Oklahoma Presbyterian College
The OPC building is on the National Register and the application contains a history of the school as well as a description of the building. Ancestry.com has the 1914 Ithanna, the school yearbook, source of the image of the violin class (right). Dust Bowl Girls by Lydia Reeder is a history of the powerful OPC basketball teams of the 1930’s. Ruth Ann Semple’s thesis, Origin and Development of Oklahoma Presbyterian College is online.
OPC is an outgrowth of Presbyterian mission work among the Choctaw Indian nation. The first school, called Calvin Institute, opened in 1894. Its success led to its being closed and reopened as a larger school called Durant Presbyterian College in 1901.
Durant Presbyterian College offered standard college courses. But with a peak enrollment of 315, it needed more space, and the newly created Southeastern Normal College needed a home. So DPC sold its campus to the state and used the money to build a larger building and reorganize the school.
This reorganization brought Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls, which opened in the fall of 1910. Semple notes that the school offered three degrees—Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Literature, and Bachelor of Science. There was also a preparatory division. Dust Bowl Girls says that the college girls—mostly white—were required to sit at lunch with younger students—many of whom were Indians—to help with table manners.
The 1914 Ithanna shows a student body of around 100—more than half in the college. (One student, a Jewish girl, was murdered in November of 1913.) The curriculum was heavily weighted toward the liberal arts. The fourteen-member faculty included four piano teachers—including Edward Baxter Perry from Leipzig, who had studied under Franz Liszt. One faculty member taught voice, one taught art, and four taught languages and expression. Bible classes were required. Thirty-nine students were listed as members of the Utopian Literary Society and 61 were members of the competing Phi Delta Sigma Society. Most Students were members of the YWCA or the Miriam Society –for younger girls.
The calendar shows a school year filled with parties, teas, luncheons, dramatic performances, recitals, and class competitions in athletics and academics. Students apparently had some social interactions with those from Southeastern Normal School.
By 1935 the financially strapped OPC entered into a relationship with Southeastern Normal. According to Semple, all instruction except for music and Bible was “surrendered” to Southeastern Normal. In 1955 OPC again became co-educational. But by 1966, financial problems caused the campus to close.
Bricks and Mortar
The new OPC building was located at 601 North 16th Street. Measuring 160 feet by 50 feet, it was built of red brick with white stone trim at a cost of $100,000. The basement and main floor contained classrooms. The upper floor served as a dormitory. Until 1941, a partial fourth floor—called the “Buzzard’s Roost”—contained a half-gymnasium. After a fire damaged the building, the fourth floor was removed. In 1918 a second building was added immediately south of the main building.
In 1975 the campus became the home for the Red River Valley Historical Society. It was placed on the National Register in 1976.
The main building prior to the 1941 fire. Note the Buzzard's Roost. Image from Burke Library Archives of Columbia University. http://lindquist.cul.columbia.edu/catalog/burke_lindq_055_1160 Accessed 3-12-2018
Team name: Cardinals
Colors: Garnet and Grey
College Football Data Warehouse shows a football game in 1904—a 34-0 loss to Austin College.
Ithanna says that the girls basketball teams were forbidden to compete against other schools.
OPC’s real sports history began in 1929 when Sam Babb was hired as basketball coach. The OPC teams—made up of Oklahoma farm girls—began a run of 88 consecutive wins from December 1931 to December 1934. Most games were against post-college age AAU teams. Despite having only the “Buzzard’s Roost” of their own and the use of the SNS gymnasium 4-6 a.m., the OPC Cardinals won the AAU national championship in 1932 and 1933, defeating the Dallas Golden Cyclones both years. In 1933 the Cardinals went on to defeat the Edmondton (BC) Grads in Edmondton for the championship of North America, playing two games using men’s rules.
Semple notes that under “independent sponsorship” the team toured Europe in 1934. The Tulsa World says that the Presbyterian board withdrew support for the team and that they all enrolled at Oklahoma City University.
(left) Six members of the 1932 national champions. All-america guard Doll Harris is to the left. Image from Truby Studio of Durant.