USAO News Bureau

SELLERS, Mary Alleen (Guest)

Saturday, February 19, 2005

LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. -- Mary Alleen Sellers, 98, of Laguna Hills, Calif., died Saturday, Feb. 19, 2005, in Rossmoor Leisure World, where she had lived since 1975. Funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Bailes-Polk Funeral Home Chapel with the Rev. John Culley officiating.

 

Burial will be in Duncan Cemetery. Mary Alleen was born Dec. 21, 1906, in Belleville, Ark., the daughter of James Holland and Sallie Genn Grace Guest. She came to the Wood Reserve northwest of Duncan in 1907.

 

She attend Sommerdale Schools and attended the Oklahoma College for Women, now the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

 

She was proud that she became a Christian and a member of the Baptist church at the age of 14. She taught school in Marlow for four years before moving to California. She married James Sellers in 1947, and he preceded her in death on Feb. 23, 1957.

 

The couple lived in California. Mary was active in church work in San Diego serving as deaconess, church treasurer and in women s organizations. In 1975, she moved to Leisure World in Laguna Hills, where she joined her sister. They enjoyed many hobbies, including enameling, lapidary and jewelry making.

 

Survivors include a niece, Sally Darlene Guest Johnston of Seal Beach, California. She was also preceded in death by her parents; a brother, John Guest; and a sister, Anne Lee Guest Mallory.

 

NEWS FEATURE

Released on June 9, 1997

By the USAO News Bureau

Sisters Make Record Gift to USAO Foundation

Chickasha, Okla. -- A covered wagon brought two young girls to Oklahoma in 1907, who came to live in a two-room house and help their parents to settle 160 acres of farmland near Marlow. So committed to their daughters’ education were these parents that no sacrifice seemed too much. Now, 90 years later, the two sisters have made a gift to the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma of mineral rights that may be worth millions in decades to come.

 

It was September 1920 when the two fair-skinned, brunette sisters enrolled at the Oklahoma College for Women in Chickasha. At that time, a brand new Ford sold for $590. Women made up 24 percent of the American work force, and they were preparing themselves to vote for the first time under the week-old 19th Amendment

Then teenagers -- now in their 90s -- these two women might never have imagined such advancements as television, space travel, the Internet, or that they could become known as the most generous donors in history at their alma mater -- today known as the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

 

School officials announced this week a unique investment gift by Anna Lee Guest Mallory and Mary Alleen Guest Sellers. The two women, who share a home in Laguna Hills, Calif., have contributed oil and mineral rights on numerous tracts of land in Grady, Stephens and Carter counties. The USAO Foundation will use income from these mineral rights to create endowed scholarship funds bearing their names.

 

Inseparable friends, “the sisters” -- as they have come to be known -- married and pursued different paths in the 1920s. But they shared, then and now, a love for the University that will be remembered for many generations by students who will receive scholarships from the “Anna Lee Mallory Permanent Endowment Scholarship Fund” and the “Mary Alleen Sellers Permanent Endowment Scholarship Fund.”

 

When they first set foot on this campus, Oklahoma’s first oil boom was making the new state a prosperous one. But prosperity for the Guest family was hard-earned and long in coming. Anna Lee Mallory remembers their meager start in Oklahoma:

“Both our parents had been teachers before they married in 1898, but they saw an opportunity for the future of their family when they read in the paper in 1906 about the area called Big Pasture, which was near Lawton and Duncan, and which was to be opened for settlement by secret bid. Papa traveled from our home near Russellville, Ark., to the auction in Lawton and was successful in getting a 160-acre section southwest of Marlow. He moved himself, alone, to the property in January 1907, had a well drilled , built a storm cellar and lived in it while he built the house of two rooms at first. Then in April, he sent for our mother, and my sister. I was 3 and she was 4 months old. We came by train from Arkansas and Papa met us in Marlow in a wagon drawn by two mules, Sam and Mack. On Nov. 16 of that year, Oklahoma became a state.

