Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Distinguished Alumni

Al Harris

Dr. Al Harris - 2003

Dr. Al Harris, a native of Altus, Oklahoma, became president of Southwestern State College July 1, 1960, the first alumnus of the college to return as its president. Dr. Harris graduated from Southwestern in 1931 with a Bachelor of Science degree and immediately accepted a position in the Custer City schools.

By attending school here in the summers, he completed requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree, also, and acquired enough hours in various fields of study to qualify for majors in mathematics, science, history, government, and industrial arts.

After teaching in the Custer City schools for two years, Dr. Harris became superintendent of schools. He completed the master’s degree in administration and educational psychology form George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1939 accepted the superintendence of Watonga schools. Dr. Harris moved to Clinton in 1947 as superintendent of schools, and received the doctor of education degree from Oklahoma State University in 1955.

Under the guidance of Dr. Harris, the Southwestern experienced its greatest and most rapid growth. In the fall of 1960 enrollment was 1,857. Enrollment was 5,482 in the Fall of 1971. During Dr. Harris' tenure, Southwestern built a Chemistry-Pharmacy-Physics building, a new Library, an Arts and Science Building, four dormitories, a second cafeteria, a swimming pool, and an office addition to the Physical Education Building.

An addition that almost doubled the size of the Chemisty-Pharmacy-Pysics Building was added, and the Memorial Student Center and two older dormitories were enlarged. The old Science Building was modernized; the old gymnasium after extensive remodeling became the Music Building; and the old library was completely renovated to become the Art Building. Dr. Harris retired June 30, 1975 ending his eleventh year as president.

Dr. Harris's family is Southwestern-educated. Mrs. Harris received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Spanish from the college, and their daughter, Ruth, graduated from Southwestern in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in education and in 1968 was awarded the master of teaching degree.