J. Rufus Fears, professor of history and classics at the University of Oklahoma and a longtime friend of OU Outreach and the College of Liberal Studies, died October 6. He was 67 years old.
The professor earned his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in history and classics at Emroy University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard.
Fears joined the OU faculty in 1990, serving as a professor of classics. He soon was selected for the distinction of being named David Ross Boyd professor of classics. He also served two years as dean for OU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
In 1992, he was named to the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty and was named director of OU’s Center for the History of Liberty. His courses on the freedom of Rome and the freedom of Greece are two of the most popular courses at the University.
“He had just completed a series of lectures on the history of freedom, which will be available online to both OU students and the broader community. It was his way of giving all of us one last gift,” Boren said.
Fears was the recipient of numerous awards for teaching, including being selected three times by OU students as Professor of the Year and being named by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as recipient of the Medal for Excellence in College and University teaching.
He was an active supporter of OU Outreach and he led the OU Book Club, a program with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, for many semesters. In April, he delivered the keynote address at the College of Liberal Studies 50th Anniversary Gala. In past years, he led Outreach travel study programs to Washington, D.C., and to Rome.
In 2003, he received the national Excellence in Teaching Award from the University Continuing Education Association for his contributions to lifelong learning, an award for which Outreach had nominated him.
“Rufus Fears was one of the greatest teachers in the history of our state,” OU President David L. Boren said. “His death is not only a great loss to the University but to the future generations of students who will be deprived of learning from him in the classroom. He will always be remembered at the University of Oklahoma, where he leaves such an important legacy,”