The University Center, the building completed in January 1997 to be the hub of the East Central University campus, was renamed the Bill S. Cole University Center on Friday [FEB. 26] by the Board of Regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma.
The regents unanimously approved the change at their meeting at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Cole was president of ECU from 1989 until his retirement in 2006.
His impact on the ECU community will long be remembered and appreciated, said Belva Howard of Tulsa, a member of the RUSO Board of Regents.
"It is my privilege and honor to serve on the RUSO board and to have worked with Dr. Bill Cole his entire tenure," said Regent Belva Howard. "He has an immeasurable ability to be patient with those who work for, and those who support, the university and always encouraged them to make the right decisions for the students.
"Considering his interest in student success," she added, "it is appropriate to the name the University Center for him so that generations of students will benefit from his foresight. Oklahoma shares the enthusiasm for his contributions and accomplishments."
Cole, ECU's sixth president is credited with working continually to improve campus facilities, including 21 construction, renovation or expansion projects. The University Center was one of his major projects, along with the construction of the new Linscheid Library, dedicated in October 1997. He retired shortly after construction began on the $27 million Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center. Cole was instrumental in securing much of the funding from Mrs. Ford to get that long-awaited project underway.
"Though he deserves credit for his accomplishments at ECU, I know he would want to share credit with others," Howard said.
"We are happy," said ECU President John Hargrave, "that the Board of Regents recognized Dr. Cole's achievements and approved this honor for him. He definitely made an impact on thousands of students and is responsible for a great deal of the function and beauty of the campus today."
From his home in Ada, Cole said, "The University Center is a special building to me. This is quite an honor, and I sure appreciate it.
"It is one of the buildings I had the pleasure of helping bring from the drawing board to a place both students and the community can enjoy," he said.
Cole mentioned the tiger that was molded from bricks as though it is coming out of an interior brick wall, the etched images of tigers along the stairway and other features that set the building apart.
The Cole University Center includes a large atrium area for lounging, playing pool or hosting receptions or programs; a snack bar; the Estep Multimedia Center; the Tommy Hewett M.D. Wellness Center; an information desk that provides services for students; the Student Life and Leadership Office; Student Senate Office; and access to McBride Gym.
Hargrave said the University Center's new name follows a longstanding tradition of naming buildings and other important places after long-tenured presidents.
Briles Residence Hall honors ECU's first president, Charles W. Briles (1909-1916). Linscheid Library is named for the university's longest-serving president, Dr. Adolph Linscheid (1920-1949), and the Spencer Administration Building honors Dr. Charles F. Spencer (1949-1969). The renovated ballroom in the Memorial Student Union was renamed the Stanley P. Wagner Ballroom to recognize the accomplishments of ECU's president between 1969 and 1989.
During his 17 years as president, Cole also worked to develop centers of academic excellence, particularly in nursing, history and criminal justice. As technology changed rapidly, he made sure students and faculty had access to the latest instructional technology through the campus fiber optic intranet, whether in classrooms, computer labs, offices or residence hall rooms.
He also oversaw 16 endowments of chairs, professorships and lectureships; approximately $100 million in grants; the growth of the ECU Foundation Inc. from less than $2 million to nearly $18 million in assets; and ECU's entry into NCAA Division II athletics.
Cole is a member of the Higher Education Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.
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