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An original painting depicting the first president of the University of Oklahoma was unveiled in the Oklahoma State Senate today. Painted by Norman artist Mike Wimmer and sponsored by OU President David Boren, his wife, Molly Shi Boren, and Senator Cal Hobson, the original artwork portrays David Ross Boyd planting one of the first trees on the university campus.
Boyd was born on a farm in Ohio in 1853 and later received a degree in education. He was superintendent of schools in Arkansas City, Kansas, and made many improvements to the town and school buildings by utilizing the labor of boomers who were camping in the area awaiting the land run.
After becoming acquainted with the new State Regents, Boyd was selected as the first president of the university. He reached Norman on August 6, 1892. It is said that when Boyd stepped off the train and saw the barren expanse of prairie without a single university building or tree, his only remark about the future location of the university was “What possibilities!”
The painting is a project of the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc.
“When I founded this fund, I wanted to depict events and people that have helped shape our state’s history, but are not readily known by the public,” said Charles Ford, President of the Fund and former Senator. “Boyd was a man whose courage and vision helped create, out of essentially a barren prairie, what has become one of the nation’s premier learning institutions.”
Construction of the first university building was completed in August 1893. President Boyd, in an effort to beautify the campus and surrounding area, began planting trees on the University grounds and along University Boulevard. Using his own funds, Boyd purchased the stock of a bankrupt nursery southwest of the University building. He gave those trees to Norman residents who were willing to plant and care for them under a contract that they must pay for each tree that died, while those that lived were free.
Boyd served as President of the University of Oklahoma from September 1892 to July 1908.
“David Ross Boyd was not afraid to dream and believed that the future could be better than the present. That is not only the spirit of the University of Oklahoma but also of the state and our country. We are particularly proud to have that spirit represented in the Capitol's permanent art collection,” said Boren.
As the 13th President of the University, Boren has devoted much of his life to public service to Oklahoma as a legislator, Governor and U.S. Senator. As first Lady of the University, Mrs. Boren has been an active leader, touching many areas of campus life and has worked to improve campus landscaping and restore campus buildings.
The Senate sponsor of the artwork is OU alumnus and current state Senator Cal Hobson.
“It is an honor to sponsor this work of a man who set higher education on its course in Oklahoma,” said Hobson.
The artist Mike Wimmer is also an alumnus of the university.
“I am very pleased to be able to create a painting about my alma mater,” said Wimmer. “I believe President Boyd’s story should be told and re-told in Norman so everyone can appreciate his early efforts to turn the University into the beautiful place it is today.”
The portrait of Boyd, along with other works of art commissioned by the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc., can be found on the Internet at www.oksenate.gov