May 14, 2003

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Two long-time higher ed presidents honored at SWOSU

Former Southwestern Oklahoma State University presidents Dr. Al Harris and Dr. Joe Anna Hibler were inducted into Southwestern Oklahoma State University's Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.

The pair were honored at the May 10 SWOSU Convocation on the Weatherford campus. This is the first time that alumni were inducted into the hall of fame during graduation activities.

Dr. Al Harris, a native of Altus, became president of Southwestern State College on July 1, 1960, and became the first alumnus of the college to return as its president.

Under the guidance of Harris, Southwestern experienced its greatest and most rapid growth. In the fall of 1960, enrollment was 1,871. Enrollment was 5,563 in the fall of 1972. During Harris' tenure, Southwestern built the Chemistry-Pharmacy-Physics Building, a new library, an arts and science building, four dormitories, a second cafeteria, a swimming pool, and an office addition to the Physical Education Building.

Also, an addition that almost doubled the size of the Chemistry-Pharmacy-Physics Building was added, and the Memorial Student Center and two older dormitories were enlarged. The Old Science Building was modernized; the old gymnasium after extensive remodeling became the Music Building; and the old library was completely renovated to become the Art Building.
Harris retired June 30, 1975 ending his 15th year as president.

Dr. Joe Anna Hibler is a native Oklahoman and has spent most of her life in western Oklahoma. Hibler received a bachelor's degree from Southwestern State College in 1960, a master's degree from Oklahoma State University, and her doctorate from Oklahoma University-all in business education. She taught her first four years at Altus High School and served as an adjunct instructor at Altus Junior College. In 1965, she returned to her alma mater as an instructor in the Division of Business.

She later chaired the Office Administration/Business Education Department before becoming the dean of the School of Business. In 1986, Dr. Hibler was named Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs. Four years later, the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges appointed Dr. Hibler as president of Southwestern. When she assumed her duties on July 1, 1990, Dr. Hibler became the first woman in 55 years to serve as president of a university in Oklahoma.

While at SWOSU, the university's Foundation enjoyed tremendous growth with assets jumping from $840,000 in 1990 to $7 million in 2001. Several building projects were completed including the impressive Thomas P. Stafford Center and Music Building on the Weatherford campus and the Student Union Building on the Sayre campus. Davis Road on the north side of the Weatherford campus was expanded from two to four lanes.

During her tenure, SWOSU was one of the first Oklahoma universities to offer distance learning classes and interactive classrooms, and the annual Bernhardt Academic Excellence banquet was established to recognize outstanding faculty. SWOSU also received approval to start a Doctor of Pharmacy program, and the university's athletics program joined NCAA Division II and the Lone Star Conference.

Dr. Hibler retired June 30, 2001, ending her eleventh year as president and a 41-year career in education.

Story Contact: Brian Adler, SWOSU