By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Applause echoed off the walls as past Otis Sullivant Awardees stood to their feet to acknowledge a man who has dedicated himself to the University of Oklahoma and his students for almost 50 years. Alan Velie, David Ross Boyd Professor of English, was presented the $20,000 Otis Sullivant Award for Perceptivity at the University of Oklahoma at a luncheon Friday.
“He’s a special person to the entire OU family. He loves scholarship. He loves learning and on top of that he truly loves his students,” said OU President David L. Boren.
Velie was chosen by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the selection committee, which is composed of faculty and staff members, students and alumni. The late Edith Kinney Gaylord of Oklahoma City established the $500,000 Sullivant Prize endowment shortly before her death in January 2001.
“Edith Gaylord made her own way. She did not rest on her family name or laurels and ownership of the Oklahoman and then the Daily Oklahoman and Times ... She went off to blaze a trail of her own,” Boren said.
Gaylord was a longtime supporter of many OU programs and a pioneering journalist. She was the first woman reporter to join the New York bureau of the Associated Press, and was the second president and one of the founders of the Women’s National Press Club in Washington, D.C. She also became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt when Roosevelt began to host press conferences at which she would only allow women journalists to attend; changing the face of journalism.
Boren explained that the award honors the late, longtime Oklahoma journalist Otis Sullivant, who was good friends with Gaylord and covered Oklahoma and national political news for several decades and was known for his ability to analyze and accurately predict political trends.
Bob Ross, president and CEO of Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, said it had been a pleasure getting to know Velie and his family.
“Professor Velie is a master teacher and a mentor to students,” Ross said. “He is an extremely popular educator that inspires students and engages them and expands their minds; pointing out the critical importance of the written word ... For him the passion of thought is essential to the learning process.”
Additionally, Ross said Velie does not limit teaching to a classroom.
“He has been known to teach all the time, everywhere about anything to anyone,” he said.
When Velie accepted his award, he said he loved OU the moment he arrived on campus, 47 years ago. Velie commented on how OU had moved from being a good state university to a great university especially under the leadership of Boren and his wife, Molly Shi Boren.
“I’m proud and pleased to accept this great honor. More than 100 people here at OU you could say the same thing about. I’m delighted they said it about me.”
After jesting about how sympathy for his recent stroke may have contributed to his selection, Velie said he believed he received the award for his dedication to the University and his students.
“As far as I can see, it’s for service, which comes in all forms,” he said.
Velie began his career at OU in 1967 teaching Shakespeare, but soon shifted his focus to American Indian literature. In 1969, his course in Indian literature was the first in the country to focus on Indian literature from the standpoint of literary analysis, and the first to examine contemporary Indian fiction and poetry. Velie is widely acknowledged as one of the original scholars in this area of study.
He is a past recipient of the Amoco Award for Outstanding Teaching, the Baldwin Award for Excellence in Classroom Instruction and the Summer Faculty Instructional Award as well as being named Mortarboard Honor Society Outstanding Faculty Member. Velie was the founding faculty advisor of the OU Rugby Club and the OU Rugby Football Complex is named in his honor to recognize his years of leadership in the sport.
Velie received his bachelor’s degree in 1959 from Harvard University. He went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1966 and 1969, respectively.
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