Remembering a great man
Photo by: Will Gentry
When it comes to spreading the education of capitalism, freedom and enterprise, it would be hard to find a man who had more influence at Oklahoma Christian University than Bob Rowland.
Rowland, who passed away Tuesday, Jan. 22, worked for Oklahoma Christian from 1971 to 1990.
“Bob Rowland was director of our citizenship project,” Stafford North, who was then executive vice president, said. “We offered programs to high school students in the summer and did publications and citizenship education. He had the idea of having on campus some type of museum where people could come and see artifacts from the capitalist system and free enterprise economics.”
Thus the idea for Enterprise Square, USA was born. It was the only exhibition in the nation dedicated to teaching about enterprise and capitalism.
The year was 1982, and Terry Johnson was Oklahoma Christian’s president. Enterprise Square, USA was constructed — a 60,000 square foot, $10 million exhibit. Although now it is somewhat left in the dust, Enterprise Square was the largest building to be built on campus. Rowland served as the executive director.
“It was a daring undertaking. I was skeptical we would ever pull it off,” the then Vice President of Academic Affairs Bailey McBride said.
A team was put together, which included Wilson Mart, a designer for Disney World, and Rod Lopez-Fabrego, who had developed displays for leading corporations. Daniel Wilcox, who was a scriptwriter for M*A*S*H, aided in the writing process. A team from Oklahoma Christian developed six video games.
Senator Don Nickles spoke at the grand opening. He shared a note from former President Ronald Reagan, which read, “OC’s investment in Enterprise Square not only provides a new approach in the teaching of economics, but helps popularize free enterprise concepts that once were thought to be too complex for young people.”
The Museum was established to educate others on the American government system and free enterprise economics.
“It’s absolutely vital for people to understand the system which they live,” said sophomore Afton Paris. “Ignorance is the first step toward slavery, but a wealth of knowledge is the first step toward prosperity.”
Inside, dollar bills sang “Freedom is the Key.” A glass elevator provided a ride to the fourth floor, where the Heartbeat Rotunda was located. 64 six-by-six screens, each with their own projector, introduced you to the economic story and the superiority of the American enterprise as your rode up.
The “Giant Talking Face” of the government showed nine screens that explained the evils of government overstepping boundaries. The “Hall of Giants” paid tribute to great capitalists, such as Sam Walton, Thomas Edison, Henry Bell and George Washington Carver. One of the world’s largest cash registers was featured in the “Great American Marketplace.” 47 computer stations were in the Venture Game. A 10-foot wide, 360 degree screen encircled the top of the room, featuring information on different eras in history.
“I think it showed innovation in an educational approach,” McBride said. “The very thing it tried to teach—the free enterprise system—through gaming anticipated what has now become so commonplace. It was a major step forward in figuring out how technology could be used for education.”
There was a theatre featuring “Bubba and Zazzi”—creatures from outer space that would teach kids what economic development was like in the United States. In one area, kids could play the role of six different vocations, such as a doctor or airplane pilot. Kids were superimposed into the screen in order to put them into the environment they had chosen.
Enterprise Square contained a gift shop and a “Supply and Demand Doughnut Shop,” which taught visitors about supply and demand by making decisions on producing doughnuts.
Oklahoma Christian has been known for being first in technological advancements. In 2001 it became one of the first campuses to go completely wireless and in 2008 started providing laptops to students. However, the technology didn’t start in the 21st century. When the Enterprise Square designed their games, they were among the first to use touch-screen electronics.
“It was high tech for the day,” North said. “Everything we mastered—the games, the exhibits, videos and software—was all put on a large 7 inch disk that had to be mastered in Japan because nobody in the United States could do it.”
While high tech and cool in the 1980s, few renovations or updates on the exhibits were done, and the doors eventually closed for good in 2002.
“There were two benefits. The first benefit would be the teaching of economics,” North said. “We had high schools that would come to our campus and study economics. It also put us in the lime-light. Business people appreciated the fact that we were teaching about the economic system and how it works and educating people about it. “
Enterprise Square garnered national attention due to the broadcasts, publications and number of annual visitors. Sam Walton, founder of WalMart, and Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines both visited the exhibition. Bob Hope, who was also featured in a video in the exhibition, was present for the grand opening.
Enterprise Square, USA was featured in Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Variety, Reader’s Digest, U.S. News and World Report, Southern Living, and Travelhost. It was also featured on NBC’s “Today Show” and CBS’s “World News Tonight.”
“It really put us on the map,” North said. “We had people from all over the world that would come to visit us.”
Rowland made several impacts before and after his most notable, Enterprise Square. He served as president and dean of Columbia Christian University before coming to Oklahoma Christian, established churches in Juneau and Sitka, Alaska, and served as an elder at the Quail Springs Church of Christ. The Rowland Endowed Scholarship Fund was established in 2008, offering aid to scholars from the Northwest.
Rowland spent his life serving others, both in education and faith, and was a great asset to the Oklahoma Christian community.