Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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A two-year community college created in 1908, Eastern Oklahoma State College is located in Wilburton, the county seat of Latimer County, in a valley between the San Bois and Winding Stair Mountains. The early-twentieth-century coal mining industry in southeastern Oklahoma created a need for technical courses in mining and related subjects. Oklahoma's first state legislature established the college on May 26, 1908, as the Oklahoma School of Mines and Metallurgy. Local citizens donated sixty acres one mile west of Wilburton. The school opened January 11, 1909, with one hundred students and Dr. George E. Ladd as president. The first graduates received diplomas in 1912.

Although the college had to close briefly due to low enrollment during World War I, the School of Mines continued to add liberal arts programs. In 1927 the name was changed to Eastern Oklahoma College, and the mining programs were gradually phased out. However, the campus houses the Oklahoma Miner Training Institute, an important reminder of the original mission. In 1941 the state legislature placed the institution under the State Board of Agriculture and renamed it Eastern Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College. Accreditation by North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools came in March 1954. In 1972 the facility officially became Eastern Oklahoma State College, with its own governing board. In fall 1998 Eastern's branch campus at McAlester, the Wanda Bass Higher Education Center, opened. In addition to Eastern's classes, other colleges offer courses at the branch campus, thus making it possible to earn bachelor's degrees at McAlester. The school also maintains a teaching site at McCurtain County Higher Education Center in Idabel. In addition to associate degrees and technical and certification programs, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Center for Correctional Officer Studies is offered.

Eastern's many distinguished alumni include former Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh, American Indian artist Merlin Little Thunder, and Dr. Robert Purcell, head of the hepatitis viruses section at the National Institutes of Health. At the turn of the twenty-first century, with a full-time student enrollment of 1,918, Eastern continued to offer comprehensive instruction in southeastern Oklahoma.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Seth K. Corden and William B. Richards, comps., The Oklahoma Red Book, Vol. 2 (Oklahoma City: N.p., 1912). Florence Miller, "History of Eastern Oklahoma State College," Vertical File, Exceptional Editions Room, Raymond Gary Library Media Center, Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton.

Mary Edith Butler

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