If the 2019 Cleburne High School Ex-Students Association Coming Home Queen had a theme song, it would have to be the Beach Boys hit “Be True to Your School.”
M.J. Larrison — CHS Class of 1972 — has spent most of her life dedicated to “her school” and school district as a student, parent, supporter and school board member.
“We had some wonderful candidates this year, but we believe the recognition of M.J. Larrison is long overdue,” Association Homecoming Committee Chairman Stephanie Philips said. “As a graduate and an involved parent and community member she has supported Cleburne High School in so many ways. We are thrilled to be honoring her as Coming Home Queen.”
Evidence of Larrison’s pride in “letting her colors fly” in being true to her school is documented in the 1972 CHS yearbook in which classmates voted her “Most Spirited.” She displayed that spirit in numerous ways, from four years on the CHS tennis team to Barton House Song Leader to selection by the campus faculty for Who’s Who.
Larrison’s roots in Cleburne schools run deep, starting with a great-aunt who was a member of the CHS Class of 1913. Her mother, Helen Lee Fulbright, graduated in 1932.
“I believe I went to CHS in the best of times,” Larrison said. “It was one of the last years of the house system before the new high school opened in 1976. We had excellent teachers, great school traditions and I had a wonderful group of friends. All our mothers graduated from Cleburne High School and served in PTA. I think we learned from them—it was instilled in us—to be involved in school and to volunteer.
“I have such treasured friendships from my high school days and they have been long-lasting. I’ve known many of my friends since first grade. I was a member of a great generation and grew up in a great community. Cleburne then and now is a good place to raise kids.”
As the mother of four Cleburne students, Larrison found herself active in multiple Parent Teacher Association units at one point, from the kindergarten program at Santa Fe Elementary School to Coleman Elementary School and Cleburne Middle School and CHS.
Volunteers In Public Schools is also on her involvement resume along with numerous terms as a parent representative on site-based decision-making committees at the campus and district levels. Working the concession stands at football and basketball games and athletic booster are also on the list, along with a term as president of the CHS Ex-Students Association.
Larrison also served on several citizens’ bond committees, most recently the community group which formulated the 2016 bond package to include the construction of the new high school. The 2016 bond passed by voters included facility improvements to Cooke Elementary School and Coleman, her elementary alma mater.
“I served on the bond committee that provided replacement campuses for Santa Fe, Adams and Irving,” Larrison said. “The construction of a new high school was way overdue. It is so state of the art. You can go anywhere and hear people talking about our high school facilities and how great they are. I wish everybody who drives by the high school would stop and go in. It’s phenomenal.”
Larrison decided to take her years of involvement in CISD and her “true to her school” attitude to the next level in choosing to run for the board of trustees in 2008.
“I think it was always in the back of my mind to serve on the school board,” she said. “People knew I was passionate about education—and education in Cleburne. When my youngest graduated, I became more serious about running for election. It was Donna Boles, who had served as a trustee and board president, who came to me and said, ‘it’s time.’”
Larrison’s support for teachers, coupled with her appreciation for the education she and her children received as products of Cleburne schools, was the basis for running for the board and the two terms she spent as a trustee.
“Teachers have so much to do,” she said. “They are responsible for their students eight hours a day. I wanted to give them that support as a trustee. My kids also received an excellent education here in Cleburne. While I believe your child’s education is what you make it, as a parent, you also need great teachers and schools.
“Being on the school board was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. The best part of it was watching kids excel, succeed and achieve.”
Larrison, with her husband, Larry, are now watching a special pair of kids excel — granddaughters Campbell Jane and Charley Ann Hall, who represent a fifth generation of Cleburne students within the family. Both attend Gerard Elementary School.
The fourth generation includes Tracy — ’95; Jeri — ’98; Molli — ’03; and Kyle ’05.
They were all raised to be “true to their school,” said Jeri Larrison Hall, whose career resume includes teaching, coaching and serving as an administrator at CHS. She was named the district’s athletic director last spring.
“My mother’s pride in Cleburne ISD and all its traditions have been passed on to us,” Hall said. “I think that with her mother graduating from Cleburne, her great experiences in growing up in a one high school town and how special that was, and then seeing us go through Cleburne schools are all factors in her devotion to CISD.”
“Her school pride played a big influence in all of us as CISD students. The importance of education is also something she instilled in us. Last week my youngest child said, ‘I love school and don’t want to come home anymore.’ That’s a reflection of how my mom felt—and still feels—about going to school in Cleburne. My daughter is a ‘spirit animal’ just like she is. Being a part of CHS and CISD are super important to my mom.”
M.J. Larrison is also a member of the Cleburne business community as co-owner of Castle Collection. The Larrison’s are active members of First United Methodist Church and have a total of seven grandchildren. She is also involved in alumni activities at Sam Houston State University.
She and fellow honorees parade mashal Gary Lillard and Wall of Fame inductee Barney McClure will be among the participants in Thursday’s Homecoming Parade at 6:30 p.m.
The evening’s activities will also include a community pep rally and the homecoming bonfire at Marti Elementary School. They will be presented in Friday’s homecoming pre-game ceremonies at 7 p.m. at Yellow Jacket Stadium.