The oldest known living alumnus from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) celebrated his 98th birthday in April. Charlie Fergus of Tulsa, was born in Grove and raised in Miami on the banks of Tar Creek. Living just a mile from campus, he recalls attending football games. After graduating high school, Fergus worked in the Miami area before attending NEO to study business in the 1947 and 1948.
“I studied at NEO because it was available and it was affordable,” said Fergus. “I knew some of the professors from high school and was able to work a part-time job while I went to school.”
Fergus lived at home while attending NEO, but was still active on campus. He served as the student council president, chairman of the student union, president of the Phi Sigma Nu leadership fraternity, and the associate editor of the Norsewind student newspaper.
While in Miami, Fergus became friends with renowned artist Charles Banks Wilson, who was a year older. Fergus recalled going to Wilson’s studio above a craft supply store across from the Coleman Theatre.
“I knew him from growing up in Miami and he was always working in his studio,” recalled Fergus. “I would go up and visit him in his studio. I had no talent in art, but I certainly had an interest.”
A prolific art collector, Fergus still has many pieces by Charles Banks Wilson in his room. He has also donated some of his collection to the Charles Banks Wilson Gallery on the NEO campus. However, his most prize piece is a surrealist work by famed Spanish artist Joan Miró.
After leaving NEO, Fergus went to work as an accountant for Eagle Picher. He would later continue his education at the University of Tulsa, where he met his wife, Clair. While at TU, the Dean of Men introduced Fergus to some potential employers including the Tyler Dawson Supply Co., which supplied pipes, supplies, and fittings to the oil and gas industry. Fergus also had an opportunity to attend business seminars at Harvard University.
Fergus worked with Tyler Dawson Supply Co. for the next two and a half decades. During his tenure, he traveled the country as an account manager. He also expanded the company into new territories where they would later establish a field office.
“I was very fortunate when jets came in and I could stop off in Chicago and then go on to New York to service the others. I was sort of playing with time zones,” added Fergus. “Before that, I was driving around 30,000 miles a year.”
After leaving Tyler Dawson Supply Co., Fergus, Claire, and their two children Conner and Bill, bought a home in Tulsa where they lived for most of their lives. Fergus now lives at Saint Simeon’s Senior Care Center, where he recently celebrated his birthday with Conner and Bill.
“College really opened the door to so much in my life and that is important. Students need to be exposed to different students and training that they might not otherwise participate in. NEO was a good place to start and I am grateful for that.”