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Master Plan

Section 2 The Campus of a Thousand Magnolias

Southeastern Oklahoma State University was established in Bryan County Oklahoma in 1909, as The Southeastern Normal School (Norris, 1976). The campus is situated on land inhabited by the old Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. Native American tribes of the area played an important role in the founding of the school and have supported its development over the decades. The history and culture of the school still hold strong ties to these tribes. Elements of tribal culture are denoted in building and street names.

Known as the Campus of a Thousand Magnolias, or The Campus of the Rising Sun, Southeastern Oklahoma State University is located in the county seat Durant, Oklahoma. The small town was settled by a French-Choctaw family named Durant, and grew quickly with the development of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (Norris, 1976). The railroad (M-K-T or Katy) brought many white settlers to Indian Territory and many students to the new campus.

The development of the campus has occurred in different ways, some planned and some random. Many early American campus design elements can be seen in the physical structure of the campus. The layout of the academic buildings, for example, can be related back to the open quadrangle that began to appear in the late 1800’s (Turner, 1984). This formation is composed of building groups that are laid out in a “U” configuration leaving one end of the quadrangle open to the surrounding environment. “The open quadrangle of the European tradition could be associated with a Catholic culture, while an open quadrangle could represent an American Puritan orientation (Turner, 1984).”

The Mall concept can also be seen in the layout of the academic buildings on the Southeastern Oklahoma State Campus. “This consists of two rows of buildings facing each other across an open space” (Turner, 1984). The Mall is a grand tradition in the planning of American university campuses. The lawns are broad and may contain a focal point or building at the end of an axis. This design was clearly the intent behind the placement of Morrison Hall in the north central portion of the grand lawn at SOSU. The architecturally ornate columns and arches face University Boulevard as a proclamation of the presence of Southeastern Oklahoma State University to the community.

The American colonists adopted the use of open space around buildings, as opposed to buildings arranged in an unbroken rectangle enclosing a courtyard. Each university building is located in its own green space. This arrangement perhaps expressed the availability and importance of land in early America and the belief that the purity of nature had beneficial effects on students. In addition, the smaller plots of lawn offer more opportunity to create design elements in the landscape, and geometric layout of axis and sidewalks.

The original layout of the pedestrian circulation on the SOSU campus shows design intent toward symmetry and geometric shapes. These ideas were often derived from a philosophy usually associated with the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, or School of Beaux-Arts (Turner, 1984). Artistic ideas were often translated into a grand axis detailed with focal points, generally consisting of statues and fountains, culminating into courtyards or very ornate buildings. Landscaping was an additional and very important source of detail and color.

The eastern part of the SOSU campus presents a much different plan. On the east side of Fourth Street a very random layout and an inconsistent and rudimentary pedestrian pathway represent the Athletic District. This area appears to have been pieced together without regard to the District or the campus as a whole. Perhaps this apparent lack of design represents a time in campus history when the political and economical forces were not in place to adequately facilitate the developmental planning the university needed.

The usual visual amenities of university campuses such as tree lined sidewalks, and areas for pedestrians to gather and rest are entirely absent. In addition, both the interior and exterior of the buildings are in poor condition. This entire area, encompassed by University Boulevard, First Street, Fourth Street, and Dunlap Drive, has an appearance of disrepair. The area seems physically unconnected to the academic district in the east/west direction, and so dissimilar in visual quality that the two areas look unrelated. Much of the poor visual quality of the Athletic District could be enhanced with simple tree lines, better developed entryways, significant pedestrian paths, and nodes.

The Northwest Extension of campus is delineated by Seventh Street and Chuckwa Street. This area is natural with a rolling topography. Many native oak species from the Cross Timbers plant have colonized this area. In addition, Cross Timbers forest and a small stream surround the area to the east. The landscape quality in this area is outstanding with the scenic beauty enhanced by the rolling nature of the ground plane and complemented by a backdrop of trees. This area has already been designated as a partial “no build,” and holds wonderful opportunity to provide outdoor classrooms and interpretive trails.

A university needs to present a strong image to the community. The physical elements presented reflect the history of a university and can reflect the future direction of it as well. A prominent image suggests success and progress, among other things. The public face presented by Southeastern could improve in the following areas:

  • Main access to campus — magnolia trees block the University’s ability to communicate its prominence to the community.
  • Official entrances to campus — lack of design cause entries to be understated.
  • Areas between campus and community — the edge between the campus and the community allows for no distinguishable separation.

