Legacy of change: Langston University continues to shape Oklahoma history
LANGSTON — By fulfilling its historical mandate and continuing to grow and develop, Langston University has helped shape Oklahoma history, said Nikki Nice, who represents Ward 7 on the Oklahoma City Council.
“The legacy of Langston is the people who have been able to create change throughout the state,” said Nice, who holds a degree in broadcast journalism from the historically black university.
“Rubye and Ira Hall, Clara Luper, Ada Lois Fisher, all these people have walked through the buildings of Langston and set precedents,” Nice said. “You can’t have Oklahoma history without referring to Langston University.”
Langston was founded in 1897 as a land-grant institution and opened its doors with an enrollment of 41 students, according to information provided by Christina Gray, an LU media relations specialist.
LU continues its mission to educate black students but has grown increasingly diverse, and today 26 percent of its 2,300 students are non-African-American.
The university has campuses in Langston, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and an extension of its nursing program is offered at the University Center of Southern Oklahoma in Ardmore. The top five feeder states are Oklahoma, Texas, California, Arkansas and Louisiana, and 39 percent of Langston students come from out of state, Gray said.
Under the leadership of University President Kent Smith Jr., Langston’s six schools offer more than 30 undergraduate and five graduate degree programs. LU leaders are currently considering an option for a cybersecurity degree within the School of Business.
More than 70 percent of LU students are first-generation.
First-generation college students and students from economically disadvantaged communities require the unique support that Langston’s size enables it to provide, university officials said.
LU is evolving to meet the needs of its students by offering additional online and hybrid courses and shortening the length of time to degree completion while maintaining academic rigor in all programs, Gray said.
Programs that set the school apart include its internationally acclaimed goat research facility, a doctoral program in physical therapy and the Langston University Marching Pride band.
The E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research is used for training, development and research activities conducted abroad and domestically. Care for goat producers worldwide is engendered through international activities that encompass research, human capacity building and village development, Gray said.
In 2002, LU began offering the first doctor of physical therapy program in the state. The highly competitive program accepts only 14 students a year and boasts a 100 percent graduation rate, a 92 percent licensure pass rate and a 100 percent employment rate, LU officials said.
Mark Gordon is the LU band director, and since his appointment, the band has nearly doubled in size to 133 members.
Band members bring energy, style and drive to their performances, Langston officials said, as evidenced during the halftime show at a recent Oklahoma City Thunder game.
Nice, who was elected to the city council on Nov. 6, said she traveled to Africa to study in Gambia and Senegal during her time at Langston.
“It exposed me to different cultures,” Nice said. “It helped me understand my roots, and the politics and opportunities and challenges faced there and in the United States. Being a Langston student has definitely benefited my professional career.”
Nice said she was honored to speak on March 5 as part of LU’s Ira and Rubye Hall lecture series. She said her topic was “the courage to lead and the legacy of leadership.”
Ira Hall, who was born in 1905 and orphaned at age 14, graduated from LU in 1932, became a school administrator and went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma. Rubye Hibler Hall, also an educator, was the first African-American appointed to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.
In the 1940s, after three years of court battles, the Halls were forced to abandon the home they had purchased in Oklahoma City because a restrictive covenant prohibited African-Americans from occupying property in certain areas. Later, as founder of Hall Fidelity Real Estate Co., Ira Hall was the first real estate agent to sell homes to black residents in several Oklahoma City neighborhoods, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.