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Two Military Vets Share a Future

By student Mark Lane

It was a military academy – "The West Point of the Southwest,” they used to call it when it was once the Oklahoma Military Academy from 1919 to 1971. The campus of Rogers State University has taken on so many identities since it first opened its doors as Eastern University Preparatory School in 1909; it has had to wear so many varieties of academic apparel.

In 1982, when professor Phil Sample arrived on campus, the school was Rogers State College. Like Rogers State University, Mr. Sample has had many different professorial lives. His current form is a history professor, but previous incarnations include a professor of Spanish and an English Comp. I teacher.

He’s pretty happy with his current metamorphose. "I love teaching. I love what I teach. I love history. History has not only been my vocation, it's been my advocation.”

But Mr. Sample’s past life as a former Army officer and Vietnam veteran would have conjoined perfectly with the campus’ past as a military academy. Perhaps the two will have to share a future together, as he looks to "rekindle the military connection” with plans to introduce a bachelor’s degree in military history and also introduce and teach ROTC classes.

"To be able to sit down and design a curriculum for a new degree -- I know faculty around the United States that would give their right arm to be able to do that. And I've been able to do it on several occasions -- at least twice,” recollects Sample from his swiveled executive chair behind his desk.

When he first came to the new Rogers State College, where his father, John Sample, was the music director since the mid 1970s, Phil Sample helped design the curriculum and programs for the two year junior college. Later, when the institution became a four year school, a feat which Sample told his students would never happen, he helped write the curriculum for that.

The one constant at Rogers State University has been change, according to Sample. He recounts the shuffling of the student union, from the basement in Markham Hall to the new Centennial Center. His father was the music director in the old stables, a building no longer in existence, yet the Stratton Taylor Library stands on its grounds. "It’s always been fun. It’s always exciting,” Sample says with a seasoned man’s smile.

Just as General Patton, as dramatized by George C. Scott, takes his staff to the site of the Battle of Zama and remembers an episode from his past life, so too does Mr. Sample remember an episode from his past life with the muddy, bloody, South Vietnamese red and blue flag with a solo white star hanging on the door of the RSU History Department’s military museum. Perhaps if the campus on the hill had a soul, it too would recount its past with the Meyer Hall Barracks serving as the President’s Office and statues of former Commanders in Chief on the campus.

Yet together, RSU and Phil Sample, two military vets, share a future.