Wade, Loop Inducted Into USAO Alumni Hall of Fame
CHICKASHA – As part of its annual Alumni Homecoming, the University of Science and Arts selected two individuals to receive honors at an awards luncheon for new USAO Alumni Hall of Fame inductees. A World War II fighter pilot and a music educator were named to the Hall of Fame during theNov. 2 ceremony.
Mary Helen Scrogin Wade has spent her life enriching lives with music. The 1936 Oklahoma College for Women (OCW) music alumna taught music at OCW and the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts (OCLA), and she directed church choirs for more than 50 years. A member of the National Guild of Piano Teachers, Wade received the American College of Musicians’ highest honor in the Guild Teacher National Hall of Fame and several other national awards.
Wade comes from a family of musicians who called OCW their college home. Her sister Betty was a cellist and sister Jeanne was a violinist. Louise Waldorf, a music instructor for nearly 40 years at OCW, once commented that, “the Scrogin clan made an indelible impact on life on the OCW campus, and we were all the richer for it.”
Waldorf, whose legacy continues today as a namesake in the annual Davis-Waldorf Performing Arts Series, was no stranger to Wade: the pianist was a member of Waldorf’s string ensembles, the symphony concert orchestra, Phi Epsilon Music Club and Sigma Delta Social Club.
Wade went on to earn Texas Women’s University’s first degree in piano pedagogy in 1976. She taught music in public schools and piano camps for junior high and high school students. She also taught as an adjunct professor at OCLA and Cameron University in Lawton. From 1936-89, Wade served as choir director, first at the First Methodist Church in Ryan, then at the First Methodist Church in Duncan.
Wade’s greatest achievements came, perhaps, not from herself, but the students to whom she devoted herself. Cynthia (Richardson) Benton, who was named Miss OCLA in 1968, said that Wade was a superb performer who had a witty and fun loving spirit, and she showed her students what they were capable of and then guided them to do it.
“I remember her telling me in those days that music would be my life,” Benton said. “She was right … my best friends, my best times, my best memories have come about through my love of music.”
David Hooten, a renowned trumpet soloist who has played for the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Service, for Pope John Paul II and for President Bush, wrote that he recently completed a 36-state concert tour playing mainly trumpet with one piano solo.
“The piece I performed was one that I composed when I was nine years old, under the tutelage of Mrs. Wade,” Hooten said. “Ironically, on tour, my solo piano album outsold my 16 trumpet albums.”
For 13 consecutive years, Wade won the Guild Teacher National Honor Roll award by preparing her students for entry in national piano performance auditions.
Today, Wade lives with her husband, Roy, in Duncan. Of their three children, Rebecca Claar, Nancy Carol Wade Kerr and Robert Wade, two are OCLA graduates. Though Wade is retired, her influence still continues in the lives of those she taught.
“I believe a person’s life work should not be measured in what they own or have accomplished, but rather in this: did they help a child believe that child could make the world a better place?” Hooten said. “I believe that due to Mrs. Wade, I have made the world a better place, and in turn have handed it down to many children. If the whole world did this, one child at a time, maybe we could find world peace. You’ve just got to believe.”
World War II pilot Paula Ruth Loop, a 1937 Oklahoma College for Women graduate, earned a bachelor of science degree in commerce. In 1942, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Loop joined the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP), where she received her silver wings the following year. In 1944, Loop died in service of her country when her plane crashed while delivering a flight of three BT-13 planes.
During the blackest years of the Great Depression, Loop worked to put herself through two years of school at Northwestern State Teacher’s College before enrolling at OCW. After graduating from OCW, she pursued a master’s degree at Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College in Stillwater.
But Loop’s career didn’t begin in the cockpit. An accomplished musician and educator in the wake of the Depression, Loop became a high school commerce and English instructor and high school play director in the Arnett Public School system.
While working in Ponca City, she was awarded a flight scholarship in 1940 under the Civil Air Authorities, which entitled her to 35 hours of flying and a private pilot’s license – the first woman in Oklahoma to do so. Maintaining an average grade point average of 94.9, she had her first solo flight on September 22, 1940.
In fall, 1942, Loop became a link trainer instructor at the Darr School for British Cadets at the Ponca City Municipal Airport, one of two British flying schools in Oklahoma at the time.
That December, one year after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Loop entered the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots training program at Ellington Field, near Houston, Texas. Though nearly 25,000 women applied to the program, less than 1,900 were accepted, and just over half actually completed the program and received their wings.
A non-military status program, women were given minimal pay, no federal recognition and participated in spite of tremendous political and social pressures. Loop received her silver wings on May 28, 1943.
Loop also was a member of “The 99s,” an elite national organization of women aviators whose roster includes Amelia Earhart and several other famous women in aviation history.
Loop’s pilot log book reflects more than 1,000 hours of solo flying time through every state in the Union and parts of Canada. On July 7, 1944, Loop was killed at the age of 27 during a flight from Enid to Seattle, Wash. The BT-13 plane she was delivering crashed near Medford, Ore.
Her silver wings were embedded into her tombstone in her hometown of Wakita, Okla., where she was buried. Though the military did not recognize Loop or any other of the other 37 women who died while in service to the WASPs, Tinker Air Force Base dedicated a building to her in Midwest City in 1980. Loop was named posthumously to the Oklahoma Aviation Hall of Fame in 2002.
This year, Loop was included as one of 10 notable OCW women documented in “Preparing the New Woman at the Oklahoma College for Women: Expectation and Reality,” a traveling exhibit currently on display at the new Oklahoma History Center.
Susanna Hayworth, a music senior at USAO, recently researched Loop’s life during an independent study project that led to her nomination of Loop for the Alumni Hall of Fame award.
“Her life wasn’t spent accumulating material goods or fame for herself,” Hayworth said. “It was spent in the betterment of others. She was always putting the concerns of her fellow man above her own. This ultimately resulted in the selfless sacrifice of her life in the service of her country.”