U of O to honor Garrett with Alumni Merit Award

Release Date: 3/28/2008

Clarksville, Ark. --- Katherine (Rader) Garrett of Clarksville has been associated with University of the Ozarks for 74 years and she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

Garrett, a 1939 graduate of what was then College of the Ozarks, will be presented with the Alumni Merit Award during the university’s annual Alumni Weekend, scheduled for April 17-19. The Alumni Merit Award is presented annually by the Alumni Association for "outstanding service contributions and excellence in leadership on behalf of Ozarks."

Garrett, who will turn 93 in June, taught English at Alma (Ark.) High School for many years before retiring 30 years ago. Since then she has been a familiar face around the U of O campus, attending events and supporting alumni efforts.

Ozarks Executive Vice President Steve Edmisten has worked with Garrett for 25 years and has witnessed first-hand her love for her alma mater.

"Whether she is baking cookies for students, pies for scholarship pie auctions, or helping to build support for the Annual Scholarship Fund, Katherine is a tireless supporter of all things Ozarks," Edmisten said. "I feel quite certain that if she were cut, she would bleed purple and gold."

Garrett said her support for Ozarks comes from her strong belief in education.

"The university does great things for young people and we should do all we can to help young people go to college and get as much education as possible," said Garrett. "The little support that I can give the university is multiplied several times by what they do for young people."

As an English teacher at Alma High School, Garrett was known for emphasizing correct grammar and usage to her students.

"I’ve heard that some college professors could tell if a student was from Alma because their grammar and writing skills were stronger than others, and that was nice to hear," she said. "I’ve had students come back and thank me for being so strict on grammar. I still find myself catching mistakes and errors when I read newspapers and magazines. People just don’t proof-read like they used to."

Katherine Garrett of Clarksville, a 1939 graduate of University of the Ozarks, looks at old photos with U of O President Dr. Rick Niece.

Katherine Garrett of Clarksville, a 1939 graduate of University of the Ozarks, looks at old photos with U of O President Dr. Rick Niece in the university’s Mabee Administration Building. Garrett, who has been associated with the university for 74 years, will be honored with the Alumni Merit Award during the university’s Alumni Weekend, April 17-19.

Garrett is one of the university’s oldest living alumnae. Born and raised in Leavenworth, Kan., she first attended Ozarks in the fall of 1935 after hearing about the college through the Presbyterian Church she attended. Two younger siblings, Bill Rader and Helen (Rader) Fulton, would follow Katherine to Ozarks and also graduate from the university.

"I had initially come to college to major in pre-medicine, but a professor told me I shouldn’t go into medicine because it was too difficult for a woman to get through medical school," she said. 'That’s when I decided to go into education."

Garrett’s first teaching job was a one-year contract in the small rural Oklahoma community of Bull Creek in the early 1950s.

"I had been out of college almost 10 years and I had gotten my degree in secondary English and music at Ozarks," she recalled. "All of a sudden I was teaching 13 students from kindergarten through eighth grade. That was an interesting first year. We all learned together. One little girl who was in kindergarten that first year went on to earn her Ph.D. in science, so I guess I didn’t do too much harm."

Garrett began teaching in Alma after her late pharmacist husband, Orville, opened Alma Drug in the 1960s.

"I just always enjoyed being around people and the challenge of helping people and I guess that’s why I loved teaching so much," said Garrett, whose husband passed away in 1985. "Education has always been a big part of my life and I think that’s why I love this university so much."

Garrett has a son, Orville Jr., who lives in Fort Smith and a daughter, Kathy Rich, who lives in Alma.