The Rev. Evan Dhu Cameron, were he alive today, would be proud of the institution that bears his name, even if he couldn’t recognize the place.
Named in honor of the Baptist minister and Oklahoma’s first superintendent of schools, Cameron University is not the agricultural high school it was when doors opened a year after statehood in 1908.
It is all grown up now.
Marvelously and remarkably so.
The sprawling Lawton site – with a branch in Duncan that opened in 1994 – is home to more than 6,000 students on a fascinating campus that provides students from 50 Oklahoma counties, 39 states and 52 countries the most modern and advanced tools of instruction, technology, programs and facilities.
It calls itself “the university of choice” for residents in southwest Oklahoma and that’s true. Eighty-two percent of its diverse student base comes from the region, but it is a moniker perhaps in need of updating. Cameron, through the vision and leadership of retiring President Cindy Ross, the assistance of a talented and focused faculty and staff and the support of committed and appreciative benefactors, not the least of which is the McCasland Foundation of Duncan, has become a world class institution, one capable of competing at any level of regional or comprehensive mission.
You should know that. It’s a significant message.
Words here today won’t adequately reflect the enormous changes that have taken place. Nor the opportunities it provides. Nor the importance it holds for our area. Nor the creative attitude it shares as a catalyst into the future.
To truly understand that transition, you must experience it, walking the sidewalks of a now beautiful campus, visiting the technologically advanced classrooms and conference facilities where learning and the exchange of knowledge takes place, seeing engaged students embrace education and social opportunities or hearing the excitement and enthusiasm of teachers anxious to make positive things happen.
The experience offers moments of “wow” often, personifying the energy and adrenalin that oozes easily and freely into a growing spirit that appears contagious.
Cameron University, again, is all grown up.
More than $60 million in capital improvements have been made over the past decade, blending quality and efficiency with an unmistakable and carefully designed beauty – lighting, water, trees and walkways -- that creates a magical feeling of academic elegance.
The McMahon Centennial Complex is home to Lawton’s largest meeting room, a magnificent board room, a comprehensive bookstore, student services and a balcony that oversees the waters, shrubs and gazebo of picturesque Bentley Gardens which connects the core of its revised campus.
More than 550 students live on campus, many in the strikingly pretty Cameron Village that is linked to adjacent study areas and a quaint on-site library.
The Aggie Rec Center rivals Duncan’s Simmons Center as the hub of leisure time activity, its basketball court, swimming pool, elevated walking track, cardio, weight and exercise areas in use often while the Aggie Mile and the Cameron Tree Tour, featuring 18 varieties of trees on campus, offer popular outdoor alternatives.
While the renovated CETES conference center holds memories for many and is now home to the university’s business incubator and frequent interactive conferences, the new School of Business building and the Academic Commons, once the student union and now headquarters for convergence journalism, share the brightest spotlight, affording students hands-on learning opportunities with the best available technology and equipment.
That BancFirst enables business students to manage a real $1 million line of credit portfolio is significant. So are Honors College study trips to South Africa, England and Puerto Rico. And a textbook check-out and rental system in lieu of expensive purchases. Or that 68 percent graduate with no debt, leading to a top three national ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best (most affordable) Colleges.
It is no wonder the Higher Learning Commission added the stamp of “role model institution” to Cameron, acknowledging the depth of student learning based, in fact, on a guarantee that additional, free education will be granted a graduate or employer who detects a scholastic deficiency.
Linking all of that to Duncan’s growing 600-plus student branch makes it both personal and meaningful.
Increased class offerings, more family involvement in community activities and a larger complex are part of director Susan Camp’s plan here, adding depth to the partnership and making relevant the notion that while Cameron is a world class university and “the choice of southwest Oklahoma,” it should be identified as “our” school as well.
It seeks to earn that distinction with a story of success no longer a secret.
With a lot of help from President Ross and her friends, Cameron University is a class institution, one of which the Rev. Cameron would be proud. So should we.
580-255-5354, Ext. 130