State Senator Cal Hobson's OSHER lifelong learning classes at OU are a wealth of knowledge. And not just from the former Senator. Class members often have memories to share that are better than any text or Hobson handout.
Hobson's current class that focuses on the past eight OU presidents is being taught on the Norman campus and repeated on the OU Health Sciences Center campus in Oklahoma City.
In Norman, a few weeks ago, discussion lead to challenges faced by Dr. George L. Cross, OU's president from 1943 to 1968. He helped integrate the campus, brought Bud Wilkinson to the football scene and assimilated and housed thousands of returning GIs to campus. But it was a major league panty raid that drew the class' attention.
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A 2,000-man panty raid in the early 1950s was the highlight of campus life that year, Hobson said.
On the front row in the Norman class, a man who had actually participated in the historic raid, described how the football players hoisted him through a window so that he could unlock the front doors.
In Oklahoma City, a woman who was in school at the time said she and her roommates felt slighted because her dorm was somehow skipped by the underwear thieves.
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The presidential class begins with Cross and ends with Jim Gallogly. It skips fill-ins, but does have some mention of current interim president Joe Harroz.
Hobson knew several of the presidents better than the others. He was a freshman during the Cross and Hollomon years and a freshman legislator when Pepperdine President William S. Banowsky arrived on campus in 1978. He believes Banowsky's real purpose in coming to Oklahoma was to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by former Governor Henry Bellmon. That never happened.
Banowsky, a former pastor and president of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., had a knack for raising money. He transformed Pepperdine from a small Los Angeles college to a Malibu showplace on the Pacific.
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J. Herbert Hollomon, who served after Dr. Cross in 1968, was a metallurgist engineer, trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He came to OU after a stint at the Department of Commerce.
He quickly drew the ire of a powerful legislator who came to a gathering at Hollomon's university-supplied home on Pickard Avenue to meet the new president.
He reportedly observed a shirtless Hollomon drinking beer among a group of long-haired students or professors and quickly headed back to the Capitol to report in on the new hire. Hollomon lasted but two years.
Frank Horton, a geographer, who came to OU in 1985 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Richard Van Horn, a MIS specialist from the University of Houston, each lasted about five years.
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David L. Boren, OU's president from 1994 to 2018, will be the subject of future OKC classes later next month.
His tenure was one of transformation, both physically and academically. Like Banowsky, Boren had a penchant for raising outside dollars that filled in where state appropriations fell short.
With his wife, Molly, the Borens were cheerleaders of OU programs that achieved academic greatness. Their legacy remains tainted as investigators comb through various allegations of impropriety and lawsuits allege improper behavior.
In the classes, Boren has both defenders and champions.