Dr. Clarence G. Oliver, a long-time educator and superintendent of Broken Arrow Schools, has established the Vinita June (Shirley) Oliver Centennial Fine Arts Endowment at East Central University in honor of his late wife. Both are graduates of ECU.
The endowment was established through the ECU Foundation Inc. and will provide financial support for fine arts programming at the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center and other ECU facilities. The endowment is the first step toward matching the Masonic Endowment for Cultural Enrichment which was established at the foundation last May.
Dr. Clarence G. Oliver (left) of Broken Arrow stands outside the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center at East Central University with Phyllis Kunze of the ECU Foundation Inc. and Dr. Gerald Williamson of the ECU Advancement Office after establishing an endowment in honor of his late wife. Oliver established the Vinita June (Shirley) Oliver Centennial Fine Arts Endowment through the ECU Foundation to provide financial support for fine arts activities at the fine arts center and other ECU facilities.
Vinita Oliver died in October 2009 in Broken Arrow. She studied classical piano from childhood to her college years and was encouraged by instructors to study at the Julliard School of Music in New York and then pursue a career as a concert pianist. She chose marriage and family instead.
"She loved the fine arts and would have loved this great building," Clarence Oliver said of ECU's fine arts center. "I thought this would be a wonderful way to remember her.
"She would be very embarrassed," he added. "She was very modest. She would be very pleased."
The Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center was opened on Sept. 25, 2009. To mark its first anniversary, ECU will celebrate with a birthday party fit for a 1-year-old, complete with party hats, games and cupcakes topped with an ECU pep rally. The celebration will begin at noon Sept. 24 [FRIDAY] on the Centennial Plaza in front of the fine arts center, and the public is invited.
"The Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center continues to bring big dividends to the university and the community," said ECU President John Hargrave. "We are very appreciative of this gift honoring Vinita Oliver because it will help us have the kinds of events this wonderful facility is designed to offer."
Vinita Oliver was born in Pauls Valley and moved with her family to Ada when she was 12 years old. She graduated from Ada High School in 1948 and studied elementary education and home economics at ECU.
"There is a reduced emphasis on the arts in the schools," Clarence Oliver said. "We tried to place more emphasis on the arts wherever we were, and most of that was her influence."
Clarence Oliver has been a teacher, journalist, Army officer, school administrator, Broken Arrow newspaper editor and publisher, author and a professor and dean of the School of Education at Oral Roberts University. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame in 1989 and was named an ECU Distinguished Alumnus in 1991. He was inducted with former ECU presidents Dr. Stanley Wagner and Dr. Bill Cole into the ECU Educators Hall of Fame in 2007.
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