USAO Celebrates Centennial Founders Day with Guests
CHICKASHA -- Nearly 300 local and campus guests joined state officials and alumni from the past 100 years as the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma celebrated its centennial year. On May 16, the university looked to its past as a beacon for the future.
" The mission of the college, from its founding, has never changed," said USAO president John Feaver. " The central essence of the college from the very beginning was to provide liberal arts learning opportunities for Oklahoma citizens and it is a mission that remains intact.
" Its pedigree bequeaths to us today its heritage and its traditions, all of its myths and legacies, which compose the rich and marvelous fabric of its institutional heart and soul, the essence of its being, and now the guide, the compass which is pointing and defining our grand future."
Several state and local dignitaries participated in the afternoon event, which was marked by a special dedication of a new bronze sculpture in front of Nash Library and a ceremony highlighting the past four eras of the university.
Archie Held, the California-based artist whose sculptures can be seen across the U.S. and in many foreign countries, joined Debby Williams, director of the Oklahoma Art in Public Places organization, for the christening of " Flight," USAO's new icon of promise.
Dr. Glen Johnson, chancellor for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, looked to the founders of Oklahoma as pioneers for the future of higher education in the state, who invested in their children by creating several institutions of learning shortly after statehood, including the Oklahoma Industrial Institute and College for Girls (OIICG) which is now USAO.
" As we're here today at this Founders Day, I think we should be reminded that this university is a very, very special place," Johnson said. " It's a place where one generation meets the next. It's a place where lifelong learning occurs. But most of all, it's a place of possibilities. A place where everyone associated with USAO gives the students here the tools to reach their dreams."
Following a prayer of blessing by Kiowa Elder and 1965 Oklahoma College for Women alumna Alecia Gonzales, Susan Winchester (R-Dist. 47) and State Sen. Ron Justice (R-Dist. 23) delivered an official resolution from the Oklahoma Legislature designating May 16, 2008, as the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Centennial Day.
" I am amazed each and every day at the wonderful, wonderful things you are doing," Winchester said, " and I can't wait to wish you a happy birthday 100 years from now, in my heart anyways."
Throughout the celebration, documentary film clips celebrated each of the university's four eras: first as OIICG from 1908-16, then OCW from 1916-65, next as the co-educational Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts from 1965-74, then as USAO from 1974 to the present.
Several of the guest speakers talked about their direct ties to both Chickasha and the university, including Blake Wade, executive director of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, and Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, whose mothers both attended OCW.
" So if anything else, John Feaver, you can look at two proud young men who wouldn't be here if it wasn't for this fine university," Wade said. Calling on the success of more than a thousand projects that constituted the state centennial last year, Wade commented on the importance of Oklahoma's rich history and USAO's own history that has helped make it the successful institution it is today.
" I just want you to know, from one Oklahoman to another, I couldn't be more proud of any group of individuals in any place on this earth, in Chickasha, Oklahoma, in any university, than I am right here," he said.
Blackburn continued the theme of USAO's centennial within the context of Oklahoma's own.
" If I boil it all down into a common theme that connects 1908 with 2008, it's optimism," Blackburn said. " This university was born during an age of prosperity and optimism â€¦ here we are, starting a new century, celebrating the centennial of the state. Coincidentally, we are in another period of prosperity."
Farmers, ranchers and beef manufacturers are seeing record high gains, he said, with commodities like wheat and cotton seeing high demands as well.
" This is a golden age," he said. " This university is starting its second 100 years in another period of prosperity and optimism."
Chickasha Vice Mayor Jay Epperson joined the stage party and presented an official proclamation declaring May 16 as USAO Day in the city.
The ceremony concluded with a message by USAO President Feaver regarding the future of the university.
" In a word, the next 100 years will be determined by the pedigree of its first 100 years," Feaver said. " There is no compelling reason whatsoever to change the course of the institution. It is a college that is being presently invested in heavily by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education with additional monies to propel it on a path that it was intended to be propelled on, back in its changed coeducational status in 1965.
" They recognize that they want a high quality liberal arts college for the state of Oklahoma, a public college that provides an affordable option to the high cost of private institutions, and they want this to be a place with selective admissions standards that match bright students to a rigorous curriculum standard, and that's what we are doing."
Feaver recognized the many guests present for the celebration, both members of the stage party and those in the audience, which included current and past faculty and staff members, students and alumni, as well as state legislators and officials.
" We're going in the direction from which we've come," Feaver said. " The past is our compass for the present and for the future."
Paulette Pogue, president of the USAO Alumni Association and 1960 OCW graduate, closed the ceremony with the College Hymn, accompanied by Dr. Dan Hanson, professor of music.