If the original founders of Southeastern Oklahoma State University could be here today, they would see that things are just peachy.
The university’s first Founders’ Day program was held Tuesday in the historic Montgomery Auditorium to mark 103 years to the day of the official birth of what was then called “Southeastern Normal School.”
A program led by HPER Chairwoman Vicki Hudson included a jovial lecture from Dr. David Norris, performances by the Southeastern Chorale and proclamations from the governor and mayor. Afterward, a peach cook-off contest was held to commemorate the previous occupant of the land where SOSU was built.
“This was, pure and simple, a 20-acre peach orchard,” said Norris, Professor Emeritus of the SOSU Department of Social Sciences. “It was by far the most magnificent view of the city.”
Norris said attorney and Choctaw Nation Principal Chief William Durant lobbied the fledgling State Legislature to install a university in Durant as “all kinds of cities got into fights to get these institutions” being set up in the years after statehood in 1907.
“They actually got into fist fights on the floor of the capitol over the location of these institutions,” he said. “If there’s ever a statue to someone on this campus, it should be to William A. Durant. He is called the patron saint of Southeastern.”
Dr. Douglas McMillan, Vice President of Academic Affairs at SOSU, spoke for President Larry Minks, who could not attend due to illness.
“The Southeastern vision continues to be as a leader in higher education,” he said. “I’m proud to say, as a university, we have stayed true to our academic mission.”
Gary Sherrer, Oklahoma Secretary of the Environment and a 1973 graduate of SOSU, presented a commendation from Gov. Mary Fallin. Durant Mayor Jerry Tomlinson also read a proclamation from the city council to honor Founder’s Day.
Durant Councilman Leon Sherrer, SOSU Homecoming Queen Amanda Scott and SODEXO Chef Kenneth Furtado served as judges for the peach cook-off contest. Dishes included pies, cobblers and jellies, all served with peach-flavored tea.