Porum seventh graders tour Rogers State University and Will Rogers Memorial Museum

Thirty-eight Porum GEAR UP students recently visited RSU (Rogers State University) and the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore.

Students began the morning at Rogers State University. Campus Visits & Events Coordinator Addison Murray welcomed students to RSU. University Recruiters Jake Swincegood and Rachel Smith gave students a quick overview of RSU admissions, financial aid availability, student organizations and program options. Students were given souvenir bags with RSU info and goodies. After the presentation, students divided into two groups to tour campus.

The tour started in Herrington Hall where students learned about the eSports Program at RSU. Students had plenty of questions. eSports are relatively new to the sports community. Though not sanctioned as a collegiate sport yet, eSports are gaining popularity and recognition. This was especially interesting for students who have never considered video games a legitimate part of college. RSU is the first university in Oklahoma to have an eSports facility. Next, students ventured to the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center. This beautiful, newly-built center houses the campus bookstore, Office of Student Affairs, Career Services, as well as coffee and dining options. Murray assured students class sizes are small enough the professor will know each student. Class sizes are approximately 19:1.

Lastly, students strolled through the University Village Clubhouse and Building C where the college freshmen live. The Clubhouse is a hub for the three dorm buildings. RSU students share a movie theater room, computers, printers, a full-size kitchen and laundry facilities. The newer dorms on campus feel more like apartments and are designed to provide students with more privacy. RSU dorm rooms are very large; each room has two beds, two desks, two closets, a microwave, mini fridge, sink area, cable, and WiFi. After the tour, students ate lunch on campus with college students.

After lunch, students traveled across the street to the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. Historical Guide & Interpreter Andy Hogan welcomed the group with an animated overview of Will Rogers’ life. Rogers was the youngest of eight born in Oolagah, Oklahoma. After high school, he joined the Mulhall Wild West Show as the “Cherokee Kid” traveling around the world showcasing his lasso skills. He was so good at lassoing he could even lasso a mouse!

Upon returning to Oklahoma, he met and courted his future wife, Betty Blake, for eight years. After they married, they moved to New York where Rogers broke into vaudeville and then Broadway. His folksy wit and common sense attitude made him one of the most famous actors and authors in the world in the 1920s and ’30s. In 1905, Rogers began performing a lasso act on the vaudeville circuit. His charm and humor, along with his technical ability, made Rogers a star. Audiences responded with enthusiasm to his off-the-cuff remarks delivered while performing elaborate roping tricks.

After ten years in New York, and four children, the family moved to California. Hollywood discovered Rogers in 1918, as Samuel Goldwyn gave him the title role in “Laughing Bill Hyde.” Here he started his career in movies, newspaper, and radio. Will Rogers was featured in 50 silent and 21 talking films. He often joked about politics and politicians. His works were far reaching, and he became very well known for his talent.

Rogers was an aviation enthusiast and often flew with his friend Wily Post. In 1935, he asked Post to fly him through Alaska in search of new material for his newspaper column. Unfortunately, that flight would be his last as the plane crashed in Point Barrow, Alaska. Both men died instantly. Though he was originally buried in California, he was later brought to Claremore, Oklahoma. His widow donated land the family owned in Claremore and Oolagah, where the Memorial Museum and Birthplace Ranch are now located. After the presentation, students explored the museum further including the Will Rogers Time Tunnel with various interactive activities for students.

“Will Rogers was a very interesting and successful man,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Rachael Ranallo. “I’m glad students are learning more about how this man from Oklahoma became a global star.”

The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. In 2017, Eastern received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and serves over 3,000 students in 39 area schools.


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