The development of the campus occurred over many decades. In 1909, it was decided that the Southeastern State Normal School would be built on the twenty acre Schuler peach orchard. The estimated cost of the new three-story brick structure was $100,000. The first Normal School structure was the administration and classroom building which opened its doors on January 2, 1911. The building housed an auditorium with a stage and the audience area was equipped with stationary folding seats. The top floor of the three-story building housed the Biology, Physics, and Chemistry facilities. The third floor also housed the Piano room and English Department as well as the library. The main portion of the first floor was occupied by the gymnasium and the boiler room. A $20,000 revenue bill was appropriated to help equip the building and to landscape the grounds. By September 1911, the Normal Building was wired for electric lights which made it possible for students to use the library at night.

In 1915-1916, permanent grandstands were erected, three clay courts added to the athletic grounds, brush and undergrowth was removed from the north campus, and the soil was leveled and covered with sod. Sixth Street was leveled, graded, and the potholes were filled. Additional money was also appropriated for a new classroom building and heating plant. In 1917 the Oklahoma House appropriated $15,000 for the erection of a new heating plant.

Other developments occurred as follows:


A House bill was passed appropriating $15,000 for the erection of a new heating plant.


The President’s home, a two-story home with a basement, was constructed at a cost of $18,000 and situated at the northwest corner of Sixth and Normal Streets.

July, a group of Durant investors incorporated to purchase a tract of land located half a block from the campus and built a well-furnished coed dormitory. Bleachers were built on the west side of the field.

August, concrete sidewalks along Sixth Street were completed.


On the afternoon of September 12, 1922, a fire totally destroyed the new cafeteria.


A ground breaking was held for the new Science Building and the new combination Auditorium/Gymnasium.


The House passed an appropriations bill which included: $50,000 for maintenance, $2,000 for sidewalks and paving, $12,000 for general repairs, and $10,000 for the purchase of land. The bill also carried $110,000 for the construction of the new library.


Several significant events occurred: opening of the new Library and Music Building; reopening of the Cafeteria; planting of many shrubs on campus; and paving the college loop. In addition fifty Magnolia trees were planted as well as several other varieties of trees.


The Administration Building was desolated by a fire.


The Memorial Archway was erected at the Fifth Street entrance to the college, new concrete tennis courts were built, and a lighting system was installed at the athletic stadium.


A stone amphitheater was constructed.


The Legislature approved $350,000 for two dorms, a new training school building, and an industrial arts complex.


In September the flight school was approved. Student pilots flew a sixty-five horsepower Aeronca Chief airplane. In 1941, the institution expanded the flight program by buying several additional planes.


Twenty housing units, named Vet Village, were to be utilized by the veterans and were allocated to Southeastern by the Federal Public Housing Authority.

During this period, major capital structures on the “Campus of a Thousand Magnolias” included a student union/women’s dormitory complex at a cost of $140,000; an Industrial Arts Building at a cost of $185,200; a Home Economics Building at a cost of $276,100.

A Student Union complex (cafeteria, coffee shop, and ballroom) and a Greek amphitheater became part of the campus. ($725,000) Improvements completed by 1950:

  • window sashes, equipment, acoustical tile, repairs and labor on Music Building, ($14,143)
  • window sashes, light fixtures, materials and labor on Science Building, ($5,272)
  • window sashes, asphalt tile, blackboards, weather strips, building materials and labor on Education Building, ($3,739)
  • window sashes, roofing, ceramic tile, marble thresholds, materials and labor on Administration Building, ($10,531)
  • window sashes, materials and labor on Library Building, ($1,339)
  • furnishing and installing furniture and equipment in Home Economics/Biology Building, ($37,001)
  • labor on repairing Men’s Gymnasium, ($141)
  • additions and repairs for Heating Plant, ($18,289)
  • sidewalks on campus, ($540)
  • other repairs and modernizations in plans incomplete as of June 30, ($59,005)


June of 1953 brought the dedication of a newly rebuilt auditorium at Southeastern State College (SSC). Also, a new stadium, costing $53,865 featured concrete and steel supports and wolmanized planking; the building of dressing rooms; and other conveniences brought improvements to the athletic field at a cost of $75,000

The formal opening of the first men’s dormitory on the SSC campus was celebrated in 1954. Built at the cost of $268,455, this dormitory was named Shearer Hall. Also in 1954, the Library had “refrigerated air-conditioning units” installed and acquired its 50,000th book.

