Classen High School

by John C. Westervelt

Miss Grace Deupree, a Classen math teacher, dedicated her life to helping young people. I entered her sophomore geometry class as a shy youngster with a mild interest in the subject matter and left with a love for mathematics. Miss Deupree had befriended me.

The next year when Miss Deupree sensed that several boys in her trigonometry class needed an additional challenge, she sent us home with special problems beyond our regular homework. My friends and I would never admit the hours we spent working the difficult trig problems. The following day we would casually share, "I think I solved it."

I arrived on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in the summer of 1945 as a seventeen-year-old. My freshman advisor could see that I had three years of high school math. When I told him that I had enjoyed math, physics, and chemistry, he suggested I enroll in the Engineering College. I wasnít sure what an engineer was, but I decided to give it a try.

My being on the OU campus in the first place was aided by a benevolent faculty at Classen. Many of them knew that my dad had died between my sophomore and junior years of high school and that my mother was raising three children on a teacherís salary. With this knowledge, the faculty awarded me a $300 Sears Roebuck scholarship.

Near the end of my freshman year of college, I was accepted in the Naval ROTC based on my record at Classen and my freshman year at OU. The NROTC scholarship and a part time job at the Telephone Company enabled me to complete my degree in Electrical Engineering in 1950.

Like most of you, I never made the famous graduate list for Classen, but I diligently pursued my trade as an engineer on the Apollo program and for an oil company research center. To stay busy as a widower, I worked part time as a consultant during the years after retirement until BP Amoco moved the last of the Tulsa researchers to Houston in 1999.

I often wonder if Miss Deupree had any idea that her befriending a sophomore student would lead him to a challenging professional career and to comfort in his retirement years. Iím not sure what to expect of heaven, but my faith leads me to believe Iíll be there one day, in which case Iíll look up Miss Deupree and express my gratitude.

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