UI King Dad

Morris Mosley of Urbana raises his arms in triumph after being crowed during halftime of the Illini game against Minnesota on Nov. 3, 2018. His daughter, Maya Mosley, is at left.

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URBANA — His yearlong reign as King Dad ends today, but Morris Mosley isn’t worried about giving up his title.

For him, the highlight wasn’t the crown or the royal treatment he received on Dads Day a year ago.

It was the fact that his daughter Maya, who nominated him, thought he was worthy of being King Dad.

“As parents, we kind of hope that we’re doing the best thing and hope that we have the best impact we can. But we all have these doubts,” said Mosley, a clinical counselor for the University of Illinois’ Faculty Staff Assistance Program. “That reassurance from the person who matters most for my parenting — that was it for me.”

In an annual tradition dating back to 1948, the Dads Association selects a King Dad each year during Dads Day festivities at Memorial Stadium. The newest will be crowned during halftime of today’s game against Rutgers.

Students nominate their dads or a male figure who serves that role in their life, said Zuri White, program manager for the UI Office of Parent and Family Programs.

The Dads Association’s executive board ranks all the applications and chooses the ultimate winner, she said. This year the group received about 50 nominations, she said, adding that the number fluctuates from year to year.

Mosley was surprised when his daughter told him he had won last year because he didn’t know she’d nominated him.

Maya Mosley, who grew up in Champaign-Urbana, was a UI sophomore at the time but had just transferred back from Northern Illinois University. She and her dad started having lunch together every week “just to talk about things,” Morris Mosley said, “so I was perfectly happy just having her back in town. When this happened, it was unbelievable.”

Besides the Dads Day halftime ceremony, they got to have breakfast with UI President Tim Killeen and watched the Illini game with Chancellor Robert Jones and his wife.

But the part Mosley treasures most is her essay, where Maya Mosley recounted stories her dad had told her long ago about the hurdles he overcame growing up in a rough part of Chicago.

“You tell them stories, and you forget about it, and you don’t know what stuck and why it stuck,” he said. “For some reason, she remembered it.”

In her essay, she wrote: “My dad has given me everything I have and will ever need because he is a fighter.”

He grew up with seven brothers and sisters, and “their house was full of love and mouths to feed,” she said. All eight were sent to Catholic grade school and high school, and Mosley eventually won a scholarship to attend Quincy University before completing graduate school at the UI.

“Instead of succumbing to the statistics of gangs and killings, my family chased bigger dreams fueled by education. My father has given me everything by becoming a first-generation college and graduate student,” she wrote. “He struggled so that I didn’t have to, giving me the opportunity to focus on academics instead of gangs trying to recruit me every day at the park.”

The youngest of Mosley’s three children, Maya Mosley is now studying industrial psychology and communications, similar to her dad’s profession.

Morris Mosley’s duties as King Dad didn’t really extend beyond that first weekend.

But he and his daughter have grown closer in the past year. And he was given a desk clock to commemorate the occasion, which he checks every hour on the hour as he moves through his daily appointments.

“I put it in my office so I can look at it every day,” he said.


Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is jwurth@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).