“Dig Purple.” All Graceland-game-goers have heard the phrase at least once. This is the home volleyball match where everyone wears purple and goes to cheer Graceland on to another volleyball victory. In fact, we just had our 4th Annual Dig Purple match which resulted in a clean sweeping win by the Jackets.
But what is the purpose of the purple? What is the meaning behind the phrase? The inspiring story that inspired a tradition to keep one family’s legacy alive is one that deserves to have more light shed upon it. A beautiful example of the power of love, a demonstration of the support of a community, and a reminder of a disease that is too hard to beat – the story behind why we dig is one that we all must come to know.
Charles and Katie Persall were married August 23rd, 1980. Both were accomplished teachers. Charles began his career at Pearland High School in Texas. There he earned the Pearland’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 2000. Katie spent 28 years as a Physical Education teacher at Longfellow Elementary and Passmore Elementary. As spoken by Charles, the two’s greatest accomplishment were their three children: Kelsie, Charlie, and Catelin.
The Persall’s came to Graceland around 2008. Charles was a professor in both the Education and Psychology Departments. During his time here, he was nominated for the Graceland University Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award not once, not twice, but three times. Katie started off working in Admissions, but later decided to pursue her passion for dance and become the coach of the Graceland Gadets. Katie was described as a well- respected and deeply loved coach who did many wonderful things throughout her time with the program. The Persall name is known, loved, and will be respected at Graceland for many years.
“Dig Purple” was created to honor the Persalls after both Charles and Katie sadly lost their lives to cancer; Charles in 2014 and Katie the next year. We dig purple as a reminder of not only Pancreatic cancer, but all of the cancers which have claimed too many lives. For the past four years, Graceland University has dedicated a game to them. It’s a reminder of the wondrous legacy left by two very special people, a demonstration of the power of a community, and the love of family.
We draw upon their values each year around this time. We wear purple, and we dig it. Because like the Persalls, we have proved that strength can be found amongst loss.