The University of Oklahoma has received a $1.1 million gift from Will and Helen Webster of California to encourage teaching excellence and enhance the educational experience of students in the Joe C. and Carole Kerr McClendon Honors College. The Webster’s gift will be directed to an endowment for the new Presidential Faculty Fellows Program.
“This gift from Mr. and Mrs. Webster demonstrates their deep sense of loyalty and generosity to the University,” said OU President David L. Boren. “We are honored they have chosen to make numerous major commitments to improve the quality of education our students receive.”
This is the most recent gift by Mr. and Mrs. Webster to the Honors College. Previously, they provided funds for the Honors College’s Informal Reading Groups and for a program to help students with their public speaking and interviewing skills.
Their latest gift provides endowed funds for a program modeled after an initiative established in 1994 as a merit-based incentive program to reward and retain the university’s best and brightest professors. The Presidential Faculty Fellows Program provides annual stipends to university professors who excel at teaching and mentoring students and allows them to teach exclusively in the Honors College. Faculty will be competitively selected to teach two Honors courses per semester for a term of three years.
“Over the years of my involvement with OU, President David Boren has built a unique legacy, and Helen and I are pleased to be a part of it,” Will Webster said. “Since we began our relationship with OU, we have discovered how unique the University of Oklahoma is: it’s unique in location, it’s beautiful, and it is an outstanding academic institution. OU is very, very special to us,” he added.
The Websters’ interest in OU is far ranging, including support for the Heart Rhythm Institute, scholarships and endowed faculty positions, the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, and OU’s American Organ Institute, to name a few.
With more than 2,500 students who participate in classes of 19 or fewer, the Honors College is one of the most successful and largest honors programs among public universities in the nation. The Presidential Faculty Fellows program will impact OU’s ability to attract entering freshmen who graduate in the top five percent of their high school class and will further strengthen retention efforts designed for these high achievers.