Listen to this article here

Captola Dunn worked for nearly 30 years to make the memorial dedicated to the first principal of Tulsa’s historic Booker T. Washington High School a reality. 

Published 12/23/2020 | Reading Time 1 min 52 sec

TULSA, Okla. – OSU-Tulsa is proud to honor Captola Dunn, chair of the Ellis Walker Woods Memorial Committee, as its inaugural ASPIRE Award recipient. Dunn worked for nearly 30 years to make the memorial dedicated to the first principal of Tulsa’s historic Booker T. Washington High School a reality. 

“I’m grateful that I was chosen,” Dunn said. “Certainly, I will try as best I can to continue to hold up this award in the community – not just for north Tulsa, but for all of Tulsa.”

The OSU-Tulsa ASPIRE Award is presented to community members who embody the spirit of OSU-Tulsa’s mission as a metropolitan, urban-serving public research university. Each letter of ASPIRE stands for the university’s six priorities: Access to education, Service to the community, Premier Programs, Innovation, Research and Economic development.

“It is important for us to recognize the work of our community partners that benefits our neighbors and our university,” said OSU-Tulsa President Pamela Fry. “Mrs. Dunn’s commitment to community and to promoting education make her an ideal recipient of the inaugural OSU-Tulsa ASPIRE award.”

Dunn was born in Arkansas and moved to Tulsa when she was young. A 1949 graduate of Booker T. Washington, she was profoundly impacted by her high school principal’s dedication to his city, his community, and particularly his students.

“I appreciate Mr. Woods for giving me the courage to know that I’m as good as anybody else,” Dunn said.

Dunn, her husband Al and fellow Booker T. Washington alumnus Richard Gipson spearheaded the memorial project, which began at a barbeque in Los Angeles in the 1980s. After the deaths of Gipson and Al Dunn, Mrs. Dunn continued to chair the memorial committee through the final stages of fundraising and construction.

The Ellis Walker Woods Memorial was dedicated in August 2019 on the OSU-Tulsa campus, site of the original Booker T. Washington High School. The monument’s pillars feature students who attended during Woods’ tenure as principal from 1913 through his death in 1948, including Dunn.

“The ASPIRE Award is presented to a person we all should aspire to be,” Fry said. “I am most impressed by Mrs. Dunn’s leadership: She speaks in a calm and respectful manner, knows what she’s talking about and remains resolute when it comes to achieving her goals.”

Dunn has served as president of the Los Amigos Chapter of the Telephone Pioneers of America and as a member of the Tulsa Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) Program. As part of OSU-Tulsa’s Black Wall Street History course, she also participated in an intergenerational dialogue at the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation’s 2020 National Virtual Symposium.

“You have to know where you came from, so that you’ll know where you’re going,” Dunn said. “Don’t think that there’s anything too small for you to contribute to the community.”

The Black Wall Street Times is a news publication located in Tulsa, Okla. and Atlanta, Ga. At The BWSTimes, we focus on elevating the stories of our beloved Greenwood community, elevating the stories of...