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Mehr Endowed Scholarships Fund Students’ Dreams

When Charles Mehr, BA ’43, graduated from OCU he was half a world away, serving as a Navy ensign in World War II. As the Commencement announcer read his name, Mehr’s mother walked across the stage to accept his diploma.

Decades later, Mehr’s generosity has enabled dozens of OCU students to receive their own diplomas and make their mark in the world of performing arts. Through a series of donations — including real estate, cash gifts, and planned gifts — Mehr established several endowed scholarships at OCU to support dance performance and music theater students.

Mehr’s brother-in-law, Richard Poole, Ph.D., recalled a conversation the two had when Mehr first considered forming the scholarship programs.

“I told him, ‘Don’t wait until you die because if you do it now, you’ll get to have a lot of interaction with it,’” Poole remembered. Mehr took that advice. He passed away last year but enjoyed several years of interacting with his scholarship recipients, attending their performances, and encouraging them in their dreams for their careers. Mehr took time to write to each student. Poole continues to receive letters on Mehr’s behalf from past recipients who express deep appreciation for his support, encouragement, and influence.

Mehr Scholarship recipients have gone on to perform on Broadway, in professional musical tours, as Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, and in other highly successful careers.

“Because Mr. Mehr made it possible for these students to receive the comprehensive training in dancing, acting, and singing with the solid liberal arts education available at Oklahoma City University, they are living their dream,” said John Bedford, dean of OCU’s Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management. “Scholarships supported by an endowment continue in perpetuity. There will be many more dance performance majors in the future who will be able to live their dreams because of Charles Mehr.”

Mark Parker, dean of OCU’s Bass School of Music, recalled Mehr as a man of the arts.

“He cared about students having access to opportunities that the arts schools at OCU provide so well,” Parker said. “He was so generous and gave from his heart so that talented students could have the chance to receive an OCU education. The scholarship endowments he created will affect untold numbers of students for generations to come.”

Poole noted that Mehr set up the scholarship programs to support high-quality students who want to pursue performing arts studies.

“He wanted deans and department heads to have flexibility in the criteria for awarding scholarships. His idea was to provide administrators with a tool to get the best students and enhance the programs at OCU,” Poole said. “Charles was very talented, had an excellent voice himself, and he loved the performing arts.”

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