USAO Announces Centennial Celebration May 16

An aerial photo from 1922 shows a handful of buildings on a dusty, treeless plain south of Chickasha, flanked on the south by a dirt road that will become Grand Avenue. Members of the Centennial Planning Committee at USAO meet with President John Feaver, center, to discuss six capital projects underway and how the campus will change during this centennial year. Among the many projects and events marking this important milestone is Centennial Founders Day on May 16, a celebration of USAO's history and future. Admission is free to the 3 p.m. dedication of 'Flight' and 4 p.m. public ceremony in Te Ata Memorial Auditorium. The 25-member Centennial Committee includes alumni, faculty, students and staff.

USAO Announces Centennial Celebration May 16


CHICKASHA -- One hundred years in the making, Oklahoma's public liberal arts college is looking to its origins, and its century of history, during the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma's Founder Day on May 16.

Commemorating the university's four distinct eras, the Founders Day celebration features special guest speakers and the dedication of a new public sculpture.

" A timeless, aspirational symbol of promise, 'Flight' will inspire generations of campus residents and visitors," said USAO President John Feaver. " The artist has cleverly captured this institution's ambitions, Oklahoma's unique history and fauna, and the limitless potential of the liberally educated mind. It is a stunning metaphor."

Beginning at 3 p.m., guests and state officials will join the president to dedicate " Flight," a large, bronze sculpture recently installed in front of Nash Library. Weighing in at 1,500 pounds with a wingspan of 14 feet and a length of 16 feet, the sculpture resembles the scissor-tailed fly catcher. Commissioned by the college and created by international sculptor Archie Held, the public art piece is inspired by Oklahoma's state bird, the wide-open possibilities of life after college and the artwork of Native American artist Acee Blue Eagle, who painted murals in 1935 on the walls of the original gymnasium building on campus.

One of America's most respected public art sculptors, and the creator of famous works in a dozen countries, Held is one of the guests scheduled to speak at the dedication of the sculpture. Debby Williams, director of Oklahoma Art in Public Places, also will address the crowd during the ceremony. USAO was the first educational institution in Oklahoma to collaborate with the newly formed Oklahoma Art in Public Places to create publicly displayed art. " Flight" is the first Archie Held sculpture ever dedicated in Oklahoma.

Created by the Legislature in 2004, the act was designed to encourage public art at public institutions. As part of its $6 million in campus capital projects underway -- funded by the 2004 statewide bond issue that sent $475 million to Oklahoma colleges -- USAO took the lead under the new program before the law actually required it. A portion of this money will pay for the $60,000 Nash Library Public Art Project.

The Founders Day celebration continues at 4 p.m. in the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium with a special ceremony looking back over the university's past 100 years. Special guests will celebrate its four distinct eras, first as the Oklahoma Industrial Institute for College Girls from 1908-16, then the Oklahoma College for Women from 1916-65, followed by the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts from 1965-74. The college was named The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 1974 and has continued its original mission of providing a quality liberal arts education through today.

Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, joins Dr. Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society and Blake Wade, executive director of the Oklahoma Centennial, for the historical event. Local and state officials will present proclamations heralding the day.

A multimedia presentation combining original video footage, photography and even recordings of popular music from each era will be presented throughout the ceremony. Newly rediscovered film footage from the 30's, 50's and 70's will be featured in the commemorative tribute.

" We invite community members, friends of the college and all members of the university community to celebrate this milestone with us," Feaver said. " The momentum we enjoy today is built upon the college's totally unique curriculum and history among the oldest public liberal arts colleges in America. Together we will celebrate the people, events and timeless purpose that has made the institution great."

Both events are free and open to the public.