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Eastern to name renovated theatre after national championship debate coach Johnnie Wray

7/18/2012

WILBURTON, OK (July 18, 2012) – Eastern Oklahoma State College plans to name a renovated theatre after a dynamic, dedicated teacher who brought national attention to the college’s speech and debate program in the 1960s.

Johnnie Wray served as a speech and debate instructor at Eastern from 1959 to 1984. During that time, her students won numerous national debate championships and individual awards.

“This recognition honors Ms. Wray’s efforts to inspire young students to pursue the arts and her legacy of effective public speakers across the nation,” said Eastern President Dr. Stephen Smith. “The renovated theatre will provide a new generation of students with an opportunity to study and express themselves through music, theatre, recitals and lectures in a contemporary facility.”

The Little Theatre was originally opened in Pratt Hall in 1963. Planned renovations include new seating, stage lightening, sound and audiovisual systems, as well as updates to the lobby, band and choral rehearsal halls and practice studios.

Once renovations are complete, the former Little Theatre will be renamed The Johnnie Wray Theatre. Most of the renovations will be funded through private contributions.

Ruth Askew-Brelsford, EOSC speech and theatre instructor and department chair, said that promoting creativity and character building through arts and languages has always been an important part of the Eastern experience. She said Wray exemplified that philosophy during her 25 years at Eastern.

“With this project, we have a tremendous opportunity to move Eastern to a higher level of excellence so we can transform more young people’s lives in profound ways and honor Johnnie Wray for what she did to transform the lives of former students,” Brelsford said.

Eastern offers associate degree programs and courses in music, speech/drama, English and mass communications. For more information about the Johnnie Wray Theatre, contact Treva Kennedy at 918-465-1873.

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