A strong foundation to build upon
Through lean times and prosperous seasons, through eras of international peace and dark chapters of war, Henry Kendall College and The University of Tulsa survived. We gained material, moral and spiritual help from our neighbors and alumni. Undoubtedly, selfless faculty and staff breathed optimism and confidence into the campus environment — attributes young students could emulate. Guiding and guarding, stalwart trustees and their families gave abundant gifts of influence, financial resources, and wisdom.
In 1900, friends of Henry Kendall College launched a campaign to purchase a Webster’s dictionary for the young school.
When money was tight in the 1920s, one amazing friend informed President John Finlayson that he would guarantee payroll. Legend has it that the president would sign checks in alphabetical order until the funds were depleted. Without fanfare, Earl P. Harwell would cover the rest — apparently, for several years.
In 1921, Vandever’s Dry Goods Store in downtown Tulsa donated TU’s first band uniforms. A few years later, when the Great Depression descended upon Tulsa, J. P. Whitlock, a grocer at Columbia and 11th Street, gave a no-interest line of credit to faculty members. Patient and understanding, he extended that credit for as long as any family needed, waiting more than two decades for full payment from some.
Excited about a campaign for new buildings and endowment growth, students in 1930 spearheaded their own campaign. In two days of the “For Tulsa University I Will” fund drive, they raised an amazing $6,000 from a student body of 700 students.
Stories still circulate about Colonel O. W. Hoop, who fought in two world wars and then became a history professor. Because he had a government retirement, Hoop refused any salary. When the library needed books in his teaching field, he graciously gave volumes from his own collection.
As the war years ended and soldiers returned home, TU faced new challenges. Enrollment skyrocketed from 1,200 in 1944 to 4,800 five years later! Such dramatic growth, meant TU needed more facilities, more teachers, more everything.
The second half of the decade would witness political unrest and activism, and public universities would begin setting up shop in Tulsa. The university had to refocus and define its higher educational niche and build a residential campus.
Rarely daunted, the faculty, staff and administration met these new physical, philosophical and academic challenges as their predecessors had — with creativity, hard work and perseverance.
Joining the TU enterprise were donors who gave at unprecedented levels and invited their friends to join the momentum.
Thus, more than 100 years after Henry Kendall College was born, The University of Tulsa greets the country and the world with the same courage, creativity and optimism that defined its early history.