Swans have long enjoyed a ubiquitous presence at Rogers State University, mostly floating majestically on the campus lakes, and sometimes guarding their perceived territory, preventing even the most fearless student-athlete from entering a building.
Recently, only one swan has called the RSU campus home after he lost his family to predators. But that changed this week when Nash and Dana Lamb, two longtime RSU supporters, arranged for three more swans to be acquired by the university.
“Knowing that swans mate for life, it broke my heart to see that swan all alone,” said Dana Lamb, who just completed her second year as Chairman of the RSU Foundation Board of Directors. “I am thrilled to acquire these swans as my going away present to the university.”
A pair of royal mute swans was released on Douglas Lake, near the main entrance of the campus, and a female royal mute was released on Hart Lake as a companion to 10-year-old “Sarge,” formerly the lone campus swan. Each of the three new swans is approximately two years old, close to breeding age.
Dana Lamb located the swans at Groen’s Wildlife Services in Cedar Lake, Ind. The single female swan flew on a Delta flight from Chicago to Tulsa International Airport, arriving at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, while the male and female pair arrived on another Delta flight a few hours later. The birds were transported in two crates, flying in the comfort of the cargo hold.
“Despite putting up with the inconvenience and discomfort of commercial air travel experience, they seemed to be in good condition and reasonably content,” said Leonard Szopinski, director of the RSU Physical Plant, who picked up the swans at the airport.
The RSU physical plant staff constructed floating platforms on both ponds to provide the swans a place to nest and to protect them from predators. The three-and-a-half by four-and-a-half-foot platforms were built with wood, plastic pipe and Styrofoam, and are anchored in the lake.
The university also has acquired special feed for the swans, which will be placed on the platform on a regular basis, Szopinski said.
“The swans will consume a diet of feed developed specially for them,” he said. “We strongly encourage the public not to feed the swans.”
The swans’ wings were pinned, a common practice to discourage them from flying away from their protected habitat on the lakes.
A few years ago, Sarge lost his mate after a suspected fox attack, shortly after the couple’s three cygnets disappeared, likely victims of theft by humans, Szopinski said. Hart Lake is located near the RSU Conservation Education Reserve, home to a variety of predators. If protected, swans can live for more than 30 years.
Sarge received his name last spring as the result of an online poll conducted by the Hillpost, the RSU student newspaper.
Zach Stoycoff, an RSU alumnus who was then editor of the Hillpost, said the name fits the swan because it pays homage to RSU’s past as Oklahoma Military Academy.
“This proves we can’t go 50 years without a drill sergeant on campus. Sarge is perfect because it fits the swan’s personality, RSU’s history and our dominance in academics and athletics,” Stoycoff said at the time.
Like a drill sergeant, Sarge patrols the land around Hart Lake next to the Health Sciences Building and Herrington Hall, formerly barracks for OMA cadets.
The Lambs have a long history of supporting RSU and are a permanent and instrumental part of the fabric of the university, said Dr. Danette Boyle, RSU vice president for development.
“Dana has provided unsurpassed leadership and guidance for the RSU Foundation Board of Directors during her tenure as chairman, and provides a warm and inspiring voice for fundraising,” Boyle said. “Nash is also an unwavering proponent for RSU through his work with the O.D. Mayor Foundation, and is one of the university’s greatest friends.”
Both have been strong advocates for the RSU campus in Pryor. Nash Lamb serves on the Board of Directors of the O.D. Mayor Foundation, which has provided more than $1 million for the Pryor campus.
Dana’s father, Tony Jack Lyons of Pryor, was an attorney, original trustee of the O.D. Mayor Foundation and helped to establish the trust for Jock Mayor. Her mother, Jerry Lyons, served on the Board of Regents for Rogers State College for many years. Both were strong proponents of education, and passed that advocacy along to the Lambs.
“We hope the swans will live long and happy lives and become part of the RSU tradition,” she said.