Rogers State University students have two new scholarship opportunities thanks to the legacy of an Oklahoma Military Academy distinguished alumnus.
Business owner Jack Harris established a trust to provide funds for the establishment of two scholarship endowments prior to his death in November. He attended OMA, RSU’s predecessor, from 1951 until 1955. The endowments are the single largest gift from an individual in RSU’s history.
“Jack Harris was a tremendous friend to the Oklahoma Military Academy Alumni Association, and he and his wife Allie were incredibly supportive of RSU’s initiatives to improve the lives of Oklahomans through education,” said RSU President Dr. Larry Rice. “We are honored we can fulfill his request to provide scholarships that support deserving RSU students for generations to come.”
The Allie L. Harris and Jack E. Harris Scholarship Endowment and the C. Earl Harris and Irene Harris Scholarship Endowment will become available to students next fall. Each scholarship gives first preference to students with majors in the School of Business and Technology and second preference to students with majors in the Schools of Mathematics, Science and Health Sciences.
While the first scholarship honors the memory of Harris and his wife, the second honors the life and memory of Harris’s parents, whom he credited with supporting his decision to attend OMA.
“Neither one of them had a formal education,” Harris said of his parents in a March 2006 interview. “They were common folks and wage earners. They did without so much to give me a chance in life; I was very proud of them. And I know they would be proud to know that their legacy included not only providing an education and better life for me, but providing an education for generations of deserving students to come. It’s payback time.”
Harris began attending OMA in 1951 during his junior year of high school and stayed through his completion of junior college. As a cadet, Harris rose through the ranks, becoming the third-highest ranking cadet and the Commander of B Company. He also led his fellow cadets to earn the Outstanding Company Award in 1955.
After graduating from OMA, he earned a degree in accounting and business marketing from the University of Tulsa. He began his military service career in 1958, attending flight school and serving as a captain in the U.S. Army. In 1962, he was assigned to the German European theater as company commander of the 2nd Recon Squadron. He also served with the 14th Armored Cavalry in Germany alongside three fellow OMA graduates. He later married Allie, his wife and life-long companion.
Harris received an honorable discharge after seven years of service. He returned to Oklahoma to work for Texaco, and in 1969, he was named the vice president of First National Bank in Marlow. He later became a self-employed businessman, owning 23 Sonic Drive-In restaurants in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee. After his parents died, Harris sold his restaurants in order to start the Black Angus Cattle Ranch near Kansas, Okla.
While living in eastern Oklahoma, Harris was appointed by Gov. Frank Keating and Gov. Brad Henry to serve as Chairman of the Delaware County Conservation District. Additionally, he was recognized as one of 18 outstanding individuals working to promote Oklahoma conservation.
In 2004, Harris received the OMA Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2007 he was inducted into the OMA Hall of Fame. Harris also served on the OMA Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as the RSU Foundation Board of Directors. Dr. Danette Boyle, the Executive Director of the OMA Alumni Association, praised Harris’s dedication to his alma mater and to RSU.
“It was my honor to work alongside Jack Harris for many years as he supported the OMA Alumni Association, and he was incredibly passionate about preserving the OMA legacy through RSU’s mission,” Boyle said. “It truly touches my heart that we will be able to impact the lives of many RSU students through these historic scholarship endowments that Jack and Allie established through their estate.”
Kevin Martin and Pastor Doug Carey, trustees of Harris’s estate, said in a joint statement,
“We were close to Jack and Allie, and knew of their love for Rogers State University. They truly believed in ‘giving back’ and helping others. In addition, they were both dedicated Christians, and understood the importance of assisting and serving those who were willing to demonstrate not just their need, but their willingness to ‘Pay It Forward.’ It is our prayer that those deserving students who receive assistance from the Harris Scholarship Funds will follow Jack’s example to the utmost: Love God, Love America, Love RSU, Love Serving and Love Giving Back…both now and in the future.”
For more information about making a planned gift, contact the RSU Office of Development at 918-343-7777.