Margaret “Maggie” Strum Acheson Allesee, who attended Florida State College for Women just as it was transitioning to a co-ed university, passed away on Jan. 27 at the age of 94.
A 1949 FSU graduate in English, journalism and education, Allesee went on to earn a master’s degree in education, guidance and counseling and a post-master’s degree in gerontology from Wayne State University, along with four honorary doctoral degrees.
As FSU’s first head cheerleader leading the opening cheer at the first football game in 1947, Allesee was also the first woman to win a varsity letter. She later went on to be the only female of the FSU Varsity Club’s dozen founders.
Allesee traveled the world and settled in the Detroit area, but she never stopped cheering for Florida State, returning annually to Tallahassee to don her original uniform and make appearances in the FSU Homecoming Parade and on the football field.
“It was such a joy to see her return each year for our homecoming festivities,” said Julie Decker, president and CEO of the FSU Alumni Association. “She leaves a generous legacy that will continue paving the way for a new generation of FSU athletes and artists.”
An avid Seminole fan and ardent supporter of her alma mater, Allesee had a rich history of philanthropy to FSU.
In 2000, Allesee endowed the Maggie Strum Allesee Women’s Golf Scholarship, which has greatly benefited female student-athletes in the sport, most recently Kaylah Williams, a sophomore psychology major from South Africa.
Allesee also gifted the university the one-ton, 15-foot-tall statue, Sportsmanship, which stands in Strum Plaza at Doak Campbell Stadium. Unveiled in 2000, the gift honors her father, Al Strum, an athlete in his own right who had a remarkable reputation for grace and sportsmanship.
Most notably, she endowed the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography in 2004. The center, housed within the FSU School of Dance, is the first national center for choreography located in a major research institution. Since its inception, MANCC has supported multi-week residencies for more than 150 choreographers and their 1,100+ collaborators worldwide. In 2013, FSU honored Allesee with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for her support of dance innovation and research.
“Through the experience in this center for choreography, FSU offers a positive impact for developing outstanding dancers from all over the world,” Allesee said. “High levels of education are the finest gifts we can provide for our students today.”
Carla Peterson, MANCC director since 2014, credits Allesee’s “expansive vision, deep passion for dance, commitment to students and abiding generosity” for inspiring artists and propelling the center’s success.
“We owe her a deep measure of gratitude for a center that will continue to support artists and model professional pathways for students long into the future,” Peterson said.
Maggie will be mourned by many, including her three children Shirley Shirock (Bob), Kathy Cooke (Kim) and Michael Acheson (Adele); three stepchildren Robert Jr, John (Karen Sterzik) and Bill Allesee (Joan); 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.