Honor College's first three graduates return to OSU for celebration
The Oklahoma State University honors college celebrated 50 years of graduating top-notch students this year by honoring 135 new graduates and its three original graduates during a hooding ceremony this past spring.
The 1969 graduates — Drs. Allan Edmonds, Robert R. Edgar and F. Alan Barber — all came to OSU from Bartlesville (Oklahoma) High School.
“They have gone on and done quite remarkable things,” said Honors College Dean Dr. Keith Garbutt. “One is a math professor, one’s a professor of African history, and the other’s an orthopedic surgeon. Not bad. We honored them by hooding them with their own honorary hoods, since hoods were not received in 1969 when their degrees were awarded.”
Dr. Allan Edmonds, Mathematics Honors College degree
Edmonds, a retired mathematics professor from Indiana University, enjoyed meeting faculty from OSU’s math department and speaking with President Burns Hargis during his visit.
“It was an honor to be invited back and a pleasure to reconnect with my two other honors graduates,” Edmonds said. “I was impressed to see the growth and development of The Honors College. There is good involvement from the faculty across the university, and The Honors College seems to be a vibrant and meaningful part of the university.”
Looking back at his time in The Honors College in the ’60s, Edmonds said things were very different.
“It was very much a work in progress,” he said. “Requirements and courses were under development and subject to change. My strongest early memory of the fledgling honors program was a new attempt at an honors calculus course taught by professor Roy Deal. It worked for me but it was a difficult experience for almost everyone else. It was very theoretical and more about the foundations of calculus rather than the usual tool subject.”
Edmonds remembers having the opportunity to take several graduate- level mathematics courses as an undergraduate.
His last three years at OSU were “difficult times” because of tensions from the Vietnam War.
During his final year in Stillwater, Edmonds taught basic algebra courses. After earning his bachelor’s, Edmonds earned his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1973.
He became an assistant professor at Cornell University before accepting an associate professor position at Indiana University in 1978 and has lived in Bloomington ever since. He was promoted to full professor in 1983 and remained in the Department of Mathematics until retiring in 2012.
Edmonds had more than 60 research articles published.
One of his most significant accomplishments was the solution of a problem with formal roots dating back to the 1880s, asking for a generalization of Euclid’s mathematical investigations of the five Platonic solids. Working alongside his Indiana University colleagues, Edmonds achieved the long- sought generalization of Euclid’s theorem.
Dr. F. Alan Barber, Chemistry Honors College degree
“It was exciting to come back to the school that holds so many memories and participate with three high school friends in this recognition,” Barber said.
"The college has grown from a fledgling program to an extensive and highly organized one. It is quite impressive to see the change over time.."
"In the past 50 years, new traditions have been established, and I got the sense of significant community and connectiveness among the faculty and students.”
While excelling at both sports and academics in high school, Barber was awarded an Army ROTC scholarship to attend OSU.
He was commissioned into the U.S. Army and earned his medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Barber served as a medical officer at hospitals in the United States and Europe.
After leaving the Army, Barber worked as an assistant clinical professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Barber has published more than 250 scientific journal articles, written several book chapters and is the associate editor for the Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy Review magazine.
Today, he is an orthopedic surgeon at Plano Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center, where he has performed more than 16,000 surgeries.
Dr. Robert R. Edgar, History Honors College degree
“I think we were all excited and at the same time surprised that the Honors program had remembered us,” Edgar said.
Edgar earned an undergraduate degree in European history, a master’s in African history at Indiana University and a doctorate in African history from UCLA.
He taught at Howard University, a historically black university in Washington D.C., from 1977 until 2016. Edgar specialized in modern religions and political movements in southern Africa and has been widely published.
He was called “The Indiana Jones of South Africa” in an article after restoring an Ark of the Covenant to a group in Africa.
“I still get a kick out of that,” Edgar said.
Edgar had visited the OSU campus a few times over the years but said it was great to receive the invitation with Edmonds and Barber.
“It was an enjoyable experience, and I deeply appreciate the Honors program recognizing us,” Edgar said. “Dean Garbutt was saying he was blown away by our CVs because it sets a very high standard for future honors classes. The dean read the profiles of what we’d accomplished over the years. I think he was sending a message out to the graduates but also to their families in the audience. This honors degree is the starting point for their professional lives.”
Edgar said he would like to give back to Honors students by mentoring students in his field of study.
“We were the first three, but it would be nice to bring in honors graduates from other classes and get them involved in terms of interacting with current honors students,” Edgar said.
He remembers what it was like coming to college from a small town.
“Coming from a small town sometimes you are unsure about yourself and what you are capable of doing, and I think it’s nice to have a group of people who can talk with you and say, ‘We’ve gone through something similar,’ and give them words of encouragement and advice on how to go to the next level,” Edgar said.
For more information about the Honors College, visit honors.okstate.edu or call 405-744-6799.