Ellsworth Collings: Educator, author and avid fan of the Old West

BY DERRICK HO Staff Writer email@opubco.comOklahoman    Comment on this article 0

Published: June 12, 2011

Ellsworth C. Collings was a professor at the University of Oklahoma beginning in 1922 and became the dean of the School of Education in 1926. During his tenure, enrollment of the school rose from 100 to more than 1,000 students.

Collings was born in Missouri and went to the University of Missouri for his bachelor’s and master’s in education. He later obtained his doctorate at Columbia University in New York.

“He was interested in people and a very personable man,” said Betty Geis, who lived with the Collings family when she married the professor’s grandson, Ronald “Bill” Geis.

An advocate of the project method in teaching, Collings was said to have produced some of the best books in this field. His book, “An Experiment with a Project Curriculum,” was hailed in its day as one of the most significant contributions in educational literature and the most important work on the subject of rural schooling, according to a sign erected outside Collings Hall — a building at OU named in honor of the professor in 1977.

The OU College of Education main offices still reside in Collings Hall, which was built in 1951.

Collings was also well-known in Oklahoma as the author of “The 101 Ranch,” which grew out of his intimate knowledge of ranching in the territory and state.

The professor kept a huge collection of cowboy art and artifacts. A 1963 story in The Daily Oklahoman listed part of his collection, which included the head of a longhorn steer mounted on a wall, and no less than 12 sets of longhorn horns with the largest spanning 9½ feet. He also collected bridles, saddles, branding irons and spurs from places he visited across the country.

Collings and his wife, Lessie Lee Collings, lived mostly at the Bar-C ranch just north of the Turner Falls Park entrance — the castle was just a summer home — and commuted three times a week to Norman until his retirement. He was a member of many clubs, including the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and was listed in “Who’s Who in America.”

Collings died at age 82 on June 18, 1970, after a lengthy illness. He is buried in Norman IOOF Cemetery.



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