Norman Resident Honors Wife With New USAO Business Scholarship
CHICKASHA – Lorene Smith Summers may not have been able to afford a college education herself, but a recent gift made in her name will help pave the way for future business students at the University of Science and Arts. A $75,000 endowed scholarship was established May 22 by her husband, Robert F. Summers II of Norman.
“She would have done anything for a college education,” Robert Summers said. “It was never a lack of ability, just a lack of opportunity.”
Born in 1926, Amanda Bertie Lorene Smith lived in a two-room country home built by her father in Geary, Okla. When her mother needed surgery, they gave the house to the doctor as payment. Most of that summer, they lived under a tree until her father could find work in the city.
The eldest of five children, she picked cotton to help support the family. She never owned a doll.
Eventually, her family ended up in Chickasha, where she worked as a phone operator. In 1947, she met Summers, who proposed within a year.
“She was a short, petite ball of fire,” Summers said. “She said, ‘I can’t marry a man without a job.’”
Summers found a job at Tinker Air Force Base, and they married the next day.
They remained in Chickasha for a while before moving to Norman in the late 1940s to help shorten the daily commute. Their first son, Robert F. III, was born in 1949. James Jeffrey was born six years later.
Determined to get an education, Lorene Summers went back to school and earned her high school diploma from Oklahoma City High School in 1967. A lifelong learner, she took up painting in later years and learned to quilt.
Lorene Summers died in 1993, and though she never went to college, her memory will live on through a $75,000 endowed scholarship at USAO for students pursuing a business degree. Her husband of 44 years established the scholarship in her honor.
“She had a lot of common sense and a businesslike mind,” he said. “Above all else, she was a loving mother and wife.”
Dr. Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement, said the scholarship is a fitting tribute to Summers’ life and spirit.
”This scholarship will give countless students the opportunity for a college education that Mrs. Summers did not have available to her,” said Nealeigh. “I can think of no better way to honor her memory.”