Two buildings on the Oklahoma State University-Stillwater campus have been renamed to honor civil rights pioneer Nancy Randolph Davis, the first African-American student to attend then-Oklahoma A&M College in 1949.
The OSU/A&M Board of Regents approved the renaming of the Human Sciences and Human Sciences West buildings to Nancy Randolph Davis and Nancy Randolph Davis West during the OSU/A&M Board of Regents meeting Friday in Stillwater.
“This historically profound action by OSU and the A&M Board of Regents reflects and represents far more than the name of Mrs. Davis being physically attached and permanently assigned to one of the primary buildings for this academic college. It memorializes the willingness and desire of OSU to provide a sense of hope, as well as a level of expectation, on every member of the OSU community and family, that we can, must, and will continue engaging in meaningful efforts to transform ourselves and this university into a place that provides the fulfillment of educational goals and ideals in alignment with our land-grant mission,” said Dr. Jason F. Kirksey, vice president for institutional diversity and OSU’s chief diversity officer.
“This tangible action further elevates OSU’s stature as a national leader and a role model for our commitment to social justice, equity, and inclusion. While there is certainly more work to do, it is important to recognize and have a sense of pride in the momentous and transformative actions that continue occurring at the university.”
Davis earned a bachelor’s degree from Langston University in 1948 and a master’s degree in what was then called home economics, from then-Oklahoma A&M College in 1952 before teaching home economics in Oklahoma high schools for more than 40 years.
She died in 2015 at 88 years old but stories of her passion, dedication and commitment to public education live on. Davis influenced thousands of students and their families and inspired others to fight through adversity to pursue their dreams. She also did not shy away from supporting social changes in Oklahoma.
Throughout her life, she took an active role in the civil rights movement in Oklahoma, including working as an adviser to the Oklahoma City National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council.
OSU has honored Davis multiple times. In 1999, she received the OSU Distinguished Alumni Award, and OSU’s residential Davis Hall was named in her honor in 2001. Each February, the university celebrates “Nancy Randolph Davis Day.” In 2009, she received the OSU College of Human Sciences’ Enhancing Human Lives Award. She was inducted into OSU’s Greek Hall of Fame in 2012 and OSU’s Hall of Fame in 2018. Last year, a bronze sculpture in her likeness was unveiled in the courtyard of the then-Human Sciences building. She was also recognized by the state in 2018 with a three-mile stretch of Interstate 35 west of Stillwater named the Nancy Randolph Davis Memorial Highway.
Dr. Stephan M. Wilson, interim dean of the College of Education and Human Sciences, first met Davis in 2008 when she received the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
He said that students, staff, faculty and alumni provided input to get the buildings renamed in honor of Davis. The former College of Human Sciences and former College of Education, Health and Aviation merged on July 1.
“She absolutely symbolically embodies these two colleges coming together,” Wilson said. “She was a powerful advocate and spokesperson for the whole idea of home economics … making sure people had access to and had the tools to best manage their food, clothing, shelter, the close relationships and family resources. She believed passionately about why that belonged in public schools because it could help so many students improve their lives.
“We are very proud to have been some small part of her life and be able to claim some small part of her legacy, which remains active now more than ever.”
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