In the most gracious way possible, Shirley Moore declined our request to feature her story in Unconquered magazine. Three times, in fact, with disarming courtesy and kindness.
But, we are going ahead anyway with the blessings of her family and friends. You’re probably familiar with DeVoe Moore, the Tallahassee businessman whose name adorns Florida State’s University Center. With a long list of contributions to the school’s academic and athletic programs, he’s rightfully known as one of FSU’s most generous benefactors.
If there’s anyone more deserving of acclaim, though, it’s Moore’s wife of 51 years. Shirley Moore is a fixture at Seminole football games, where she serves as a greeter, as well as men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball games and any other event she can get to — a huge number of events in total.
With her nearly constant presence and seemingly endless reserve of good cheer, Shirley is the finest ambassador FSU could hope for. To help take the full measure of Mrs. Moore, we reached out to those who know her best. They weren’t shy about singing her praises. They shared stories, too. Tales of compassion and caring, of boundless energy and spirited adventure. Other accounts centered on Shirley’s quiet tenacity and inner resolve. Through all the anecdotes, a handful of adjectives and descriptive phrases kept cropping up. And they tell the real story of Shirley McEwan Moore.
“Unassuming and unpretentious.” Those words come from FSU President John Thrasher, who is humbled by Moore’s, well, humility. Let’s just say she’s a bit more down to earth than some spouses of successful entrepreneurs. One of four sisters, Shirley grew up in Tampa and Tallahassee in a middle-class family. She taught school for a time after graduating from Florida State, but soon took over bookkeeping duties for her husband’s businesses — “and was excellent at it,” DeVoe notes. “Shirley Moore is kind-hearted, passionate and generous with her time and financial resources,” added Seminole Boosters Inc. president and CEO Andy Miller. “She is a genuinely caring person, great friend and mother and dedicated wife and partner to her husband, DeVoe.”
A few years back, DeVoe insisted that Shirley get herself a motor home — something she’d always wanted — and sent her to a dealership to pick out her dream ride. Before closing the deal, DeVoe, who is the owner of the Tallahassee Automobile Museum and a noted car aficionado, wanted to inspect the vehicle. He ended up nixing Shirley’s modest choice … and buying her a much nicer one instead.
Katherine Caldwell, the elder Moore daughter, says her mother never met a stranger, and that assessment was echoed by everyone we spoke to. Thrasher calls her “the nicest, most charming woman you’ll ever meet,” and added, “Shirley’s always got a smile on her face. She just loves to be around people.” Her outgoing nature makes Moore the perfect greeter at Doak Campbell Stadium, a role she serves for the Extra Point Club. If she’s not scheduled for duty, she’s filling in for someone who couldn’t make it.
Moore was recently named the club’s Golden Greeter of the Year. Moore spreads goodwill wherever she goes. Katherine recalls a preseason basketball game where Shirley signed up for a shooting contest and — to her daughter’s surprise — made the finals. “She was exhausted and plopped down in a chair,” Katherine recalls. “One of the players came over and high-fived mom and made her feel special. She befriended him and ended up meeting his mom. Now they go to lunch whenever his mom is in town.”
DeVoe, a more introverted sort, marvels at his wife’s geniality. “If you see her and you don’t want to talk,” he chuckles, “you better turn around.” Virginia Vaughn likens Shirley to the Energizer Bunny. She should be used to Shirley’s vigor by now. They’ve been best friends since elementary school. Yet Vaughn is often amazed by her pal’s tireless spirit, saying with a laugh, “I don’t know where she gets all that energy.” This much is certain: She puts it to good use.
When the Seminoles are playing at home — no matter the sport, time or day — odds are Shirley’s in the stands. “She loves all of it,” her daughter Tiffany Hosford says. “She will schedule five things in three hours and take them all in.” If she’s not cheering on the ’Noles, Shirley is performing charity work, helping out at her church or running around with her six grandkids.
She even took up square dancing in time for the Moores’ 50th anniversary party. (Shirley hasn’t coaxed DeVoe into a do-si-do just yet, so she attends square-dancing sessions — solo — at the local senior center.)
When Florida State’s men’s basketball team traveled to the Virgin Islands earlier this season, the Moores and Vaughns tagged along. One day the crew hopped aboard a catamaran and, while the husbands were content to stay on the boat, the wives dove into some snorkeling.
That was nothing, though, compared to the expedition Shirley launched in 2012. Eager to break in her new motor home, a top-of-the-line Monaco model, Shirley hit the road … to Alaska. Her sister, Sylvia, and a friend began the trek with Shirley, and other guests were rotated in and out during the journey. Four months and 15,877 miles later, Shirley was the lone traveler who had made the entire trip.
“Shirley wore out several companions in the process,” Vaughn says. Which came as a surprise to no one. “If there’s something Mom wants to do,” daughter Tiffany Hosford points out, “she’s gonna do it.” Rarely, however, is it something for herself.
