TU Tradition – Small School Atmosphere, Big Time Academics

It’s that time of year again when TU alumni gather from around the world and just across town to renew old friendships forged at a time when everyone was in the same academic boat. Now they come back representing all walks of life, but they hold in common pride in their alma mater.

This year there’s even more reason to be proud. TU is moving forward on many fronts. From academics to sports, from student achievement to new construction, Tulsa’s premier private university is making strides toward a bright future while maintaining the unique, small school community feel that alumni come “home” to experience again. One has only to interview graduates from the last 75 years to understand how rewarding and enduring is TU’s tradition of providing quality education in a small university setting.

Ben G. Henneke–Class of ’35
No University of Tulsa alumni is more steeped in the school’s tradition than class of ’35 graduate and former president of the university, Dr. Ben G. Henneke. He recalls days when the school was very small. So small, he not only knew every student’s name, but could extemporaneously cite the attributes and foibles of most. He believes alumni, in particular older alumni, should come to homecoming and “make themselves available to be educated about the exciting things happening at their alma mater.” Happenings Dr. Henneke feels are just fine.

“I’m pleased with the prevailing vision limiting the size of TU, but not the quality of education offered. We’ve always been small. We don’t need to be big, just very good. In fact, there is no better reason for TU to exist other than to be a very good, small private university always aspiring to be an even better one. This is how we compete against large state schools.”

Dr. Henneke reflects on how TU’s on-going aspirations to be excellent bore fruit when the university was ranked 93rd among national doctoral universities in U.S. News & World Report’s 2006 edition of America’s Best Colleges, and when the 2006 edition of Princeton Review placed TU as 9th for having the happiest students, 10th in quality of life and 5th for good relationships with its community.

“As always we’re a work in progress, but we’re headed in the right direction.” Says the lyricist of TU Fight Song, Dr. Ben Henneke.

Dr. Jean Langenheim–Class of ’46
When Dr. Langenheim, then Jean Harmon, enrolled at TU, the country was in the throes of World War II and parents wanted to keep their young ones close. That along with an excellent biology program at TU helped convince this bright young woman to enroll and begin her distinguished academic career. She became the first woman president of TU’s Community Council, a rarity for the times.

The Community Council was the precursor to the Student Council and eventually the Student Association. It was a body comprised of students and staff deliberating together on an equal basis. That experience along with the close ties she developed with all her professors served her well as she went on to earn a M.S. and doctorate in biology from the University of Minnesota.

“I guess I took it for granted that students and faculty worked closely together. I was always comfortable in that environment and it wasn’t until later that I realized how unique and beneficial was the small school experience at TU. I was very fortunate to have such wonderful mentors,” says Dr. Langenheim.

The university honored Dr. Langenheim in ’79 as a Distinguished Alumna. She was the Phi Beta Kappa keynote address speaker in ’94 and served ten years on TU’s Board of Visitors.
Her love of the school was shown in ’78 when she provided an endowed scholarship to TU in memory of her mother, the Jeannette Harmon Scholarship for Biology.

Mallard (Mal) Huntley– Class of ’56
Just before his college freshman year Mal Huntley’s parents moved to California. But he came back to TU on an academic scholarship to the city he loved.

“Tulsa has always had a certain sophisticated style and strong civic pride. I love that about the city. I still have friends here that date back to my fraternity days at TU. I have lifelong friendships with some of my professors,” says Huntley.

When he went on to earn his M.A. at what many would consider a more prestigious school, he realized just how good academically he had it at TU.

“The professors at Stanford were good, but no better than what I had experienced at TU.”

Today Huntley is an insurance agent in Marysville, Calif. He loves to come back to TU and see all the exciting changes taking place academically and on campus. He’s also proud to have a daughter who is also a TU alumna.

Bart Quku–Class of ’63
Bard Quku came halfway around the world to attend the University of Tulsa. The trip started in Albania where he was born to parents who immigrated to New Jersey in 1949.

He had never heard of Tulsa, let alone TU until he discovered two of his New York Giants football heroes were from the university. It was the Glen Dobbs era and TU was getting a healthy share of national exposure. Quku wrote a letter to Dobbs in hopes of getting a sports scholarship and succeeded. Although he never played football for TU, he did letter in baseball. What he loved most about his TU experience were the people.

“It was undoubtedly the people of Tulsa and their friendliness and courteous hospitality that remains my fondest memory of my years at TU. Tulsa is like a small town city where people know each other and have strong community ties. I come back as often as I can to experience the unique quality of TU and Tulsa.

Quko received a B.A. in business from TU and went on to have a successful career as a money manager with Morgan Stanley. He is semiretired and lives in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, but returns often to Tulsa and TU to stay in touch with lifelong friends.

“Old friends are the best and although I have many friends, I cherish those relationships I formed at TU. The city and the university will always be a part of my life.

Steve August–Class of ’77
Steve August’s academic career at TU spans the years ’76 through ’92, with a nine-year stint playing professional football as offensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks. As a life-long alumni supporter, he never really left TU and although he loves homecoming for reconnecting with out-of-town friends, the annual letterman’s golf tournament and the football game, the thing that he cites most fondly about his alma mater is, “the small school atmosphere and the big time academics.”
August earned two degrees from TU, a B.A. ’77 in special education and a M.S.’92 in sports management. Currently he is a certified financial planner with Vineyards Financial Group located in Tulsa.

Rhonda White-–Class of ‘98
Rhonda White had to beat out hundreds of candidates vying for a full four-year scholarship offered by the National Association of Black Accountants. Never one to be a follower, the lifelong Tulsan and Memorial High School graduate won the competition and with it came a four-year internship with Amoco Oil Company. It was an auspicious beginning to a career path that today finds her a business analyst with IBM Business Consulting Services.
For her the best part of TU was “the big, small family feel, small class sizes and personal attention from professors.”
“The professors were great. I could approach any one of them at any time for help. I even had some of their home phone numbers. That is not something one finds at a big state school.”
White loves giving back to the
university that gave her so much. She served on TU’s Alumni Board and twice chaired homecoming. She has been so dedicated to her volunteer service on the alumni student advisory committee, students mistake her for a member of the TU Staff.

Having paid her dues chairing past homecomings, this year her plans are to focus on reuniting with friends and cheering on the Golden Hurricane.

Katy Sheehan–Class of ’04
Because both her grandparents and parents were alumni, attending TU was pretty much in the cards for Katy Sheehan. Coming from a family of avid TU sports fans, she recalls autumn afternoons watching the Golden Hurricane football team. In her freshman year at TU she soon discovered the close-knit feel of the campus and grew to understand first hand the TU she had grown up hearing about. She pledged Chi Omega, meet new friends including her future husband, Ryan, and began working on her eventual business degree in marketing.

Today Sheehan works at Eastman Beaudine, a Texas-based sports executive search firm. The firm, incidentally, is responsible for procuring TU’s current men’s head basketball coach, Doug Wojcik.

“What I like most about TU are the sporting events and the small private school atmosphere where everyone knows each other,” says Sheehan, and she’s coming to this year’s homecoming to experience it all again and to visit her sister and TU junior Cristina Young.

“To continue the family tradition, the Sheehan’s are hoping to send their children to, you guessed it, TU.

This year’s homecoming at TU will once again host grads of all ages and from all walks of life returning to recapture that spirit of community, to renew old friendships and to honor the university that has played so big a part in their lives.

Updated 08-24-2006

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