Hall of Fame Member Biographies

Emily Blanton Smith

Emily Blanton Smith, served as Dean of Altus Junior College, now known as Western Oklahoma State College, from 1933 till 1943. In 1932, Smith took a position in the Altus School System to teach history and head the junior college debating team. The following year, the enrollment at the college had shrunk to a mere 27 students. As a result, Smith was asked to serve as the Dean of the College because the Superintendent of schools felt “…it would be much better for the college to die in the hands of a woman than that of a man.” Smith did much more than resuscitate the college, she initiated a rebuilding plan, visited Washington D.C. to procure federal assistance and focused her attention on F.D. Roosevelt’s National Youth Administration program. Smith ensured that Altus Junior College received one of the first national youth projects awards in the nation. Smith did not rest with this federal award; her awareness of America’s international position at that time period ensured that Altus Junior College would receive an Aviation Department. Furthermore, she later became certified in meteorology, aerodynamics, navigation, and civil air regulations so that there would be an instructor for the Aviation department after male instructors were called to serve in the military just before America’s engagement in World War II. Licensed ground school instructors were required to become pilots, so Smith learned to fly, too. By 1940, enrollment for the school was up to 600 students. A few years later, Smith decided to take a leave-of-absence from the college and complete her doctoral studies. Smith did not return to Altus Junior College but became the personnel director for the Kaiser Ship Building Company in San Francisco during War World II. Upon her retirement from that position thirty years later, Emily Blanton Smith returned to Altus to live out her amazing and courageous life.