The Horace Mann Training School once operated by East Central University seems to have a special place in the hearts of its former students.
For 40 years, the combined elementary, junior high and high school had a twofold mission: educating its younger students in a regular school setting while serving as a "laboratory" for ECU students studying to become teachers themselves.
The Horace Mann School has been closed for nearly 50 years, and many of today's students, faculty and Ada residents don't even know it existed. But its alumni are making sure it is not forgotten.
James Shockley (left), a graduate of the Horace Mann School once located on the East Central University campus, points out the location of a future memorial to the school to Interim ECU President Duane C. Anderson (center) and Dr. Bill Osborne, dean of ECU's College of Education and Psychology. The Horace Mann Society is raising money to establish a scholarship and replace two of the stones on the short wall in front of the Physical and Environmental Sciences Building. New engraved stones will note the charter members of the society and the establishment of the Horace Mann Memorial Centennial Scholarship for education students at ECU.
In 2004 the Horace Mann Alumni Association placed a granite bench on the plaza in front of the Physical and Environmental Sciences Building to honor the legacy of the school's alumni and faculty. The original Horace Mann building was constructed on that site in 1920 and demolished approximately 50 years later.
In the last year, more alumni have come together to form the Horace Mann Society with the goal of constructing a memorial to keep the school's memory alive. The group decided in February, however, to enhance the area around the granite bench and direct most of its funds to a "living memorial," a new Horace Mann Memorial Centennial Scholarship for students who are majoring in education.
"James Shockley has been the driving force in contacting Horace Mann alumni and raising money for this project," said Dr. Bill Osborne, dean of ECU's College of Education and Psychology.
Shockley, a retired physics teacher who lives in Bonham, Texas, gave the first $2,500 toward the goal. He found four other alumni who donated $2,500 each to become charter members of the Horace Mann Society.
Shockley also donated another $5,000 through the ECU Foundation Inc. for the scholarship in honor of his parents.
"Because of his last gift," Osborne said, "Phyllis Lasarsky donated another $2,500 in honor of her father, John Zimmerman Sr."
Zimmerman helped develop the training school and became its principal in 1923 and director in 1925.
So far, $23,100 has been raised. Additional donations will mean more scholarship money can be awarded.
"His experience here had to have been special," Osborne said of Shockley. "He has written letters, twisted arms and literally called everyone on his list."
Shockley tracked down and contacted 16 of the 17 Horace Mann graduates from 1955, the year he graduated.
"This just started by one retired person finding friends who went to school at Horace Mann," he said.
The Horace Mann Society plans to replace two stones atop a half wall around the plaza with engraved stone markers. One will list charter members Archie W. Dunham, Phyllis Zimmerman Lasarsky, Bob Passmore, James Glenn Shockley and Betsy M. Shockley Steen, along with those they are honoring, Ora McGuinn, Sherman Shockley and John W. Zimmerman Sr.
The other stone will note that the society is preserving the memory of the Horace Mann School by endowing the Horace Mann Memorial Centennial Scholarship in 2009.
Once that has been done, the remainder of the funds, about $21,500, will go toward the scholarship.
"The timing is just right, with ECU celebrating its Centennial," ECU's interim president, Dr. Duane C. Anderson, told Shockley. "At those kinds of times, we stop and think about that part of our history."
Shockley is a native of Ada who started the first grade at Horace Mann then moved to California with his mother and sister after his parents divorced. They moved back to Ada when he was in the 4th grade. Both he and his sister graduated from Horace Mann.
The school was always special to his mother, Shockley said.
"My dad had very little education," he added. "He always encouraged me and told me I really needed to get an education. He said, 'James, I go to all these places to look for a job, and when they find out I only have a 5th grade education, they just tell me they'll keep my application on file.' He was very aware of the fact that an education is very important. He put in my mind the importance of an education."
Shockley went from Horace Mann to ECU, graduated in January 1960 and married an ECU student. He and his wife, Jennie, moved to Massachusetts where he worked for the SAGE defense system, a continental air-defense network called the most ambitious computer project ever undertaken.
After a few years the couple returned to Oklahoma. He taught at Byng and she finished her degree at ECU in 1967.
Shockley worked approximately 10 years in computer programming, systems analysis and retail, then taught math and computer math at Bonham (Texas) High School for 31 years. His wife taught 1st grade. They both earned master's degrees in Texas.
The retired teacher calls Horace Mann a special place. Its students were taught, in some instances, by ECU student teachers and were allowed to participate in many campus activities.
"I got to play with my friends in the ECU Band," he said with a laugh. "It was kind of strange, being a junior high kid going to Arkansas to play at a football game. I'm sure the ECU band members thought, 'What are these little monsters doing here?'
"We had access to all the ball games and fine arts events," he said. "All the things at ECU, we got to take part in."
Horace Mann could only accept between 300 and 400 students, Osborne said. Eventually, it could not handle the large numbers of ECU education students who needed to fulfill classroom observation and student teaching requirements and was closed in 1960. Since then, ECU students have done their student teaching in numerous area public schools.
Shockley said the new scholarship is what excites him.
"I thought this would be a good place to start a living memorial for kids who need a little help," he said. "Education is a tool to get to where you want to go. I'm glad to have this opportunity to help in a small way."
Donations to the scholarship fund can be made in any amount. For information, contact Dr. Bill Osborne at 580-559-5350 or the ECU Foundation Inc. at 580-559-5514.
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