July 22, 2011
Oklahoma Baptist University will unveil and dedicate a six-foot bronze statue of Dr. James Ralph Scales, OBU’s ninth president, at 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 1. The community is invited to attend the brief dedication program and a reception which will follow in the Geiger Center.
The project was commissioned by OBU’s Class of 1959. In 2009 at their 50th class reunion, members of the class discussed the possibility of erecting a statue on Bison Hill to honor the memory of Dr. Scales, who was an OBU faculty member and administrator from the late 1940s until 1965.
Scales was born May 27, 1919, in Delaware County in northeastern Oklahoma to J. Grover and Kate Whitby Scales. He graduated from Miami High School in 1934 and enrolled at OBU at age 17. He earned a bachelor’s degree from OBU in 1939. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1941 and a doctorate from OU in 1949. He pursued additional graduate studies at the University of Chicago and the University of London.
In 1940, Scales began teaching at OBU as an instructor. He served as an ensign in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was appointed as associate professor of OBU in 1947, served as dean of men, and was promoted to professor of history and government. He was named vice president of OBU in 1950 and executive vice president in 1953. On June 1, 1961, Scales became the ninth president of OBU.
Scales married Elizabeth Ann Randel, a 1939 OBU graduate. They were members of First Baptist Church, Shawnee, where Scales served as a deacon and Mrs. Scales served as a Sunday School teacher. They had two daughters, Laura Elizabeth and Ann Catherine. The OBU cafeteria is named the Laura Scales Dining Hall in memory of their daughter who died of cancer in 1969 while a sophomore at Oklahoma State University.
The Scales administration is historically remembered for its commitment to academic excellence. Scales was a renowned academician, teacher, writer and public speaker.
“Dr. Scales’ own commitment to scholarship shaped his presidency,” said Dr. John Parrish, executive vice president emeritus. “Scales backed his commitment to excellence in liberal arts education with an expectation of outstanding teaching in the classroom, professional development for faculty, improved learning facilities, and national recognition such as accreditations and the implementation of Omicron Delta Kappa, a national leadership honor society. He sought to expand the parameters of an OBU education through the implementation of the European Studies Program, which took OBU students overseas for contemporary learning, and through The Academy, a summer program which made OBU accessible to some of the brightest rising high school seniors."
“In athletics,” Parrish continued, “we describe a coach whose focus is primarily on the development and support of his team members as being a ‘players’ coach.’ Dr. Scales was the faculty’s and students’ president.”
Scales resigned in 1965 to assume the role of dean of the College of Arts and Science at Oklahoma State University. He was president of Wake Forest University from 1967-83, and then was appointed Worrell Professor of Anglo-American Studies, a newly established position at Wake Forest.
Mrs. Scales died in 1992, and Scales died in 1996. They are survived by their daughter, Ann Scales, a professor of civil procedure and torts at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.
The statue of Dr. Scales is located on the Quadrangle just southwest of Shawnee Hall. The dedication ceremony will include remarks by Gene Lucas, who served as chief financial officer with Dr. Scales at OBU and Wake Forest.
To access the statue location, visitors may park in one of the following parking lots accessed from MacArthur Street: Shawnee Hall, Sarkeys Telecommunication Center or the commuter lot.