Student Produced Media
Building on The Hill
By student Julie Dermody
Visitors and residents often travel through Claremore wondering about the large white building, with its golden dome that sits upon the hill, overlooking the far reaches of Rogers County. Children have thoughts of grandeur, wondering if a president or king there resides. What is that place that stands so prominently overlooking the city ~ looking like it was touched by Midas himself? What history is whispered among the trees?
World War I had taken a toll on the entire country, at the same time the success provoked a patriotic passion in all Americans. Legislation calling for the establishment of a state-sponsored military school passed overwhelmingly in March of 1919 and the Oklahoma Military Academy took over the facility, once called the Eastern University Preparatory School, which sat on "College Hill".
Boys became men upon that hill. Freckled faced boys, still wet behind the ears, traveled from across the country to take their first steps into manhood at the Military Academy~ known as the "West Point of the South West". During its years of operation OMA had more than twenty-five hundred graduates serve as officers and non-commissioned officers in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. Six became general-grade officers. Others went on to graduate from colleges and universities making their mark in civilian life. Every young man who marched the parade grounds has a story. The stories should be recorded for posterity ~ stories that need a voice so others will know of the impact OMA had on lives after graduation. OMA gave them courage, tradition, discipline, commitment, and success.
Courage: Gilmore C. Daniel attended to OMA before the outbreak of World War II. Gilmore "Danny" Daniel wanted to help in the war effort that had yet to advance to the U.S. He had courage. Gilmore Daniel joined the Royal Air Force and flew Spitfires as part of the Eagle Squadron. He fought in the Battle of Britain. At the age of 17 "Danny” became a prisoner of war and spent time in Stalag Luft III, a German Air Force prisoner-of-war camp that housed captured air force servicemen. Stalag Luft III is best known for the two tunnel escapes that are portrayed in the movie The Great Escape.
Tradition: It's a matter of tradition for Joe Daniel ~ attending OMA was part of his heritage. His father was Gilmore Daniel. Keeping with the family sense of duty and honor Joe Daniel graduated from OMA in 1969 and then joined the Army. Daniel remembers his time at OMA as a time of learning how to be a leader. "We learned how to focus and set goals" he said. "OMA taught us what's important in life. We built camaraderie and trust in others". Daniel recalls his time fondly and believes it is the training and guidance he received that has helped him achieve his goals in life. Daniel retired from the Army as a decorated officer achieving the rank of Col. Ret. Col. Joe Daniel continues to serve our nation working with the Secy. of Defense at the Pentagon on the civilian side.
Discipline: Ken Smith's dad served in World War II and wanted his boys to have the discipline a military academy offered. After surveying numerous schools across the country they chose OMA because of its legacy of training, turning young boys into great men. In 1963 Ken Smith became a cadet and stayed at OMA until his graduation in 1967. His younger brother graduated two years later and was one of the final graduates from OMA. One of the memories Smith has is how the history of OMA was important. "We learned from the time we first arrived, spending our first six weeks as 'Rabbits', on what was expected of us and that we had a long standing legacy of greatness which we needed to live up to", Smith fondly remembers the two days a year that were called Lazy Day. "It was a day that we did not have to wake up at 5am and lineup 6 am to march to breakfast" On Lazy Day the cadets could wear whatever they pleased and eat whenever they got the notion. It was a day totally opposite from everything they did day in and day out. After graduation Smith received a college deferment, got married and graduated with an accounting degree. He believes his training and education from OMA continues to influence his life.
Commitment: Roger Hamilton of Santa Rosa, California attended from 1962 - 1968. Hamilton recalled a memorable moment that happened in June of 1966 during a break, while preparing for the graduation parade. Cadet Captain Skip Wilson tried to throw his saber between Hamilton's feet and missed ~ hitting Hamilton's left shoe, penetrating his large toe. After a visit to the doctor Hamilton returned to his room at the campus and Sgt. Major Ray S. Parrot entered, advising Hamilton that he "will" be in the parade the next day, no matter the injured toe. Hamilton described the encounter further, "I said, 'Yes Sgt. Major'. ~little did I know the reason was to award me with the Association of Military Schools and Colleges Award for Best All-round Cadet of 1966." Hamilton went on to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and received numerous awards and metals including Two Bronze Stars, one for service the other for Valor, One Purple Heart, One Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Ribbon, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm. Former cadets like Hamilton recall their time at OMA with pride. OMA took young boys and made leaders.
Success: One of the many success stories from OMA is that of Michael Kuehr. Michael was known by his fellow cadets as a quiet non disruptive student. Michael Kuehr went on to become a Brig. General. In addition to graduating from OMA in 1968, Kuehr went on to graduate from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the United States Army War College. He has been decorated with many honors and medals including the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medal. According to Ken Smith who graduated the year before "Kuehr was mild mannered, kind of quiet and didn't really excel in the military side of things". Smith chuckled "I would never have pegged him as someone who would be a General. I am proud to say I knew him when". OMA graduates went on to greatness.
Sadly during the late 1960's and the height of the Vietnam War, the country began to feel the effects from the winds of dissention, and enrollment at OMA declined. On July 1, 1971, after fifty two years of success, because of continued financial shortfalls, the state legislator closed OMA.
The golden dome of Preparatory Hall beckons those who once walked its halls. The parade grounds still echo no longer with cadence but with cheers, as the Hillcat Soccer team plays for victory. What once was a military academy known for training boys to become leaders of tomorrow continues to look towards the future by training young men and women for success.
Rogers State University has become a dynamic, progressive university that is widely recognized for its first rate academic programs, distance learning choices and its high technological educational atmosphere. RSU has a firm foundation with a rich history. The university stands prominently upon College Hill reminding everyone of the past, while the clear view from the Golden Domed Preparatory Hall provides a vision into the future. This June, OMA Alumni will gather on the hill in celebration and honor of their years spent in training, where "Courage, Loyalty and Honor" the motto of OMA was instilled in every essence of their being.