By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Rufus Fears, the soft-spoken instructor of classics who spoke to packed houses in two Enid lecture series, died Saturday in Norman.
Fears was a professor at the University of Oklahoma, where he was one of the most popular lecturers on campus. University President David Boren said Fears was one of the greatest teachers in the history of the state.
“His death is not only a great loss to the university, but to the future generations of students who will be deprived of learning from him in the classroom,” Boren said.
Fears taught two lecture series in Enid as artist-in-residence for Cherokee Strip Heritage Center and planned another series beginning in October.
“Dr. Fears, in his annual visits to Enid, brought history to life through his lectures, amazing standing room-only crowds with his knowledge and wit,” said Andi Holland, executive director of Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center.
His lecture series was to begin Oct. 22 and continue through Feb. 4. The lectures were scheduled to cover the Wright Brothers, Columbus, Hippocrates, discussion of two or three popular myths, Abe Lincoln and his non-Civil War accomplishments, and E.W. Marland, Lloyd Noble and early Oklahoma oilmen.
A public memorial for Fears is planned in late spring. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials for Fears be made to Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid. Cards of condolence may be sent to the family at the Fears home, 23 Walnut Hill, Norman 73072.
Fears had been a member of the OU faculty since 1990, serving as a professor of classics. He was named David Ross Boyd professor of classics and was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for two years.
In 1992, he was named to the G.T. and Libby Blankenship chair in the History of Liberty and was named director of OU’s Center for the History of Liberty. His Freedom of Rome and Freedom of Greece courses are two of the university’s most popular.
Fears received a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in history and classics from Emory University, and earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard.
Enid physician Jerry Blankenship called Fears’ death a great loss for not only for Enid, but also a lot of other places.
“He was a brilliant teacher and a great patriot,” said Blankenship, who became acquainted with Fears through Blankenship’s son Matt, who was one of Fears’ students.
“He was a huge positive impact on thousands of young people and that will be a great loss. He really had an effect on this community — a very significant effect — and it was all very positive,” Blankenship said. “We were fortunate to have him spend the time he did here.”
Lew Ward, who helped bring Fears to Enid for his lecture series, said Fears was a star who was able to impart knowledge his audience readily absorbed.
“He had the ability to captivate his audience by bringing them into vision,” Ward said.
Ward said there was a movement to bring Fears to Northern Oklahoma College and create the Rufus Fears library, but that is a “pipe dream” at this point, he said.
“All of us, Enid, the whole state and nation, lost a good friend when we lost Rufus,” Ward said.
Cheryl Evans, president of Northern Oklahoma College, said NOC had been in discussions with Fears to bring him to Enid and create a library. However, those discussions will be suspended, she said.
“We’re obviously heartbroken about the loss of a great mind like Dr. Fears. He was a good friend to the college, Enid and northwest Oklahoma,” Evans said.
“His capacity to think about things and remember things and the gift he had for communication was incredible. We are honored we had the opportunity to know him.”
Memorial arrangements are pending with Havenbrook Funeral Home.