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From left: Calvin and Linda Anthony at their home.

A charmed life: Recently retired board member reflects on career

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | editor@okstate.edu

Calvin Anthony took his seat at the table with his nine fellow colleagues, knowing his 16 years considering decisions on the OSU/A&M Board of Regents would be over once the meeting was adjourned.

Before the final agenda item came to pass that day in the Wes Watkins Center on March 25, Anthony was showered with gifts, kind words and well-wishes as he stepped back to enjoy the next chapter of life.

“If Will Rogers was known as Oklahoma’s favorite son, OSU’s favorite son is you, Calvin, and for good reason,” said Oklahoma State University President Kayse Shrum at the meeting. “Ever the humble and measured statesman, you have championed causes throughout the OSU system, and you have tirelessly supported OSU and your beloved city of Stillwater.”

A pharmacist by trade, Anthony was raised in a home where taking responsibility for the well-being of the community and believing in the importance of education was modeled for him. He took that foundation with him as he married, bought his first drug store and had children.

Anthony moved with his parents and brother to a farm outside Carney, Oklahoma, when he was 7. It wasn’t long until the family opened Anthony’s Grocery, Dry Goods and Feed in downtown Carney. The store had everything: food, greeting cards, bolts of material, buttons, Wolverine shoes and boots, Levi’s jeans, overalls, paint and hardware. The kids all worked in the store as Anthony learned customer service and business from the ground up.

Anthony’s father was on the school board and a member of the town council.

“You know, in the little towns, the school is the hub of everything,” Anthony said. “Carney was lucky; they had enough attendance to keep the school, but it was always close. My dad was always looking for families that had lots of kids. My dad had a few rent houses. One of the first questions he would ask before he talked about money or anything was how many kids they had.”

Besides working at the store and attending school, Anthony’s life revolved around baseball. He had so much promise that a Philadelphia Phillies scout came to the house with a contract in hopes he would sign. He didn’t. His folks had a view that stretched beyond a young man’s fleeting baseball career. They wanted Anthony to get a college education.

The 1968 Oklahoma All-State Baseball Team for the north half of the state. Calvin Anthony (first on left, bottom row)

Was he disappointed? No.

“Being able to do something like that is a long shot,” he said. “I felt like, if I plan on going to college, then if I’m as good as they think I am, there will be something there for me after I get my degree.”

Anthony enrolled at OSU, planning on being a dentist. But there were no schools for that in Oklahoma at the time. He worked as a student at Tiger Drug and liked the atmosphere, the customer service and the idea of being his own boss as a pharmacist.

For Christmas break in 1968, Anthony — then a senior in college — returned home to visit. At a basketball game in Chandler, he saw a girl he knew from church. Linda Thomas was calling her father to pick her up from the game. Anthony decided it was on his way, and the gentlemanly thing to do would be to offer her a ride.

They talked all the way home. Phone calls turned into weekends at her parents’ house or his. By the summer, the pair were “hot to trot to get married,” Anthony said.

In the back of their minds was the Vietnam War draft. They wanted to be married before he got a call. A week after they were married, Anthony’s draft number came up. Linda dropped him off in Oklahoma City, both believing he was bound for deployment. He made it to the last stop in the process when he was marked unfit for duty because of an asthma diagnosis that plagued him since childhood. Anthony was home the same day.

One life-changing moment seemed to follow another. Anthony went to work as a pharmacist in a grocery store as the couple scrimped and saved to buy a house. Six months later, Anthony’s former boss from Tiger Drug — Mr. Phillips — called with an offer. He was nearing retirement and asked if Calvin would like to buy the pharmacy.

“It was a dream come true,” Linda said. “That was the thing that made our lives. The opportunity to buy that store was the thing that really helped us the most. We were looking for a store and we had said, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could buy Tiger Drug?’”

The same year — 1969 — Calvin and Linda were playing cards with friends when the phone began ringing off the wall with calls of congratulations. Anthony’s name had been drawn for a televised competition they had forgotten they entered, sponsored by RCA/Whirlpool. The young couple won a trip to Europe that included picking up a brand new blue Volkswagen and $500 of spending money.

