August 3, 2011
Dr. James Ralph Scales, the ninth president of OBU, will forever gaze over the campus he loved. A statue of Dr. Scales was unveiled and dedicated on OBU’s Quadrangle Monday, Aug. 1, as a memorial by the Class of 1959.
Scales, who graduated from OBU in 1939, joined the OBU faculty in 1947. He was named executive vice president in 1953 and was elected president of the university in 1961. He left OBU in 1965 to become dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Oklahoma State University. From 1967 to 1983, he served as president of Wake Forest University.
The six-foot bronze statue was sculpted by LaQuincey Reed, an artist affiliated with Crown Arts, Inc., in Norman, Okla. The foundry was Shidoni Foundry, Inc., in Tesuque, N.M.
The event was hosted by Dr. John Parrish, OBU executive vice president emeritus, and featured remarks by Gene Lucas, former OBU and Wake Forest faculty member and administrator. Dr. David Whitlock, president of OBU, offered the dedicatory prayer.
Based on their 40-year relationship, Lucas noted several characteristics of Scales’ life. First, he said, Scales was an intellectual who could take a mundane event or issue of the day, give it context, apply wisdom and, in a flash of clarity, focus all the remarks onto a broader intellectual point. He said Scales also was “always the teacher,” adamant about the written word.
The academician also dearly loved people, Lucas said. A walk down the street with Scales would reveal his interest in others, as he would greet everyone he met, and “pat every dog and kiss every baby.” Scales also had no patience with class bigotries and no time for petty differences, Lucas said. Scales treated everyone the same.
Lucas recalled that Scales was proud of his Indian heritage. He was a faithful church man and devoted Baptist who collected friends and associates from every faith.
“He knew the Bible,” Lucas said. “He practiced its precepts, he claimed its promises, and he performed its tender mercies. Surely he was a workman who need not be ashamed.”
In both his academic life and personal life, Scales was a citizen of the world who established international learning centers at every institution he served, Lucas noted. He served on several United Nations committees, and he stepped on every continent on Earth. Yet despite his global consciousness, Scales had a personal affection for his native Oklahoma.
“Wherever he lived, wherever he worked, wherever he was, home was this ground on which we stand today,” Lucas said during the statue dedication. “He saw it first as a youth of barely 17 and immediately fell in love with the place. It was a love affair that never ended. And so it is altogether fitting and proper that he should stand here for time to come, great and tall and looking out on this beloved landscape, for I tell you truly, James Ralph Scales buried his heart at Bison Hill.”
On behalf of the greater OBU family, Dr. Whitlock thanked the Class of 1959 for making the tribute a permanent part of the campus. 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 Scales, who died in 1996.
“James Ralph Scales has been represented in these remarks as someone who loved the Word and loved the Lord,” Whitlock said. “He represents each aspect of the relationship of OBU. By that, I mean he represents students, faculty members, administrators and alumni. His statue on the campus of his beloved Bison Hill will serve as a reminder of his legacy, and it will serve as our challenge to make God-honoring differences in our world, as did he.”