Stories of Shirley’s generosity and self-sacrifice are legion. Most involve everyday acts, like the time she helped Vaughn recover from surgery and ended up cleaning her friend’s baseboards. Or the countless instances when she kicked into “Super Grandma” mode to tackle an urgent call. “She always goes the extra mile to be there for folks,” Vaughn says, “whether you are her family, best friend or an acquaintance.” “She wants to help everybody,” DeVoe adds. “Some people are born with it, some are not. She just has a love for other people and for life.”
“Shirley Moore is the one of the most incredible women I have ever met,” says Seminole Boosters vice president Tom Carlson. “She fills so many roles as a wife, mom, grandmother and friend to everyone around her. She has time for everyone and is genuinely interested in other people. You can’t fake that, and it’s an amazing quality.”
Make no mistake: Shirley Moore has undoubtedly committed acts of kindness greater than the ones noted here. But she’d be the last person to call attention to them.
Investing in FSU: New Boosters board member sizes up the numbers of college sports
By Daniel Mitchell
It wasn’t exactly a surprise to Alan Flaumenhaft. He’d been around college sports long enough to understand the costs involved and the opportunities and risks underlying every decision.
Still, he walked away from an Oct. 9 Seminole Boosters Board of Directors meeting — his first as a board member — with a fresh, crystallized, big-picture view of the athletic program’s challenges.
The bottom line?
“It’s a business,” Flaumenhaft said matter-of-factly.
He ought to know.
The 1988 Florida State graduate, who labels himself a “serial entrepreneur,” is nearly five years removed from selling Freedom Disability, a Social Security advocacy firm he founded in 2002. A deeper dive into Flaumenhaft’s ventures would require a separate story (and then some); suffice it to say, his achievements are impressive.
While Flaumenhaft acknowledges differences between operating a not-for-profit athletics department and running a large company, he also notes similarities.
“Just like in business, you have to keep up with the competition,” he says. “You have to hire the best coaches, build the best facilities and have a top-notch school. We’re hitting on all three.”
No one would argue that.
Spurred by enhanced facilities, outstanding coaches and a strong (and growing) academic reputation, Florida State has enjoyed unprecedented athletic success in recent years. National titles in football (2013 season) and soccer (2014) barely scratch the surface of noteworthy achievements.
“I think FSU is in as good a shape as I’ve ever seen it, across the board,” Flaumenhaft says, proudly pointing to a string of top-12 finishes in the Learfield Directors’ Cup signifying America’s best all-around programs. “The consistency has been great and you’re seeing teams like soccer, which we didn’t even have when I was here, winning national championships.”
Things certainly have changed since Flaumenhaft’s student days.
Raised in Connecticut, the son of a University of New Haven business professor, Flaumenhaft grew up a fan of Big East basketball. Larger-than-life figures like Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin made football an afterthought.
“There wasn’t a big college football presence in the Northeast,” Flaumenhaft says. “The biggest team was Penn State, and they were six hours away.”
Florida State was even farther. But when a high school friend migrated to Tallahassee for college, Flaumenhaft decided to visit for spring break. And that was that.
“I said right away, I’ve got to get to Florida State,” Flaumenhaft recalls.
He transferred from a small college to FSU, polishing off an English degree in two years. As luck would have it, Flaumenhaft’s attendance coincided with the beginning of the Seminoles’ football dynasty — a historic run of 14 consecutive top-4 finishes beginning in 1987.
Flaumenhaft had found his new passion.
“I got bit by the bug when I got down here,” he says. “I was in school at the same time as guys like Deion (Sanders) and Odell (Haggins), so to be in same classroom with them one day and see them in front of 60,000 fans on Saturday afternoon was pretty special.”
For a few years after graduation, though, Alan had to watch the ’Noles from afar. He moved back to the Northeast and worked in the health insurance industry, meeting his now-wife Carol on a conference call.
Although Carol attended Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut, she soon embraced Alan’s alma mater. “When I exposed her to Florida State, she adapted enthusiastically,” Alan laughs.
The couple has four children. The eldest, daughter Ellie, is now a theater major at Rollins College. In fact, all four are active in drama or dance — which means Alan and Carol “go to lots of shows.”
Between family and business obligations, Flaumenhaft has managed to make plenty of football games, with the notable exception of FSU’s title-clinching victory in the 2000 Sugar Bowl. At least he had a good excuse — Carol was about to give birth to Colin, their third child.
“Family comes first,” Alan says. “Otherwise, I’ll be there.”
Flaumenhaft also attends the annual Walter Camp football awards dinner in New Haven, where he’s met numerous Florida State All-Americans over the years. A brief encounter with Jameis Winston was especially memorable.
