April 21, 2010
Military Academy Seeking Area Alumni for Reunion
Several area residents attended the Oklahoma Military Academy during its history from 1919 to 1971, and the former academy is seeking alumni to return for a reunion on June 4-5 in Claremore.
The reunion will be held on the campus of Rogers State University, the successor of the military academy, which closed after a long and distinguished history. Today, RSU is a regional university serving 4,200 students.
"The Oklahoma Military Academy was the largest and most prestigious military academy in this part of the country," said Brandi Sutherland, reunion coordinator. "The OMA was commonly referred to as the West Point of the Southwest."
This year, a renewed effort has been made to locate more surviving alumni of the military academy through the "Great Cadet Search" campaign, Sutherland said. The "Great Cadet Search" includes modern methods to reach older alumni – such as online research and social networking – but also relies on old-fashioned "alumni calling alumni" by telephone, she added.
Heading up the "Great Cadet Search" are two dedicated alumni, Phil Goldfarb of Tulsa, OMA Class of 1969, and Gene Little of Inola, Okla., Class of 1956.
Although the ranks of OMA alumni are decreasing as the years pass, the number of active alumni is increasing thanks to the "Great Cadet Search" campaign. The campaign has resulted in a 52 percent increase of found alumni. However, there are still many "missing" cadets, Goldfarb said.
"Our ultimate goal is to find as many missing cadets as possible," he said. "As our ranks grow smaller, every alumnus counts."
The average age of an OMA alumnus is 70, with the youngest now at age 54. The oldest living alumni are well into their 90s.
The annual reunion, held on the RSU campus, features a golf tournament, alumni luncheon, dinner and dance, a morning formation and cadet memorial service. Former cadets return from across Oklahoma and the nation for the events.
Distinguished Alumni and a Hall of Fame Award are bestowed each year at the reunion, which has become a major event in Claremore, the hometown of Will Rogers.
During its half-century of operation, the OMA provided a high school and junior college education. The OMA has an extensive register of 10,000 graduates who became great leaders, both in military and civilian life, including 10 generals. More than 2,500 OMA graduates served in the Armed Forces of the U.S. during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. More than 100 gave their lives in service to their country.
The OMA produced the highest percentage of alumni to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces than any other Oklahoma educational institution, Goldfarb said.
Famous individuals who attended the OMA included actor Dale Robertson, author Matt Braun and Donald P. Beaulieu, brother-in-law of Elvis Presley.
The OMA operates a military museum on the RSU campus, located across the street from the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum in Claremore.
OMA alumni interested in reconnecting with the academy, or attending the reunion, may contact the OMA-RSU alumni office at (918) 343-7773 or www.rsu.edu.