The History of USAO page 4


Another early step taken by John Feaver to restore the university’s history and heritage was the establishment of a presidential archive. Having never experienced a major fire, USAO had an unbroken and almost complete holding of presidential files from 1913 to the present. In January of 2001, President Feaver asked Dan Hobbs—one of the emeriti professors—to begin a systematic study of the files in preparation for the writing of an institutional history. Ultimately that activity evolved into  “The Legacy Project,” whose purview included not only the conduct of research necessary to produce an institutional history, but also to lay the groundwork for establishing an institutional archive somewhere on campus. Kelly Brown, Director of Nash Library, ultimately situated the archive in the south wing on the third floor of Nash Library.

In the archives are located the presidential files, regents’ minutes, a number of rare and valuable books, documents such as original property deeds, institutional catalogs and bulletins, Oklahoma government publications, faculty research materials, alumni files, audio and video records, thousands of pictures, and hundreds of artifacts related to the history of the college.  For many years, artifacts and other materials were not solicited systematically from alumni and friends of the college because there was no place to store them; today, an effort is under way to encourage the donation of historical items under the guarantee that all gifts will be preserved and exhibited as appropriate.


Academic Resource Center—In his first meeting with the USAO Board of Regents as president, the board approved a contract for just under $300,000 to renovate the third floor of  Susan B. Anthony Hall—known in its early days as Senior Hall and then as the Old Hotel. Since the closing of the hotel in the 1950s, the college had utilized only the first floor of the three-story building, while the upper two stories were allowed to deteriorate. Upon receipt of funds from a multi-year, $1.1 million grant from the federal government as a “Developing Institution,” USAO dedicated the third floor of Senior Hall for use as an Academic Resource Center.

The Lawson Court Project—With Nellie Sparks Hall and Willard Hall filled almost to capacity in 2000, USAO had no additional room to house students. With no public funding for student housing available, President Feaver and his principal advisors, Vice President Terry Winn and Director of Business Affairs Mike Coponiti, negotiated a $13.1 million contract in 2001 for off-budget financing of a 300-unit student housing project. Three commercial-style apartment buildings were completed in 300 days, just in time for occupation in the fall of 2002. The project incorporated the renovation and use of historic Lawson Hall as an administrative headquarters for the housing complex. Lawson Hall contains a new post office, a store, a fitness center and spa, a salon, a small movie theatre, and spaces for student activities. A new swimming pool was built just east of Lawson Hall. Revenues from students and the public will be used to retire the bonded indebtedness for the project. It represents one of the largest public-private partnerships ever created among four-year public universities in Oklahoma.

Lawson Hall was one of three small upper-division dormitories for women built in the 1930s by the Public Works Administration. Originally designed by Chickasha architect Paul Harris in Spanish Eclectic style, its incorporation into the Lawson Courts Project by architect Richard Cavin helped to preserve the integrity of The Oklahoma College for Women National Historic District. The three Lawson Court apartment units were done in the Spanish Eclectic style, and mimic the original design and materials of Old Lawson.

CMS-Viron Energy Program—Initiated in 2001, the CMS-Viron energy program was created to upgrade the heating and cooling system on the west side of the campus. Tim Stiger, Director of Physical Plant at USAO, conceived the program, which was approved by the president. The college signed a $3.35 million, 25-year contract with the provider with the expectation that savings from annual energy costs would make the payments on the original investment. The equipment was obtained at no cost to the State of Oklahoma. That project drew wide publicity, and the university drew praise for the establishment of the no-load funding program. The system began installation in 2002, and was fully operational a year later.

Alumni Bridge—A new Alumni Bridge was constructed on the east side of the campus in 2002, spanning a stream just west of the Alumni Chapel. A visit to Dallas in 2001 by a campus delegation led by President John Feaver and Myrtle Stevens, Alumni Director, resulted in a $25,000 gift from an alumna to begin the project. The total cost of the bridge was approximately $50,000, paid for by alumni and dedicated in November of 2002. Richard Cavin, the bridge architect, skillfully blended traditional campus design elements and building materials to create a picturesque campus scene as viewed from 17th Street.

