Boren deserves better
David Boren was born in Washington DC in 1941 where his father was an Oklahoma congressman. He studied American history at Yale, graduated in the top 1% of his class and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Skull and Bones. He won a Rhodes scholarship and completed a master’s degree in politics, economics and philosophy at Oxford. In 1963, he entered the Oklahoma National Guard, serving for 11 years and leaving as a captain. In 1965 he received a JD degree from OU.
Boren entered politics and served four terms in the Oklahoma House. In 1974 he ran for governor and won. He ran for the US Senate in 1978, serving 16 years. His accomplishments were many as a house member, governor and senator. He chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee. A champion of education, Boren Fellowships allow students to study throughout the world. Boren returned to Oklahoma as President of OU in 1994. The campus was run down; academics were solid but not outstanding. It seemed that George Lynn Cross’s wish to build a university that the football team could be proud of had not yet come to pass.
Boren was a dynamo. Things changed immediately as David and his wife Molly went about upgrading the campus. Flowers appeared. Rose gardens. OU became one of the most beautiful campuses in the country. New buildings sprang up. Language studies returned. History flourished. International studies boomed. The university acquired a monastery in Arezzo, Italy. Boren took a special interest in the Fred Jones Art Museum and the Sam Noble Museum. Magnificent buildings for each museum were developed. He was a renaissance man, an outstanding person who came to share his talents and love of Oklahoma with OU.
Recent events unfairly affected Boren and OU. How can a lifetime of extraordinary accomplishments be tossed aside on charges from a single individual? Alas, it’s the world we live in today. Oklahomans are fair people. They know that a half-century of service to their state and the US is no small thing. It should be honored, not unfairly dismissed as if it were nothing. Boren was banished from the campus he helped develop after a very small president — who served less than a year — tyrannized the best president OU ever had. He belittled Boren’s accomplishments and damaged the institution. Morale is low. Retired faculty members are suing the institution for being subjected to pettiness and broken promises from administrators after spending their academic lives at OU and serving with honor. Joe Harroz is striving mightily to make things better, but he is an interim president, unable to accomplish the big things that await his appointment as president, or the installation of another visionary president.
The people of Oklahoma and OU deserve better. So did David Boren.
“There are two ways of establishing a reputation, one to be praised by honest people and the other to be accused by rogues. It is best, however, to secure the first one, because it will always be accompanied by the latter.”
Michael A Mares