September 10, 2009

RSU to Commemorate 100th Anniversary of First Day of Classes Sept. 14

Roger State University will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first day of classes at Eastern University Preparatory School (EUPS) – its founding institution – with a ceremony and installation of a historic marker sign on Monday, Sept. 14.

The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on the front lawn of Claremont Elementary School at 7th St. and Choctaw Ave. in Claremore, site of the old Claremont School where EUPS first held classes in 1909. Refreshments will be available beginning at 9:30 a.m. The event, which is open to the public, is part of RSU's year-long Centennial Celebration.

The site of the school recently received official historic designation by the Oklahoma Historical Society. An historic marker, designed consistently with other signs that designate historic sites across the state, will be installed on the site and unveiled at the ceremony.

The event will feature remarks by RSU President Dr. Larry Rice, who will mark the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the first day of classes.

"RSU has a glorious and interesting history as many of us have learned over the course of this Centennial year," Rice said. "One of our most important milestones – the first day of classes – occurred on this site 100 years ago."

Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, Mike McClaren, Superintendent of Claremore Public Schools, and Kellye Shuck, Principal of Claremont Elementary School, will participate in the ceremony, which will be attended by students at the elementary school.

"Claremore Public Schools is proud to be part of the RSU Centennial Celebration," said Claremore Superintendent Mike McClaren. "Claremore Public Schools and RSU share a history that begins at this location – where the Claremont Elementary School currently stands."

RSU was founded in 1909 – two years after Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were combined by an act of the U. S. Congress to create the 46th state. Because there were few public high schools in the two territories, Oklahoma had a need for state-supported preparatory schools, which prepared students to study at a four-year college or university.

Tonkawa, in the former Oklahoma Territory, already had a college preparatory school. The state's new legislators approved the creation of another school in what had been Indian Territory.

Leading the effort to establish the new school was A.L. Kates, editor of the Claremore Daily Progress, and Rep. C.S. Wortman, who represented Rogers County in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

While Holdenville and Atoka were both candidates as sites for the new school, Claremore was selected as the official site of the new institution, which was named Eastern University Preparatory School.

On March 25, 1909, Oklahoma Gov. Charles Haskell signed legislation creating the new school in Claremore, which would provide the last two years of high school and first two years of college to the sons and daughters of town residents, area farmers and ranchers and Native Americans in northeast Oklahoma.

EUPS officially opened its doors on Sept. 5, 1909 (the first day of classes was Sept. 14), offering classes ranging from railway accounting to ancient languages. The school's first president was Dr. Edmund Dandridge Murdaugh. Classes were initially held in the Claremont Building, which was owned by the Claremore Public Schools and previously served as the home of Claremore High School. During that first year, 14 students attended the new school.

The next year, in 1910, EUPS moved to Preparatory Hall, a new building on College Hill, west of Claremore. Dr. J.H. Bayes became president in 1911 and Stephen M. Barrett was named president in 1913. EUPS continued to grow, reaching a peak of 468 students in 1916, including 243 girls and 225 boys, and 21 faculty members (11 men and 10 women.) EUPS also had a successful football team. It was purported that the team's goal line was never crossed during its 1911 and 1912 undefeated seasons. Two future Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, Wayne Bayless and N.B. Johnson, were members of those successful EUPS football teams.

Preparatory Hall still stands as an icon on the Hill and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. EUPS, however, had a brief life, passing from the scene in 1917. Playwright Lynn Riggs – one of Claremore's favorite sons – was among 22 members of the final EUPS graduating class in 1917.

Two years later, the storied Oklahoma Military Academy would open in 1919, enjoying a long history until in closed in the spring of 1971, replaced by the new Claremore Junior College the following fall.

The original Claremont School was demolished and replaced with a new elementary school building in 1938. The most recent iteration of the Claremont legacy – Claremont Elementary School – was built on the site in 1987 and serves students in kindergarten through the fourth grade.

For more on the history of RSU and its predecessor institutions, and the RSU Centennial Celebration, visit