As Flaumenhaft recalls, “Jameis put his arm around me and said, ‘I play for fans like you.’ ”
“It’s always a great experience to be able to show them there’s a Seminole presence outside of Florida,” he adds, “and to get to know them a little on a personal level.” College sports may be big business, but that personal experience is really what it’s all about.
David Rancourt Elected Chairman of the Board
By Daniel Mitchell
The “it” factor always shines through, even in the lowliest places.
For example, a frat house cellar.
Charlie Barnes learned this firsthand in 1984. Barnes, then executive director of Seminole Boosters, had walked across Wildwood Street from his office to Florida State’s Pi Kappa Alpha house in search of a fellow Pike.
“Down in the basement,” Barnes recalls, “I saw David Rancourt mopping the floor. He was an 18-year-old freshman at the time and a walk-on defensive tackle for the Seminoles. He was a pledge doing his work area at the house.
“I didn’t know him, had never met him. One of the older members pulled me aside and said, ‘See that kid? He’ll be president of this house one day.’ ”
Spoiler alert: Rancourt fulfilled that prediction. And he didn’t stop there.
This past June, Rancourt was elected chairman of the Seminole Boosters Board of Directors. It’s the latest feather in the cap of the Massachusetts native, perhaps best known as co-founder of Southern Strategy Group — now the largest lobbying network in America.
Other highlights of Rancourt’s résumé include stints as director of Florida’s Division of Elections and deputy chief of staff to Governor Jeb Bush. He’s served in the military, too.
Rancourt and his wife of 22 years, Regan, recently moved to Puerto Rico, where David works as a consultant for Champion Companies, his newest venture.
That ramshackle basement turned out to be a launching pad.
“So many things connect back to friendships and relationships in college,” he says. “I was blessed as a young man to meet some amazing people at FSU.” Indeed, Rancourt’s list of mentors and colleagues reads like a who’s-who of Florida State dignitaries. Among them: Jim and Carole Smith, Charlie Barnes, Andy Miller, T.K. Wetherell, Charlie Crist and John Thrasher.
To be sure, Rancourt arrived in Tallahassee with a solid foundation. He grew up in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, the son of Ernestine and Larry Rancourt (a one-time Cincinnati Reds minor-leaguer). The couple owned a small retail business, which, David says, “remains the most indelible mark on my upbringing — it encompasses all the struggles, challenges and successes we had as a family.”
Two years spent at Deerfield Academy, a prestigious boarding school, also proved pivotal. “It pushed me to think bigger and broader and imagine limitless possibilities,” says Rancourt, who captained Deerfield’s football and baseball teams.
The young athlete set his sights on playing football at Columbia, but the school didn’t accept him. His next choice: Florida State. He’d followed the Seminoles during coach Bobby Bowden’s early years, idolizing players like Ron Simmons, Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham.
Rancourt soon found himself in Bowden’s office. He walked on as a defensive lineman and linebacker, making the travel squad for the Seminoles’ 1984 Citrus Bowl appearance. Yet he was realistic about his gridiron potential. “I was graced with many important football attributes,” he notes with a laugh, “but speed was not one of them.” Football’s loss was the university’s gain.
“I took all my energy and engrossed myself in everything FSU — student government, fraternity life, Scalphunters, Order of Omega,” Rancourt says. “I even started a new student political party with a friend.”
After college, Rancourt’s career quickly blossomed. The affable New Englander made allies easily and proved adept at navigating choppy political waters. Those skills served him well in Tallahassee, where David and Regan moved after marrying in 1993.
They remained in Florida’s capital until 2011 — two kids and countless memories later.
“I’m lucky I ended up in Tallahassee,” says Rancourt, whose family donated its home to the Boosters. “My children were raised with small-town family values in great schools with great friends. And living in the backdrop of FSU and being Seminole fans enabled us to raise two of our own rabid Seminole fans.”
That would be son Wyatt, a freshman lacrosse player at Vermont’s Middlebury College, and daughter Gabrielle, a senior at North Carolina’s Asheville School who’s committed to play volleyball at Muhlenberg College (Pa.).
It’s no surprise the Rancourt kids became athletes. It’s in their blood. David still works out religiously, bench-pressing 315 pounds five times on his 50th birthday. He’s also as passionate a Seminole as you’ll ever find.
Add Rancourt’s undeniable “it” factor and you’ve got an ideal leader for the Boosters’ Board of Directors.
“I want the Boosters and the university to continue to breed die-hard Seminole fans,” Rancourt says. “And to work with our Student Boosters to create a culture of giving and to educate our students of all the benefits they get from attending FSU. We must instill that feeling of goodwill and support for FSU, as we always have, through thick and thin.
“Being a Seminole and being a graduate should be a life-long love affair.”
From the Pike house basement to the halls of power, it’s been just that for David Rancourt.