USAO News Bureau

HALSTEAD, Clairbel Baird (Buford)

Wednesday, April 2, 2003

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A memorial service for retired educator Claribel Baird Halstead, a 1925 graduate of the Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha, is scheduled on April 27, 2003, at the Michigan League, which is the student center for the University of Michigan.

She died April 2, 2003, in Ann Arbor, Mich. She was 99 years old.

Claribel Buford (Baird) Halstead was one of OCW's most accomplished alumni. She taught drama at OCW before and during World War II, and was named to the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame in 1973.

"Claribel Halstead made an indelible impression on the lives of so many early graduates," said USAO President John Feaver. "She was a rare and gifted educator who cared and invested deeply in the lives of her students. She will not be soon forgotten."

While a student at OCW, she played the male lead, “The Rt. Hon. Benjamin Disraeli,” in the comic stage production Disraeli so well, that a businessman who saw it while passing through Chickasha said her portrayal eclipsed that of George Arliss in the New York stage version.

Schooled on the stage under Francis Dinsmore Davis, she was selected by Davis in 1927 as a charter member of the honorary Green Masque dramatic society. As well as performing in summer theater, Claribel studied and worked for six summers to earn her M.A. in Speech from the University of Michigan, 1936.

Originally from Chickasha, she was nationally recognized as an outstanding stage performer in a range of roles from tragedy to modern comedy, and went on to be one of the nation’s leading teachers of interpretive speech.

USAO Alumni Association Director Myrtle Stevens described Halstead as an ambassador for the college. "She had a distinguished career. But more than that, she touched a lot of students and carried OCW's name wherever she went."

In 1948 Halstead became the first graduate of the Oklahoma College for Women to return as commencement speaker and was listed in Who’s Who of American Women. Having graduated from OCW with a bachelor of arts degree in English degree, she taught speech at OCW from 1927-47. She joined the faculty of the University of Michigan in 1948 and taught there until she retired as full professor in theater department.

Well known in the professional world as Claribel Baird (her first husband’s name), she later taught and performed under that name, even after she married William Halstead, who also taught drama at the University of Michigan. The University of Michigan is endowed with a professorship in drama in her name, as well as the William and Claribel Halstead Scholarship Endowment.