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Oklahoma State University


History Timeline

1931       Oklahoma A&M College (OAMC) took over the annual fire school and assigned to the Department of Vocational Education. Blackwell Fire Chief John E. Taplin wrote a booklet titled The Essentials of Firemanship.

1932       Control of the annual fire school shifted to the OAMC College of Engineering.

1934       The first mimeographed book, An Introductory Course, was published.

1937       Through the efforts of Chief Pence, Heisler, and OAMC President Henry Bennett, The School of Fire Protection opened. It was a two-year A.S. degree program. The initial class had 5 students and no facilities. Everett Hudiburg was the first instructor.

1938       The first part of the Campus Fire Station was constructed and ready for the students in the Fall. 12 students were enrolled and an approved curriculum was in place. Hired to head the degree program was R. J. Douglas who held a Master’s in Chemistry from UWV; also had been a high school teacher, football coach and volunteer fire chief in Morefield, WV. He remained head of the school, except for a brief period during WWII, until his sudden death in 1962.

1939       The Remainder of CFS and drill tower was built by the college, with help from the Works Projects Administration in 1939. Douglas taught academics; Pence provided practical training. Students rose for roll call every morning at 0600 hours. Students could not leave classes for fires and were on duty every 4th night. Students had to be in the station by 2230 hours every night. Fire Protection Society Emerges: Stillwater Fireman’s Club formed to hire a cook and buy food for meals at CFS. Hell (Help, Rookie) Week started in order to teach new students their duties.

The World War II Years: Enrollment drops; Douglas laid off. Douglas served as fire marshal at Beech Aircraft in Wichita. Hudiburg served as chief instructor.

1945        The NFPA Chief Engineer Horatio Bond first dubs the school “The West Point of the Fire Service.”

1945       Chief Pence Died Suddenly: found dead in his bed on the 2nd floor of the CFS in January 1945. He was noted by the Oklahoma Legislature as “the founding and guiding light of the West Point of the Fire Service.” Hudiburg become new fire chief. In September, R. J. Douglas returned to OAMC to head the department. The department was accredited in 1949.

1952       Student Firefighter Dies in the Line of Duty: Student Firefighter James Bergstrand died at a brush fire on November 6, 1952. The fire was in the area of the old Stillwater hatchery on East 6th St. (across from Freddie Paul’s Steakhouse). He had become entangled in a hose and was drug through the fire.

1954       Adopted the Pistol Pete on the Soda Acid Extinguisher Logo (by Dede Bachtler).

1955       Heisler Retires is remembered as the “Will Rogers of the fire service.” He felt people not only needed to know what to do, but why they are doing it. Hudiburg retired from the SFD and assumed Heisler’s position.

1957       The Big Name Change: Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College (OAMC) was renamed Oklahoma State University (OSU). The mascot/nickname changed from Tigers to Cowboys.

1962       R. J. Douglas Died Unexpectedly: He suffered a heart attack on January 22. He was remembered by Dr. John Bryan (OSU alum who founded the FPE degree program at Maryland) as a person who always looked for a better solution and not to blindly accept the traditional concepts of the fire service.

1970s     Programs Separate: FST and FPP (IFSTA) are formally separated from the School of Fire Protection and moved to Q-2, which is now the stadium lower-level ramp north of the ATRC. Harold Mace was brought in to lead FST and FPP in 1969 and would serve until 1992. He also became the head of the school from 1986 until 1992.

1972       The Degree Program was expanded to offer a B.S. in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology. Dale Janes was brought in to build the program and the A.S. degree in Fire Protection was still available until the late 1980’s.

FPP Asst. Director Nancy Trench was the first female B.S. degree graduate.

1977       The Degree Program received ABET accreditation. 

1984       Carole Ares was the first female live-in student firefighter.

1998       Tom Woodford was appointed as department head.

2003       New FPST lab opened, which is the first major FPST building project over 60 years. The lab houses fire pump, sprinkler, fire behavior, hygiene, and fire alarms labs.

2005       The program moved out of the campus fire station to Cordell south building.

2006       The program becomes one of the first Qualified Academic Program (QAP) issued by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP) granting graduates the Graduate Safety Practitioner (GSP) designation, the first step towards becoming Certified Safety Professionals (CSP).

2007       Dr. Mike Larranaga was appointed as department head.

2010       Pat Brock and Jim Hanson retired in 2010. JD Brown retired in 2012.

2011       The “2+2” exchange program in fire protection engineering between OSU and Southwest Jiaotong University was established. More international activities begun.

2014       Dr. Sam Wang was appointed as department head.

2016       The program was expanded to seven full-time faculty with nearly 400 students enrollment. The graduate program in Fire Safety and Explosion Protection was approved by the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents and State Regents. 

2017        The “3+1” joint degree program in fire protection and safety engineering between OSU and Southwest Jiaotong University was approved. The department moved to Engineering North building.


Evolution of Names

1937-1948: Dept. of Firemanship Training

1949-1956: Dept. of Fire Protection

1957-1972: Dept. of Fire Protection Technology

1973-2013: Dept. of Fire Protection and Safety Technology. Course Prefixes changed from FIRET to FPST in 1999.

2013-Present: Dept. of Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology


Evolution of Leadership

R. J. Douglas – 1938 to 1943, 1946 to 1962

Everett Hudiburg – 1943 to 1946

Elmer Johnson – 1962 to 1966

Kurt Barker – 1966

John F. Shreve – 1966 to 1968

David Ballenger – 1968 to 1970

Dale F. Janes – 1970 to 1980

Larry Borgelt – 1980 to 1985

Harold Mace – 1986 to 1992

Marvin Smith (acting) – 1992 to 1993

J. D. Brown (acting) – 1993 to 1998, 2005 to 2007

Tom Woodford – 1998 to 2005

Dr. Michael Larranaga – 2007 to 2014

Dr. Sam Wang – 2014 to 2018

Prof. Virginia Charter – 2018 to present


Alumni Reunions

All-class reunions are held every five years on years that end in “0” and “5”. The reunions are held over the first weekend in July in Stillwater and include an opening session, picnics, and dinner/dance. The reunion helps to raise funds for the Foundation account.