1957 was the date for ribbon-cutting ceremonies of the new Gymnasium and Physical Education building at SSC. The existing gym had been extensively remodeled after a costly fire in 1948. The new facility was constructed at a cost of $550,000.

At the close of the decade in 1959 the university expanded the book exchange, added a student lounge, and a faculty lounge. The other capital improvements included an $80,000 investment in a sheet metal and welding shop. The two newest structures, the Administration and Fine Arts buildings were constructed. Built at a cost of $538,500, the administration edifice contained: offices for the president, the deans, and business services, and a large conference room on the second floor; classrooms, offices, and labs for the Language and Social Sciences departments on the third floor; an auditorium with a seating capacity for two hundred, and the offices and classrooms for the Math department on the first floor.

During the decade of the 1950s two groups associated with the university community opened. Methodist and Baptist students celebrated the openings of their own student centers adjacent to the campus.


Additions to the Physical Plant completed during this time frame were:

  • the converting of the old gym into an electronics laboratory, classrooms, and a general shop for metals
  • the opening of North Hall, a new dormitory with quarters for 106 women
  • the expanding of the Student Union Building by the addition of a two story annex providing a new bookstore, game room, plus post office facilities
  • the remodeling to increase the dining space in the ballroom to a capacity of four hundred
  • the restructuring of the first floor of Morrison Hall, formerly the Administration Building, to provide east and west ground-level entrances and modern centrally air-conditioned offices and classrooms
  • the addition of new laboratories and equipment for audio-visual education, photography, driver education, and printing in Morrison Hall
  • the paving of much needed parking lots north of the Science Building and west of the new Administration Building

At the time President Shearer left office, he had also signed contracts for the remodeling and enlargement of the Library and Science buildings.

The Library space was doubled and the Science Building was gutted and rebuilt, with an addition that doubled its space.

Administration Building was built at a cost of $538,500.

Fine Arts Building was built at a cost of $480,000

Choctaw/Chickasaw Towers was built at a cost of $1,954,790


Considerable modernization of older buildings occurred during these years:

  • 1970 — renovation of Morrison Hall
  • 1972 — construction of a physical plant building to house new boilers for steam heating
  • 1973 — construction of a Student Activity Center
  • 1975 — renovation of the Home Economics Building
  • 1975 — additional renovation to Morrison Hall
  • 1979 — addition to the Student Union


Three separate buildings housing Industrial Education and Technology were added at a cost of over $3 million.

Aviation Academic Building

The University’s Equestrian Center was acquired along with 20 acres of land, as well as a number of buildings on that land.

Aviation Operation/Hanger/Classroom

Baseball Press box

Paul Laird Field-Concessions/Restrooms


Bond Issue/University funds for construction/renovation of Russell Building, Visual & Performing Arts Center, and Welcome Center. ($4 million)

Parking lot on corner of 4th & University

Energy Retro-fit Project ($1.3 million)


State Bond Issue/University funds for construction/renovation of Federal Water Lab into the new Biological Sciences Building (ADA compliant)($3.5 million)

Parking lots (ADA compliant) on Chuckwa (Biological Sciences), 1st Street (Softball Complex), and 1st Street (Visual & Performing Arts Center)

Aviation T-hangers, $210,000

Renovation Choctaw/Chickasaw Student Housing (elevators ADA compliant), $122,000

Renovation North Hall Student Housing (ADA entrance), $478,000

OSBDC/Security & Safety (ADA compliant), $794,000

Education Opportunity Center/Talent Search Complex (ADA compliant), $246,000

Computer Lab Classrooms (ADA compliant), $106,000

Energy Performance Contract Central Utility Plant, $7,000,000

 2006-2010   (See Action Plan 3 – Facilities Update)


Southeastern’s original 20 acres of bare land have been expanded to approximately 200 acres of grounds with more than 45 buildings. Total Capital Assets valued at $57,979,945 as of June 30, 2005.