Her eyesight may have dimmed, but 1931 OCW graduate Pearl Opel Thorpe still has visions for the future. Those visions have materialized in the assistance she has given to homeless women, to promote art education, and to educate youth.
It is because of that community leadership that Thorpe was named to the Science & Arts Hall of Fame in 2002.
Born in Cement, Thorpe’s family moved to Chickasha from Cyril when she was 10, so her two older sisters could attend the Oklahoma College for Women. She followed suit. Her artwork adorned the pages of the Argus, OCW’s yearbook, before she graduated with majors in home economics, art and history.
Her teaching career began at Marlow where she taught for five years. She then moved to Bartlesville where she taught grade school art for 10 years. She was recruited to work in Tulsa where she spent the remainder of her 42 years in teaching. After teaching art at Burroughs for about 10 years, she taught homemaking and art at Central High School.
With designs on pursuing a master's degree in 1950, Thorpe attended Columbia University in New York City during the summers. She completed a master's in three summers, studying under well-known artists including Alexandre Hogue who would later come to Tulsa.
Her art is a reflection of the diverse techniques she studied as she strove to introduce her students to different styles.
Committed to art education, she has donated a large collection of art to the Science & Arts Gallery and made a gift of royalty on three farms. In 1997, she made a challenge to the Science & Arts alumni to meet a $50,000 challenge for the creation of a teaching museum at the university.