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NEWS

February 16, 2009

Baird Family Returns to RSU Building Named for Their Father

A passion for the study of mathematics and a concern for the success and well-being of students are shared by most members of the Baird family, whose name appears on Baird Hall, an academic building currently undergoing major renovations on the Claremore campus of Rogers State University.

Baird Hall is named after Lt. Col. Ralph E. Baird, who taught mathematics at the Oklahoma Military Academy – a predecessor institution of RSU – from 1942 to 1965. Lt. Col. Baird also served as Dean of Administration during his tenure at OMA.

"He was a beloved teacher," says John Baird, one of Lt. Col. Baird's two sons, both of whom live with their families in Bartlesville. "But he was more than that – he also was a personal counselor and tutor for the cadets. As a child, I recall them visiting our house during many evenings – but it may have just been to get out of the barracks!"

Lt. Col. Baird lived on the OMA campus with his family in staff housing south of Markham Hall, which was then Markham Barracks.

A tradition of teaching – mathematics in particular – runs in the Baird family. John Baird taught math at Bartlesville High School from 1970 to 2005. John also attended OMA as a cadet in 1960-61.

His brother, Dale Baird, is an engineer, having recently retired after a long career with Phillips Petroleum Co. in Bartlesville. Dale also has the distinction of having taught briefly at OMA. "I was home during spring break and I recall one morning my father said ‘get dressed, you're going to teach a class.' One of his teachers was injured in an automobile accident and couldn't teach the class. I think I taught algebra for two weeks or so, under my father and President (Homer) Ledbetter."

Two of Dale Baird's daughters taught school at one time or another and all three of John Baird's daughters are teachers, including Trish Jones of Owasso, who has served as an adjunct instructor for eight years at the RSU campus in Claremore. Trish teaches – you guessed it – algebra and statistics at RSU.

"We all share an aptitude for math," Jones says. "I think we also share a great concern for our students."

Trish's youngest sister, Lori Hollingsworth, teaches math at Alcott Middle School in Norman, Okla., and her middle sister, Sara Senter, is a former math teacher living in Ellensburg, Wash.

The Baird brothers – Dale and John – recall their father's passion and dedication to teaching, which also was recognized by OMA President Homer Ledbetter, his administration and OMA board members. Baird Hall was named for Lt. Col. Ralph Baird when it was completed in 1953.

"He began his career teaching math at a junior high school in Guthrie (Okla.)," Dale said. "He also was a dedicated serviceman but was too old to serve in World War II. As a result, he was recruited to teach and train officers at the OMA."

Lt. Col. Baird was well respected and admired by his students, evidenced by the fact that two issues of the "Vedette," the OMA yearbook, were dedicated to him.

When he retired from the OMA in 1965, he moved to Bartlesville to be closer to his sons, Dale and John. He died there in 1993.

Today, both Baird brothers continue to call Bartlesville their home. Dale Baird lives with his wife Carlotta Baird, and John Baird and his wife Dr. Rita Baird are also enjoying retirement. They are proud of their family's legacy and commitment to education.

Last year, RSU announced an $8 million expansion and renovation of Baird Hall, which traditionally has served as a home for the arts, English and humanities programs at the institution. The old Baird Hall was 24,000 square feet and in need of repair and expansion to accommodate the rapidly growing RSU campus.

The new 52,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility will feature an entry hall, commons area, eight additional classrooms of various sizes, four seminar rooms, a research classroom, several learning laboratories and faculty offices, said RSU President Dr. Larry Rice.

Special features of the building include a lecture hall with a stage and elevated seating on the west side of the building and an outdoor classroom designed in an amphitheater style on the east side. In addition, the building will include a 2,100-square-foot art gallery, a special classroom and lounge for the university's Honors Program, several renovated art studios and an archival room.

Completion is expected sometime in 2010.

Funding for the project will be provided by the Oklahoma Higher Education Capital Bond Program, institutional funds and private contributions.

The architect for the project is ADG of Oklahoma City and construction manager is Trigon General Contractors and Construction Managers, Inc. of Tulsa.