Jourdan Earns USAO’s Highest Honor
Its first-ever honorary degree was conferred April 23 upon local businessman Lonnie Jourdan by the University of Science and Arts, school officials have announced.
Jourdan officially received the honorary degree, a Bachelor of Liberal Arts, in the university’s annual spring commencement ceremony that evening.
Jourdan has been a friend to the university for nearly 20 years, giving most generously to scholarships, but also to capital projects like the Greek Theater and Owens Flag Plaza. His leadership gift to restore the Home of the President in 2007 caused the USAO Board of Regents to rename the historic 1919 structure “The Jourdan House” in his honor.
“Lonnie Jourdan is a rare individual whose vision and generosity have left an indelible mark on our history,” said USAO President John Feaver. “Our second century, the history books will show, was launched with inspiration from Lonnie and Dell Jourdan.”
Jourdan has been a leader in the USAO Foundation several times in its 33-year history, said Michael Nealeigh, vice president for advancement. “Lonnie and Dell Jourdan have provided critical insight, creativity and initiative in recent years especially. His leadership to the USAO Foundation has been visionary.”
An honorary bachelor’s in liberal arts has special significance, said Dr. Sanders Huguenin, vice president for academic affairs. “We are following a long tradition in higher education to recognize people who’ve made exemplary contributions to the institution and the community with an honorary degree equal to our highest degree,” Huguenin said. “The bachelor’s is the primary degree and is the most important. It usually shapes your future like none other. We believe the bachelor’s degree in liberal arts has special symbolic meaning at USAO, one of the premier public liberal arts colleges in the nation, where undergraduate education is our core mission. It is the foundation upon which every graduate for more than a hundred years has built his or her academic credentials.”
The most visible symbol of Jourdan philanthropy is the Home of the President, reborn to carry the very essence of its rich history as home to every president of the college since George Washington Austin moved in with his wife Pearl, and their children, in 1920.
Conceived in the Prairie School style of architecture, the president’s home is one of eight buildings on the USAO campus designed by Solomon Andrew Layton, author of the domed Oklahoma Capitol Building and many other notable state architectural treasures.
Lonnie Jourdan was born in Texas but lived much of his adult life in Chickasha. He and Dell – the former Dell A. Galindo of Anadarko – were married in 1948 in Oklahoma City. He worked as a certified public accountant most of his professional life, while building Chickasha’s Alliance Oil and Gas Co., which they acquired in 1970, and developing antiques dealerships here and in Denton, Texas. They have two sons, Michael, of Chickasha, and Keith, of Denton. A concert trumpet player, Keith also is an educator. Their daughter, Michelle, operates Proflex Personnel Services in Denton.
The Jourdans may be best remembered in Chickasha for their commitment to special needs children. Back in the 1970s, Lonnie and Dell helped to establish Chickasha’s Opportunity Workshop. In fact, Lonnie Jourdan served as state president of the Oklahoma Association for Handicapped Children. Besides children’s charities, the Jourdans have undertaken various civic causes in Chickasha, including the Chamber of Commerce and the Jaycees. Lonnie has served several terms as a trustee for the USAO Foundation and for other local nonprofits.