Two Oklahoma Baptist University alumni, Dr. Debbie Hopkins Blue, OBU senior vice president for academic affairs, and the late Robert A. Washington, were inducted into the Shawnee Educational Foundation Hall of Fame Thursday, Feb. 5, during the foundation's annual banquet.
The Hall of Fame award is given to outstanding alumni and former students of Shawnee, South Rock Creek, North Rock Creek, Pleasant Grove and Grove schools. Individuals who have attended any one of these schools at any grade level may be nominated.
"Dr. Blue is a valued member of the OBU family devoted to excellence in higher education," said OBU President David W. Whitlock. "This is an honor befitting her distinguished role as a local and state leader in education. The OBU community is delighted to see her receive this external recognition for her ongoing dedication to learning and scholarship."
Blue was named OBU's chief academic officer in 2006. She joined the OBU faculty in 1980 as a professor of mathematics. She became dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the University's largest academic division, in 1996.
"Back in the 1950s, there were no public pre-school or kindergarten programs, so my mother gave me a wonderful start at Mrs. Annabelle Watts' Pre-school and Kindergarten," Blue said. "There I and the other 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds got training in French, art and music from OBU professors! That pattern of positive support continued throughout my educational experience in the Shawnee school system as well as through private piano lessons (from Kathryne Timberlake) and church choir, taught by Jim Brown."
"My public school experience prepared me well for OBU, and OBU prepared me well for graduate school and, more importantly, for life," she said, noting she was both honored and humbled by the award.
A Shawnee native, Blue graduated from OBU in 1972. She earned a master of science degree in mathematics from the University of Tulsa in 1975 and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University in 1991. Prior to returning to her alma mater, she was an adjunct instructor at Tulsa Junior College, and taught junior high school and middle school mathematics for six years.
Blue has served in various leadership roles during her OBU career. She chaired the University's "vision team," which worked in early 2005 to assess the institution's core curriculum. From that work, OBU has implemented several curriculum changes which university officials characterize as a move to strengthen an already respected liberal arts program.
She currently serves on the Oklahoma State Board of Education, having been appointed to the board by Gov. Frank Keating in 1998, and reappointed by Gov. Brad Henry in 2004. She also is a member of the State Board of Career and Technology Education. She is vice chair of the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation and chairs that organization's assessment committee, which oversees the state's teacher certification examinations. She has served as a mentor for the Executive Leadership Development Institute program of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.
Blue's husband, James Blue, retired last spring as principal at Tecumseh High School. They are members of the First Baptist Church of Shawnee, where she has taught in the children's choir program for 25 years, and currently chairs the church's personnel committee. The Blues have four children, Jami Veenstra, a 1994 OBU graduate; Bethany Blue; Clay Collum, a 2002 OBU graduate; and Andrea Collum, a 2006 OBU graduate. The Blues also have two grandsons, Hayden and Harrison Blue-Hicks.
Washington graduated from OBU in 1978, and he earned a master's degree in education from the University of Central Oklahoma. A native of Shawnee, he was a member of University Baptist Church.
He worked in several educational positions with Shawnee Public Schools, OBU, Seminole Junior College, St. Gregory's University and the U.S. Department of Education - Office of Indian Education in Washington, D.C.
Washington founded the Tenskwatawa American Indian Teacher Corps Project, which provided federal grant funds to 40 American Indian students majoring in teacher education. He served in various positions with the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and served as a vocational rehabilitation coordinator at the time of his death in July 2007. He was survived by his wife of 17 years, Susan.
He was a member of the Eastern Band Shawnee Tribe. He received a gubernatorial appointment from 1999-2001 to the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council, on which he served as the representative for tribal vocational rehabilitation programs throughout the state.
A video promoting vocational rehabilitation services to Oklahoma's American Indian population was dedicated to his memory. The video, "Many Nations, United Voices," is sponsored by the Oklahoma Tribal Vocational Rehabilitation Council and the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.
For the past nine years, the Shawnee Educational Foundation has awarded money grants to deserving Shawnee area teachers, funding school projects to enrich the learning experiences of children at Grove, Pleasant Grove, North Rock Creek, South Rock Creek and Shawnee Public Schools. Each year the foundation also recognizes distinguished alumni of the five school districts. A reception hosted by the Cleo L. Craig Foundation for special donors honoring Dr. Blue and representatives of Mr. Washington's family was conducted prior to the banquet.