like Jamey, this would have never worked. Jamey was ‘Mr. Mom’ during the spring because I was never home. Ashley, she’s grown up here at Crowder. I’m very proud of her. She’s a responsible young girl. They’re both very supportive.”

At their home finale on Wednesday, the Crowder baseball team held a pre-game ceremony on the field for Gilion and asked her throw out the first pitch before a 4-1 victory over Fort Scott Community College. Millie said the absence of one of her biggest supporters, her late mother Gladys, made it a bittersweet day.

“I wish she could have been here for this,” Gilion said as she sat in her office following the ceremony, an NJCAA Hall of Fame plaque with her likeness sitting on a table a short distance away.

Though the day might not have been perfect, Millie (George) Gilion can hold her head high and ride off into the sunset knowing that wherever Gladys is now, her and Lloyd are undoubtedly proud of their little girl for everything she has accomplished.