Hall of Fame Member Biographies

Molly Shi Boren and David Lyle Boren

The quality of a college or university depends upon its leadership. Great leadership will produce a great university. The University of Oklahoma has been blessed with two decades of great leadership from a unique wife-husband team of Molly Shi Boren and David Lyle Boren. Together they have thrust the University of Oklahoma (OU) into the circle of the nation’s leading public institutions of higher learning.

Molly Shi Boren graduated from East Central University in 1964 and loved the experience and the city of Ada. She taught English at Byng High School, later acquired an M.A. in English from OU, and earned in 1974 a Juris Doctorate degree from the OU School of Law and started a practice in her beloved city of Ada. She married Governor David Boren in 1977 and tried to get him to move the capitol to Ada, but the state legislature resisted the wisdom of her suggestion and she had to reside in Oklahoma City. As a lawyer in Ada, Molly Shi Boren blazed her own path of achievements. She was the first woman ever to serve on the board of trustees of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the first woman elected to the Directors of Ada’s Chamber of Commerce. She had been appointed in 1975 as the Special District Judge for Pontotoc County. Upon David Boren’s becoming president of the University of Oklahoma, Molly Shi Boren took upon herself the task of improving the landscaping and building restoration on the campuses at Norman, Tulsa, and Oklahoma City. Her acumen and achievements have led her to serve as a director of several companies, including the Dollar Thrifty Corporation and the Baltimore Orioles. In 2003 she was the recipient of the nationally underwritten ATHENA award.

David L. Boren early evinced an appreciation for the intellectual activities of the modern American University, an appreciation that only grew in strength over the years. He graduated from Yale University in 1963 majoring in history, and then went to Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1965 he received an M.A. in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. Returning to the United States, he then obtained his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and won the Bledsoe Prize as the outstanding graduate by a vote of the faculty.

Interest in politics has always played a significant role in David Boren’s life, and his career was a movement from state legislator to Oklahoma Governor (1974-1978), and then United States Senator (1978-1994). He dealt in these years with a multitude of issues, but one strand continued to shine forth: his interest in education. As governor, he established the Oklahoma Arts Institute, the Scholar-Leadership Endowment Program, and the Oklahoma Physicians Manpower Training Program. As U.S. Senator, he was the author of the National Security Education Act (1992) and sponsored legislation to restore tax deductibility of gifts of appreciated property to universities. While Senator, he founded in Oklahoma a project to enhance quality education: he created in 1985 the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. During his senatorial years he as well served as a member of the Yale University Board of Trustees and taught for four years on the faculty of Oklahoma Baptist University where he was Chairman of the Department of Political Science. In 1993 the American Association of University Professors bestowed upon him the Henry Yost Award as Education Advocate of the Year.

David Boren retired from the U.S. Senate in 1994 and accepted the presidency of the University of Oklahoma. For the next twenty years, he set high standards for the school to achieve academic excellence, and he surpassed them all. He led fundraising efforts,
commencing a campaign in 1995 to reach a goal of $200 million within five years; the actual total exceeded $500 million. In his first ten years as president, $1 billion was donated to the University. To improve the intellectual quality of instruction, he created endowed professorships, more than quadrupling them since 1994. The total has now reached $2.4 billion. His interest in the humanities and arts revealed themselves in 20 new programs initiated since his inauguration: the Honors College, the Charles M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West, a freshman expository writing program, an interdisciplinary religious studies program, the Artist-in-Residence Program, and the International Programs Center. A firm believer in international relations, David Boren created presidential travel scholarships and now students from 111 countries come to OU to study. New colleges created include the College of International Studies, the Honors College, the College of Earth and Energy, and the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Studies. In the two decades of his stewardship, OU has also seen a momentous building program. Among recent projects are the renovation and expansion of historic Holmberg Hall, the National Weather Center, the addition to Michael F. Price College of Business, the Gaylord Hall for Journalism, the Stephenson Research and Technology Center, the Stanton L. Young Biomedical Research Center, and a new student union for the Health Sciences Center, along with the Stephenson Cancer Center and the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center.

Molly Shi Boren and David L. Boren have had in their personal educations the thrill of being introduced to the arts and sciences, and in one sense they may be considered artists. He and his wife have on the canvas of Oklahoma life created a masterpiece, and that masterpiece is called the University of Oklahoma.

It is with great gratitude for their services to the state and nation that the OHEHS induct Molly Shi Boren and David Lyle Boren into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.