SHARP, Paul F.
Sharp, Dr. Paul F. Dr. Paul Frederick Sharp, the genial president who successfully guided the University of Oklahoma through six and a half of its most turbulent years, died Thursday, February 19, 2009, at his home in Norman following a long illness. He was 91. Born January 19, 1918, in Kirksville, Missouri, the son of two medical doctors, L. Blanche and Fred Joseph Sharp, Paul Sharp grew up in Crookston, Minnesota, and first came to Oklahoma to study at Phillips University in Enid, chosen because of its affiliation with the Disciples of Christ (Christian) Church. There he met Rose Anderson on the debate team; they began their 69-year marriage in 1939 after he earned his bachelor's degree. His graduate study at the University of Minnesota was interrupted by World War II service in U.S. Navy as liaison officer to the Royal Australian Navy aboard the HMAS Hobart. He would later return to Australia with Rose as a Fulbright lecturer in 1952 and on research leave in 1977.He earned his Ph.D. at Minnesota, where he was an instructor in history, then was an associate professor at Iowa State University and a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Dr. Sharp was president of Hiram College, chancellor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and president of Drake University before coming to the University of Oklahoma. When Dr. Sharp became OU's ninth president in August 1971, he found a campus populated by civil rights protesters, disgruntled faculty and hostile students. Serious funding, management and political issues threatened the University's stability, and a crisis of confidence remained from the controversial term of his predecessor, J. Herbert Hollomon. An experienced university administrator with strong academic credentials, Sharp attacked all these problems with courage and resolve. He mended fences with the public, state officials and even his own Board of Regents. He pushed hard for increased legislative funding for higher education and was the first OU president to make private fund raising an ongoing major function of his administration. He transformed the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City into the OU Health Sciences Center to more accurately reflect the broadening scope of its educational mission through the College of Medicine and six other health profession colleges. Working as a team, Paul and Rose Sharp built bridges to an estranged student body, cooling activist tempers. In a time when the University could not offer salary relief to the dispirited faculty and staff, the couple used their considerable personal skills to build a sense of community in addressing faculty and staff morale issues.Dr. Sharp often recalled that when he arrived at OU, its retired faculty were living in ""genteel poverty."" He insisted on the University's participation in the nationally portable retirement fund TIAA/CREF, causing a marked improvement in the lives of future retirees.In 1978, a minor stroke brought his presidency to an end. Although he would recover completely, his wife convinced him that his recuperation demanded more time and effort than his duties as president would allow. After designation as president emeritus and a regents-granted semester off, he returned to the classroom as Regents Professor of history and higher education from 1978 to 1988, when he added the emeritus title to his professorship. He continued his active association with the University, however, even in retirement, and also served several years as a distinguished professor of history at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. Dr. Sharp also became a major consultant for higher educational institutions and systems throughout the nation and continued to serve on the boards of countless education-related associations, including Educational Testing Service, which he twice chaired. In his service activities, he did not forget his home state and the community of Norman. Nearly three decades of Oklahomans, who did not know him as OU's president, identified him with the boards of the Sarkeys Foundation, the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Full Circle Senior Adult Day Care Center, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, the Associates of the OU Western History Collections, OETA, Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma Heritage Foundation, Cleveland County YMCA and the Cleveland County Red Cross, among others. He was the founding chairman of the Norman Community Foundation and LINK Norman. His academic awards are almost too numerous to list. He received eight honorary doctorates, the distinguished Achievement Award from Phillips University, the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota and the Distinguished Service Citation from the University of Oklahoma, at that time OU's highest honor. His work as a historian, where he specialized in Canadian-American history, was widely respected, his book Whoop-up Country earning the Silver Spur Award from the Western Writers of America as 1955's best non-fiction book on the American West. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Education Hall of Fame and named one of Oklahoma's Living Treasures in 2003 by the Oklahoma Health Center. The Paul F. Sharp Concert Hall in OU's Catlett Music Center is named in his honor. He was preceded in death by his parents. His survivors include his wife, of the home; three children, William Frederick Sharp and his wife, Liz, of Homer, N.Y.; Kathryn Ann Dunlap, of Oklahoma City; and Paul Trevor Sharp and his wife, Jane, of Greensboro, N.C.; seven grandchildren, Michael Sharp, Chris Sharp, Heather Sharp, Brandon Sharp, Graham Sharp, Marny Dunlap and Daniel Dunlap; and seven great-grandchildren; and his sister, Thelma Miller, of Colorado Springs. The family wishes to thank the Loving Care Hospice and all his caregivers. A private family graveside service is scheduled for Saturday. A memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at the First Christian Church, 220 S. Webster in Norman. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Reach Out and Read Program through the University of Oklahoma Foundation, Inc., 100 Timberdell Road, Norman, OK 73019.