Longtime Rogers State University faculty member Dr. Carolyn Taylor was honored during a surprise announcement Wednesday afternoon as university officials revealed the campus student center would now carry her name to honor her impact as an educator and legislator.
The Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center, formerly known as the Centennial Center, serves as a centerpiece for campus and community, which is a fitting tribute to someone who has had a remarkable impact on both the university and the state, said RSU President Dr. Larry Rice during remarks.
Also speaking on behalf of her impact as a teacher and state leader were OU President David Boren, RSU faculty colleague Dr. Steve Housel, and RSU senior Abigail Peters. The building naming announcement was made during a community reception with the OU Board of Regents, RSU’s governing body, which was on campus as part of its September meetings. An artist rendering of the building façade with the name was shared during the event.
The Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center is a hub of student-focused services and activities, including campus bookstore, a popular coffee and juice bar, the Hillcat Café, the OMA Student Lounge, computer lab, and the Office of Student Affairs that oversees programs and services designed to help students succeed in college. This 55,000-square-foot facility is extensively used by campus and community members for meetings and special events. RSU named initially named the building following its 2009 completion to honor the university’s Centennial Celebration that year.
Dr. Taylor is one of Oklahoma’s most distinguished leaders, both as a legislator and later as an educator at RSU. Her service to RSU began as a professor in 2000, the same year it became a four-year university. She was respected for both challenging and inspiring thousands of students in various government and history classes during her tenure. In 2015, RSU honored her with the title of Distinguished Professor and the Oklahoma Political Science Association named her its Professor of the Year.
She also encouraged and developed student leadership through administering the President’s Leadership Class, the Washington Center Internship Program and coordinating the Brad Henry Scholarship program at RSU. In addition to her role as a professor, she served on numerous academic committees at RSU. She was an integral contributor on the RSU team that gained accreditation for the new institution in record time, serving as Chair of that university committee from 1999 to 2001. She chaired various other academic committees, including the Strategic Planning Committee and the Academic Policies Committee. She edited and authored several academic books and scholarly literature while at RSU.
Prior to joining RSU she was an adjunct professor at Oklahoma Baptist University and the University of Oklahoma while serving as a member of the Oklahoma Legislature. She later served as Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University Center at Tulsa and Rogers University.
Her public service career began in 1984 when, at age 27, she was elected to represent her hometown of Norman in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Then Carolyn Thompson, she ran on a platform of supporting education at all levels. She subsequently became the youngest in history to Chair the House Education Committee and the Appropriations Sub-Committee for Education.
Believing education was the great equalizer, Rep. Taylor worked to ensure all Oklahomans had access to higher education. She believed those who excelled academically should receive the same scholarship opportunities as those who scored touchdowns on the football field. To that end, she authored bills that provided for full scholarships for high achieving students, tuition assistance to middle class students earning good grades, and to attract the best and brightest professors; legislation that established state matching grants for private contributions to higher education institutions to endow professorships.
She was the primary co-author and floor manager of a historic education reform bill that brought Oklahoma from the bottom of education funding, and for the first time, equalized funding so that every child had the same amount of operating dollars regardless of which school he or she attended. Among its many reforms, the bill lowered class size, brought the greatest increase in teachers’ salaries in state history, and strengthened curriculum.
She also fought for the health of Oklahoma’s women and children through legislation that established a statewide prenatal care program, the Soonercare health insurance program for children and SoonerStart, a collaborative, multi-agency, early intervention program for children with disabilities.
Numerous organizations have honored Dr. Taylor for her decades of exemplary service to the state of Oklahoma. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame in 2007, the Child Advocates Hall of Fame in 2003 by the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, and was given the Pinnacle Award by the Tulsa Commission on the Status of Women in 1995.
The naming of the Dr. Carolyn Taylor Center stands in honor of her contributions to students at RSU and across the state, as an education advocate, legislator and professor. It also marks the second building on campus to carry the Taylor family name with the Stratton Taylor Library named in honor of her husband, one of RSU’s most accomplished alumni who served as President Pro Tempore during his distinguished career in the Oklahoma State Senate.