Writing the history of a person’s life was a tried-and-true practice for co-authors Von Russell Creel and Bob Burke. As authors of several biographies, the two decided to handle the task of writing the history of not a person, but Oklahoma City University’s School of Law.
Although recounting the past of Oklahoma’s oldest law school at first seemed to be a challenge for the two authors, it didn’t take them long to realize that the challenge was an opportunity to tell a more personal history of the school.
On June 5, the duo released its latest collaboration, “Oklahoma City University School of Law: A History,” about a school with which the authors have close ties. Creel has taught at the university for 38 years and Burke graduated from there in 1979. Separately and together, the two have co-written several nonfiction books, including bios of state politicians Lyle Boren and Mike Monroney, but Creel and Burke recognized new challenges to overcome by penning a historical record of a school that meant so much to both of them.
The authors spent four years researching, interviewing, compiling and editing information that would comprise their comprehensive history. Accumulating that info proved to be the most difficult aspect of preparing the book. Creel said the paper trail for the school’s history was very limited; because of this, the authors had to pursue different avenues to learn more.
“We had to find a lot of information from newspapers over the years and also personal interviews,” Creel said.
Conducting more than 200 interviews with alumni and faculty, he and Burke detailed their experiences and memories of their time at OCU School of Law. Creel said documenting and learning about these personal experiences are what makes this history book unique.
“By relying so much on these personal interviews, I think that enhanced the human dimension of the law school and hopefully brings to the reader a sense of how important the law school has been to so many people over so many years,” Creel said.
With OCU School of Law alumni comprising one-third of the current Oklahoma Supreme Court justices, the school has a clear influence on Oklahoma’s legal system. Spreading the impact beyond state borders, alumni of the law school work for some of the most prestigious law firms in the country, and one alumnus holds the position of president of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.
This success contributes to “an imperishable legacy” that Creel said is building a bright future for the School of Law. In this past year alone, OCU law graduates had a 95 percent passage rate for the state bar exam. With this progression, Creel said, many things have changed, but one remains constant.
“The unchanging aspect of the law school is the emphasis in excellence upon teaching. First and foremost, we justify our existence by the highest quality of classroom teaching. We owe it to our students,” he said. “Publications are important. Community service is important, but first and foremost, the quality of teaching.”
Copies of the hardback book are available for sale at the OCU campus bookstore and the Oklahoma History Center’s gift shop. “Renee Selanders