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Farris, Robinson Installed To Harris Academic Chairs

June 21, 2008

Funded by OBU alumnus Lawrence C. Harris, and named to honor Harris and his late wife, Marion V. Harris, the new chairs provide salary assistance for the chairs' holders.

Dr. John Farris is the inaugural holder of the Lawrence C. Harris and Marion V. Harris Chair of Education. Wanda Robinson is the inaugural holder of the Lawrence C. Harris and Marion V. Harris Chair of Nursing. The endowed nursing post is the first in OBU's history.

The two academic chairs were created in July 2007 by Harris, a 1941 OBU graduate.

Harris was born in Pleasant Valley. The central Oklahoma community, which was north of Coyle on the Cimarron River, no longer exists. He attended public schools in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. He resided in Guthrie when he entered OBU in 1937, majoring in economics. Mrs. Harris was born in Roswell, N.M., and attended public schools there. She graduated from Indiana University with a degree in speech and English in 1940. She in 2004, at the age of 86.

While a student at OBU, Harris was a quarterback on the Bison football team. During his career, OBU compiled a 29-11-2 record. During his senior season, OBU won the Oklahoma Collegiate Conference championship with an 8-2-1 record. Two weeks after the season concluded, the University dropped football as a varsity sport.

Mr. Harris was in the U.S. Army Air Corps from July 1941 to April 1946, serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He met his wife at a USO dance in early 1942. They were married in 1942 in Oklahoma City. Following the war, the Harrises lived in Roswell. He worked in the abstract and title business for six years before entering the oil and gas industry as an independent land man. Fifty-five years later, he is still in the energy business on a limited basis.

Mrs. Harris devoted her time to raising their three children: Judy, Scott, and Abby. She also was very involved in church activities and supported education as a member of a PEO Chapter and a local Shakespeare Club.

Mr. Harris served for 10 years as a member of the Roswell Board of Education. He served on the board of directors of the National School Boards Association for five years; and served the group's executive committee, representing 11 western states. He assisted in upgrading the New Mexico School Boards Association, and helped develop the local community college, Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell. He also accepted leadership roles in developing public support for bond issues for educational institutions and raising funds for charitable organizations. In addition, he assisted in developing the trade organization for the independent segment of New Mexico's oil and gas industry - the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico.

"Endowed chairs and professorships are the most distinguished teaching posts at OBU and are awarded only to professors who are outstanding teachers and who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their academic disciplines," said John W. Parrish, OBU interim president, during the installations in Raley Chapel.

"The gift, which provides an endowed academic position, is invested in the University's permanent endowment fund, and the annual earnings are used to assist with salary compensation," said Parrish.

Farris is associate professor of education and chair of the teacher education division. He has worked in education throughout his career. He was a school administrator and teacher for 26 years, and also worked as a college professor and administrator before joining the OBU faculty as an assistant professor of education in 1999. He was chair of the education department at Cumberland College for two years before returning to OBU as an associate professor in 2004. He became director of OBU's division of teacher education in 2006.

He received his bachelor's degree in biology from California State University at Fresno in 1967. He completed a master's degree in educational theory from California State-Fresno in 1975, and a doctor of education degree in educational administration from the University of the Pacific in 1983.

Robinson joined the OBU faculty full-time in 1999 as assistant professor of nursing. She previously taught at OBU from 1991-99 as an adjunct clinical nursing instructor. She was a partner and founder of Advanced Mental Health Care L.C., from 1994-2002.

Robinson received her bachelor's degree from OBU in 1986. She earned a master's degree in psychiatric mental-health nursing from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in 1994. She has completed study toward a doctorate in nursing at Texas Woman's University and Indiana University-Purdue University. She also has completed post-graduate study in pharmacology at Wichita State University.

OBU has 14 endowed academic chairs and 11 endowed academic professorships.