March 1, 2006
She does not get out much, but Vivian Waller is happy to discuss her life’s experiences while sitting in her house in Lawton, Okla. On March 2, one of Oklahoma Baptist University’s oldest living alums will turn 100.
“OBU really crystallized me,” she said, reminiscing of the alma mater she shared with her two brothers, Buddy and Ray. “I am appreciative of the education I received. I don’t take anything for granted.”
Waller will be celebrating her century mark at the First Baptist Church of Lawton on Saturday, March 4, from 2-4 p.m.
Born Vivian Wilcoxson in the Indian Territory community of Byers, she is older than the state of Oklahoma. She started attending OBU when Dr. John R. Lawrence was the university’s president, and she graduated in 1927, when Dr. Warren W. Phelan held the position.
Waller was elected OBU’s “Best All-Around Girl” in 1925 and Harvest Queen in 1926. During her junior year, she coached the OBU women’s basketball team, and she served as coordinator of women’s athletics during her senior year.
Comparing dress standards back then to today’s apparel, Waller remembered the team wore long sleeve tops with bloomers. During a practice session, a professor complained to her that the girls rolled their socks down to the point that their knees were showing.
Waller also was active in music, playing first violin in the OBU orchestra, as well as playing the piano and singing in the choir. Her other extracurricular activities included being a member on the debate team and judging high school music contests.
After graduation, Vivian married Ernest Waller who attended OBU in 1922-23. She was a teacher in the Purcell and Lawton school systems and was named Lawton Teacher of the Year in 1965.
As president of the Lawton PTA council, Waller was a key contributor in beginning the campaign for a new high school in the city. That structure was completed in 1954. She is still revered for her contributions in state education, recognized as an honorary member of the Oklahoma PTA Congress.
After retiring from classroom teaching, she taught GED preparation and adult education. Waller’s service was acknowledged with a special award for her 23 years of “outstanding performance” in GED adult education.
“I’ve just enjoyed life,” she said when summarizing her years of longevity. “I have been very blessed, and I’m thankful for everything. I know I’ve had my share of honors, but I know it’s just because of working hard and doing the best that I could do.”
When asked if she had any advice to give to current college students, she replied, “Well, I would have to meet them individually, but I would definitely say ‘be true to yourself.’”