By Cathie Harding
When Duane Anderson moved from North Dakota to Oklahoma to begin his academic career, he left with his grandfather Anderson’s love of books and sense of civic and public duty to walk his own walk. His official walk with East Central University ends this summer.
Dr. Anderson, the longest-serving chief academic officer in Oklahoma, announced his retirement from ECU effective June 30.
“I am ready,” Anderson said. “I have been forty years at this, and I think there is a lot of truth to the old saying, you know when it is time. This was the year and this was the time. I am very much at peace with it.”
Anderson has been ECU’s vice president for academic affairs since 1994 and provost since 2006. He also served as interim president of the university in 2009 in transition from Dr. Richard Rafes to current President John R. Hargrave.
“The highlight of my 25 years at ECU was the opportunity to serve as interim president during the centennial year,” he said. “It was a significant milestone in the university’s life and as it turned out, mine too.”
Anderson presided over the 100-year birthday celebration of the institution and made the centennial comments. He also saw a 15-year-old dream come true with the construction of the Centennial Gates, three 4 foot tall x 10 foot wide brick gates located at main entrances to campus.
“I thought we needed gates to announce the university to visitors,” he said.
He also drove a campaign for the establishment of centennial endowment. The goal was to raise five $15,000 scholarships, but that goal was overwhelmingly exceeded as 22 scholarships were created for a total of more than $350,000.
One of the centennial history scholarships is named in honor of Anderson and his wife, Marian.
“I have never known anyone who has put in more time or dedication to a job than Duane Anderson,” Hargrave said. “He has helped me immeasurably to learn all I can about higher education.”
Anderson began his journey as an undergraduate student majoring in accounting at North Dakota University in Grand Forks.
“That didn’t really take,” he said.
A love of books led him to a history major. His grandfather, a farmer and rancher in the western part of the state, read books all the time. Anderson comes from a family of big readers who instilled in him an interest in ideas and knowledge.
After a stint as a student teacher, Anderson decided he was not cut out for high school education. He decided to become an historian and work at the college level.
“I wanted to have a job where someone paid me to read books,” he said. “That worked for a while, but after becoming an administrator, I didn’t have time to read books. The irony of all that is that since becoming an administrator, I work on budgets all the time and have, in essence, become an accountant.”
In 1990, Anderson came to ECU as associate vice president for academic affairs and dean of the School of Graduate Studies. He also taught British history. He chose ECU because he had an opportunity and knew the president at the time, Bill S. Cole.
“I also knew the reputation of this institution,” he said. “The challenge of helping to continue that reputation kept me here.”
When Anderson first came to campus, he worked for John Bulman, who took the new guy under his wing and shared the Bulman family’s long and deep history with ECU.
“John was one of the most gracious and dignified people I have ever known,” Anderson said. “He spent a lot of time conveying to me the history and the lore of this institution. He and others like him came here and stayed here because there was something special about ECU. He had a great influence on my staying here. John was a person of great importance to me.”
Anderson followed Bulman’s lead and shared his knowledge and insight with the new president.
“When I was offered the job at ECU, the RUSO board game me one piece of advice and that was to get down here to Ada and find out everything I could learn from Duane Anderson,” Hargrave said.
Anderson was instrumental in spearheading transfer articulation agreements between ECU and Eastern Oklahoma State College, Murray State College and Seminole State College to help ensure more ease for students in the transfer process from the three two-year institutions to ECU. He also led the effort to infuse computer technology in the teaching and learning process.
He chaired the faculty committee that revised the general education curriculum in 1996, developed the institution’s strategic planning efforts and strengthened and highlighted the importance of graduate programming,
His biggest hurdle has been money, finding it and using it wisely while overseeing the expansion of funding success.
“The biggest challenge was making the money stretch far enough to get done what needed to be done,” he said. “It is a challenge every day.”
Anderson’s belief in involvement in education can be traced back to his grandfather, who served on the school board for the country school near the ranch back in North Dakota. Anderson said he feels higher education is for the public good, not just private gain. It is an opportunity for people to better themselves. Everyone needs to play a role in its success in order to compete with the nations of the world.
“You can’t have higher education without investment,” he said. “Public money has to go into higher education. If things don’t change, the policy makers will drive this state into third world nation status. It is very depressing if you think about it too long.”
Anderson oversaw the incorporation of service learning into the curriculum and helped establish various campus-wide programs to retain students and encourage student success.
In addition, the percentage of faculty at ECU holding doctorate degrees has continually increased under his leadership.
He previously was director of continuing education at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado from 1986 to 1990 and held several positions, including dean of community services at El Reno Junior College (now Redlands Community College) from 1975 to 1986.
Anderson earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Dakota and a doctorate in history from the University of Oklahoma.
The Andersons have just completed a new house in Norman and plan to retire there.
“I have no definite plans, but I am sure that by and by, I will become bored with retirement and make some,” he said.
He looks forward to spending time with his wife, three children and four grandchildren. He hopes to catch up on his reading and even though he hates doing yard work, assumes he will be doing a lot of it.
Anderson will vacate Danley Hall June 30 at 5 p.m., no earlier.
“I am ready, he said. “It might be hard to walk out the door if I am still toting all these books. I will leave with some regrets, but it is not like I am going 2,000 miles away. I don’t think I will have any difficulty on the last day.”
Anderson plans to continue relations with ECU in some fashion, but is not sure in what capacity, yet.
“I know that Dr. Anderson will continue to serve the university in any way we call upon him to do,” Hargrave said.” I am sure we will call upon him often.”
Anderson said he has enjoyed working with President Hargrave and wishes the university success in challenging times to come.
“The reason we work here is because of the students,” he said. “That’s what makes the lifestyle all professor have so rich. That I will miss. I will also miss the highlight of the year which for me has always been commencement, seeing the students and their families as excited as they are is a reward in and of itself. I will miss that.”
Students, faculty, staff and the community will come together in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center on June 25 to celebrate Dr. Anderson’s walk with ECU.
“East Central University has been most fortunate to have his loyalty, expertise and the long, hard hours he has worked these many years,” Hargrave said. “I wish the Andersons the best in their retirement and the best in life.”