The Historic Markers Program—To celebrate the designation of the campus as a national historic district by the National Park Service, the president initiated a project to locate   markers at each of the campus entrances and in front of all the historic buildings. An ad hoc campus Environmental Committee assisted in choosing the kinds of markers to be purchased and the sites where they were to be located. Larry Magrath and a subcommittee recommended the use of polished red Oklahoma Granite slabs for the project. Approximately a dozen granite markers have already been placed. When the project is completed, there will be approximately 20 markers.  Other signs and markers will be added later to call attention to historic campus places such as Grimsley Gardens, the College Farm, and Mary Lyon Hall—formerly North Hall.

The Historic Front Steps Project—One of the most impressive features of the USAO Administration Building is its broad limestone front steps, which occupy the entire front of the building’s center bay. There are 20 massive steps, ascending to a second-story landing. The steps were in disrepair for several years until a consortium of local architects, builders, and citizens led by Cary DeHart volunteered to help fund and construct the removal and repositioning of the original limestone blocks, beginning in January of 2003. CMS Willowbrook was in charge of the project. New sidewalks were constructed in front of the building, and new brass handrails and other decorative features were added to the steps. The front entrance is now as attractive as it first appeared in pictures dating from 1911-12.

The Greek Theatre Project—The OCW graduating class of 1923 started a tradition of leaving a memorial gift to the college. The first memorial was a rustic Greek Theatre, constructed near a wooded area called the Sanctuary, at the southeast corner of the campus. There, Miss Francis Davis staged classical dramas, replete with actresses playing the role of Greek heroes, accompanied by young barefoot dancers clad in diaphanous white gowns. The young women were trained to dance in the manner of Isadore Duncan by Phys. Ed. teachers in the third-floor dance studio of the Old Physical Education Building. The dance studio still features the same ballet barres and full-length mirrors that OCW dancers utilized in the late 1920s and ‘30s.

Over the decades, the wooden Greek Theatre deteriorated and was finally removed after World War II. Generous donors made it possible to reconstruct a replica located in the same area as the original. The replica was constructed just west of the small stream at the southeast corner of the campus. It stands 13 feet tall, is 36 feet wide, and contains four tons of steel and 70 tons of concrete. Built by CMS Willowbrook, it is wired for a sound system and has outdoor lighting to accommodate an audience seated in a natural amphitheater east of the Home Management House. Dedication of the new Greek Theatre  took place on October 26, 2003, as a part of Homecoming activities.

Owens Flag Plaza—For decades, a lone flagpole stood in the center of the campus, roughly  halfway across the oval between the Administration Building and Nash Library. However, the original position of the flagpole greatly magnified the importance of the west side and denigrated that of the east side. Borrowing from his knowledge of the grounds at Versailles in relation to the palace, Cecil Lee, Regents’ Professor of Art and a landscape architect by training, suggested that the fulcrum be shifted 100 feet to the east—straight north of the north entrance of the President’s Home—to make the flagpole area a unifying element in the campus design. Embracing that idea, the president submitted it to the Regents in April of 2001, and funding was sought for its construction.

 In July of 2001, President Feaver reported that a Colorado alumnus had agreed to donate funds to begin construction of the Flag Plaza. Ground was broken in November of 2003, and the project was completed and dedicated on March 18, 2004. It was named for Mark and Caroline Owens, OCLA-period alumni from Castle Rock, Colorado, whose initial major donation enabled construction to begin. The $100,000 project was completed by a generous contribution from local citizens Lonnie and Dell Jourdan, long-time friends of the university.

The plaza is comprised of three huge interlocking circles, each containing at its center a soaring flagpole. Old Glory’s flagpole is 50 feet in height, and the Oklahoma and USAO poles are each 45 feet in height. The standards are super-sized, measuring 8 by 12 feet. Because of their dimensions, the flags have to be made to order. The Owens Plaza regularly attracts attention from groups as a place to hold a meeting, or simply as a place for individuals to meet.