In the years that followed, they raised three children. The Anthonys bought or opened other pharmacies in the area. Calvin was on the board of the Stillwater Savings and Loan and active in the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. In the mid-1980s, he was approached by the mayor who was ill and asked to run for the spot.

“I never thought of myself as a politician and I still don’t,” he said. “But my dad taught us that we need to be civic minded.”

He won without a runoff. 

The same thing happened in 1992. The state representative in office fell ill, and Anthony was asked to run for office again.

“I let them talk me into running for that,” he said.

He handily won the seat for District 34 in the state House of Representatives.

He was appointed to the appropriations committee and chaired the health committee. He believes he would have been in line to be speaker of the House, but another opportunity appeared. In ’96, the CEO of the National Community Pharmacists Association decided to retire.

“The board talked me into taking the job. I had to make a decision,” he said. “There were things in my profession I wanted to do, changes and improvements. I learned in the legislature that I understand and know health care policy. There was a real need for that for several years there.”

They packed up and moved to Virginia. His position was of such national importance, he had access to the White House, and he and Linda traveled the world representing the pharmacy industry. But in 2002, Linda convinced Calvin that he wouldn’t get everything done he wanted. Their mothers were both in poor health.

It was time to go home.

It wasn’t long after he got back that he was asked to serve once again. Gov. Brad Henry appointed him to the first of two terms on the OSU/A&M Board of Regents. He felt like it was an opportunity close to home to do good.

Former Oklahoma A&M Regent Calvin Anthony recognizes former Oklahoma State men’s basketball coach Eddie Sutton and player Bryant “Big Country” Reeves at the Oklahoma Capitol.

“I’m very proud of the good education a student gets at OSU,” Anthony said. “And the best part about being a regent is the ability to help improve young people’s lives by getting a college education. I look back and I think, ‘What made it for me and for Linda and my brother and family?’ It’s getting a college education. It’s the key. You have to take advantage of it. My kids, my grandkids, their lives are so much different than mine. They have so much more, and I’m thankful they do.”

The decisions were often difficult.

“The hardest part of being a regent was dealing with the financial obligations for education,” Anthony said. “The cost of education is the most frustrating thing, trying to keep the fees and tuition in a reasonable margin. And you have to make hard decisions over certain things, whether it’s coursework or certain types of degrees.”

If it had been a necessity, Anthony would have signed on for another term, but he felt like it was the right time to let someone else take the seat.

“I have enjoyed that service,” he said. “I have nothing but good things to say about the board I’ve been privileged to serve with, and I feel like I’ve done my best to contribute and be a good board member. My inclination is that it’s time to step aside. I don’t feel like I have the energy I once had.”

He’s leaving behind big shoes to fill.

“I cannot say enough about Calvin Anthony’s contribution to OSU,” Dr. Shrum said. “He can make friends with anyone and work with people successfully regardless of their background or political stance. There are not enough words to express my appreciation for his wisdom, patience, guidance and servant’s heart.”

Calvin and Linda Anthony were inducted into the Proud and Immortal Society at Oklahoma State University. It recognizes individuals who have given more than $1 million to OSU. They are pictured with former OSU president Burns Hargis.

Anthony and Linda have adult children, growing grandchildren and not much to offer in the way of regrets. Life has been good, they’ve given back and are taking an opportunity to slow the pace down a bit. They’ll pick the grandkids up from school and attend more Cowboy and Cowgirl athletic events.

“I’ve been lucky. The good Lord has just blessed our family. Linda and I — we are small town people,” he said. “All I wanted was to have a house that was paid for to take care of my family. That was what we set out to do. We’ve been so blessed, so much more than we ever dreamed.

“We’ve just had a charmed life.”


Photos by: Phil Shockley and Courtesy of Calvin Anthony 

Story by: Shannon Rigsby | STATE Magazine

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