The family of Ora and Opal DeSpain, formerly of Straight, Okla., is the honored family for the 2015 homecoming at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Homecoming will be celebrated on October 10, 2015, in Goodwell. Mr. and Mrs. DeSpain raised eight children, and of those eight, six attended PAMC/OPSU with four of them graduating. During the children’s younger years, their parents emphasized the importance of education and encouraged each of them to attend college. Three of their grandchildren also attended OPSU with one of them graduating. Two great-grandchildren also attended OPSU. In addition to these direct descendants, several extended family members have also attended, graduated, or in other ways been associated with Panhandle State. Among these are Johnnie and Moylene Davis of Goodwell, who are cousins of Opal DeSpain. Johnnie Davis taught at OPSU for many years, and he and Moylene continued to be very active in the Panhandle State Foundation. Five of the seven who graduated went on to be teachers.
Arvia (Smith) DeSpain (Ron’s wife) graduated from PAMC in May 1962, and Ronald DeSpain (son) graduated in 1963. After Arvia’s graduation and during Ron’s final year of college, they lived in Guymon where Arvia taught. Their first daughter Teri was born right after Arvia’s graduation. After Ron’s graduation they moved to Liberal, Kansas, where they both taught for several years and added two sons, Tim and Todd, to their family. Then they moved to Monte Vista, Colo. to teach. While in Monte Vista their daughter Tricia was born. They eventually moved to Amarillo, Texas, where Arvia taught at Highland Park School, and Ron served as President of Texas State Technical Institute. During his teaching career, Ron earned a masters degree from Emporia State University and later received a doctorate degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. After retirement they moved to the Houston area to be near their children. Keeping with the family tradition, Tricia is a teacher and coach. Ron passed away in 2010, and Arvia still lives in Humble, Texas.
Louise DeSpain (Hunt Armstrong) (daughter) graduated from PAMC in 1963 at which time she and her daughters, Connie and Natasha, moved to Isabel, Kansas, where she taught home economics, chemistry, biology, and general science. She moved to a farm after her marriage to Donald Armstrong in 1964. In 1968 Louise began teaching home economics at Cunningham, Kansas. After Donald’s death in 1973, Louise and her daughters moved to Cunningham, Kansas. In 1976 Louise left the teaching profession and went to work at Hilltop Manor as Dietary Manager. In subsequent years she has held several different positions at the Manor. In 1988 she began working at the Pratt Hospital at Hilltop Manor. She retired from Hilltop Manor. In 2009 Louise was inducted into the USD 332 Hall of Fame for school and community service.
Jerry Hill (Laura’s husband) graduated from PSC in 1970 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lt. in the United States Army. After his military service at Ft. Benning, Georgia, he and Laura returned to Guymon where he worked at several jobs until he found his true calling – teaching. He returned to college at OPSU to finish his teaching degree. He taught at Goodwell High School for several years, and was a long-term sub at Yarbrough High School until Guymon School called and asked him to go to work from them at the newly established Guymon Alternative Academy. Jerry finished his teaching career at Guymon High School where he was teaching when he passed away in 2013.
Laura DeSpain (Hill) (daughter) graduated from OPSU in 1974 with a degree in elementary education. She began teaching fourth grade at Straight Grade School that fall. After teaching for 12 years, the Principal/ Superintendent position opened up and Laura applied for it. The school board decided to fill the position from within the current staff with the understanding that Laura would get her masters degree in elementary administration and earn the other necessary certification. Laura earned her masters degree from Ft. Hayes State University and held the position as Principal/Superintendent until her retirement in 2013. Jerry and Laura are the proud parents of two daughters, Traci and Kara. Laura continues to live in Guymon where she enjoys her children and grandchildren and a great- granddaughter.
Donald DeSpain (son) graduated from OPSU in 1975. Don marred Mary Tramell in 1968, and their daughter Cindy was born in 1969. During college Don worked at H.C. Williams and Associates as a land surveyor. In 1979 he purchased interest in the company and the name was changed to SEDCO. He worked there until his retirement in 2011. He had served in the United States Army, serving in Korea. He currently lives in Guymon. Don’s daughter Cindy and her husband Danny Powers live in Enid and are both in education. Cindy is a children’s psychologist, and Danny is a high school band director.
Thad DeSpain (grandson) graduated from OPSU in 1989 with a business degree. Thad married Gail Kraber in 1990 and had two daughters. At the current time, he lives and works in Garden City, Kansas, with his wife Gail and daughter Delaney who is a freshman at Garden City High School. Their daughter MacKenzie is a senior at Ft. Hays State University.
Family members who attended college in Goodwell at some point but who did not graduate from there include:
Johnnie DeSpain (son), retired Texas County Tax Assessor, who married RaJeanna Dow in 1966 and had two sons, Thad and Rhett. RaJeanna worked at Panhandle Telephone and retired in 2012. After retirement Johnnie worked part time at Guymon Vision Clinic until retiring again in 2012. He and RaJeanna currently live in Goodwell;
Gary DeSpain (son), who went on to work for the US Department of the Interior as a surveyor until his retirement. Gary married Faye Wallace, and they had two sons, Darell and Rueben. Gary lived in Rolla, Missouri, until his death in 2006;
Rhett DeSpain (grandson), who married Tammy Hambleton in 1993 and had five children. Rhett currently lives in Amarillo, Texas, with his wife Tammy and their children, Allison, a freshman at WTAMU in Canyon, Texas, Austin and Natalie who attend Amarillo High, Ella, who is in 7th grade at Bonham Middle School, and Nathan, who is a 5th grader at Windsor Elementary. Rhett is now on electrical engineer for Xcel Energy;
Kara Hill (granddaughter), who lives in Guymon, with her children Ian and Jerryn;
And Becky Dodgion (great granddaughter), who also lives in Guymon.
Tim Dodgion (great grandson), earned concurrent hours from OPSU while he was attending Guymon High School.
Currently, granddaughter Traci (Hill) Dodgion is employed by OPSU through the office of Continuing Education. Johnnie DeSpain was an employee of OPSU and drove the activity bus for softball and basketball during the years 1998-2001. Then he drove the bus for the golf team during the years 2011-2014. He continues to support most home athletic events (basketball, football, softball, baseball, etc.) Laura DeSpain Hill took many continuing education hours at OPSU during her summers while working at Straight School.
In the 1962-63 school year, the DeSpain family was honored for having the most students from one family attending at the same time. Those students were Louise, Ron, and Don. There was actually another Don DeSpain enrolled at the same time, but he was no relation to this family.
The DeSpain family would like to thank Jim Oblander and the Panhandle State Alumni Association for the honor that has been bestowed upon us. We are all looking forward to enjoying the day in Goodwell at Homecoming 2015.