 

“Frontier life was democracy in its purest form. Neighbors from many states helped each other and together they established a community life which left its imprint on us. Every farmer raised whatever was best suited for his land. Our parents raised hogs and planted corn to feed them. The hogs were shipped to market at Fort Worth; these pork chops paid for the college education of their two daughters and one son.

 

“We all worked on the farm to pay for our education. That is why these scholarships are so important to us. We are honoring our parents for making it possible for us to get a good education by naming the first two scholarships each year for Sallie Ben Guest and James Holland Guest,” says Anna Lee Mallory.

 

“We received a very good education at the college in Chickasha” she continues. “We had excellent teachers, dedicated and caring. The classes were small. I majored in American history and Aleen in mathematics.”

 

Like most older sisters, Anna Lee Guest was the more talkative one. She majored in history and was president of Nellie Sparks Hall in 1924. She played “Miss Hayes,” in the senior play, The Charm School -- the story of a young automobile salesman who inherits a girl’s school. She was among the first students named in 1923 to the newly created Hypatia, still today the University’s top honor society for academic achievement. Seventy years later, in 1993, on the 70th anniversary of Hypatia’s existence at USAO, Anna Lee presented a gift of her Hypatia pin, to be displayed with other historic memorabilia at the school. She completed her degree in 1924 -- the year radio listeners enjoyed the first gavel-to-gavel coverage of a political convention, when Calvin Coolidge took the election and the presidency.

 

At the college, the girls paid $20 a month for food and $2 a month for a room in the dormitory, which was shared with faculty members.

 

The more studious Mary Alleen Guest majored in mathematics. Beneath her picture in the college yearbook is this inscription: “Thy modesty is a candle to thy merit.” She was a member of Mathematics Circle. When she graduated from the high school academy on the OCW campus in 1923, she remembers making her own dress, which was required for all seniors. “The dress was complicated and beautiful,” remembers her sister, Anna Lee. “It was the first time she had put up her long hair.” She exercised diligence as a student and graduated early from the college in 1926 at age 19.

 

Their memories are sweet. The sisters were on campus in March 1924, when fellow student Esther Phillips won a contest to write a college hymn, a beloved melody sung at commencements ever since. The Guest sisters enjoyed the college’s first heyday, when a new Fine Arts Building was dedicated (1921) and the Science Building was completed (1924).

 

Anna Lee graduated in 1924 and took a position at Wilburton teaching social studies for $125 a month. Later she taught at Duncan High School and enjoyed the unusual privilege of having her little brother as a student in 1927.

 

Mary Alleen graduated from OCW in 1926 and began teaching math at Marlow High School. Her salary was $110 per month.

 

“The student body was very different then,” recalls Anna Lee. “They were all young ladies, ages 17-23, single and with the exception of those students from Chickasha, all lived on campus in the two dormitories under the watchful eyes of the house mother. There were no parking problems, baby sitting problems or part-time students. We wore uniforms of navy blue, trimmed in white, with navy blue pleated skirts to class.”

 

Recognized then as one of the finest colleges for women in America, it would be 75 years later that USAO would be named one of the best liberal arts colleges in America by U.S. News and World Report.

 

The sisters were here when insulin was discovered in 1921 and overnight changed diabetes from an instant death sentence to a manageable disease. They remember when King Tut’s tomb was discovered in Egypt in 1922. And they remember America’s national obsession with radio, when people stayed up late listening to concerts, sermons, anti-Communist Red-scare news, and weather reports.

 

It was during their years at college that Episcopal Bishops voted to omit the word “obey” from the marriage ceremony, and that the first Miss America was crowned, both in 1922. Prohibition increased the sales of coffee and soft drinks, but nearly 2,000 people died that year from poisoned liquor as the illegal liquor trade turned up $3.5 billion in sales. In fact, bootleg liquor prices regularly appeared in the Talk of the Town section of a brand new magazine, The New Yorker. In February of 1922, the magazine Reader’s Digest cranked out its first issue with 1,500 subscribers.

 

A changing world has not changed the sisters much, at least not their belief that education -- especially for women -- is a priority worth supporting. That’s why the agreements under which their mineral deeds were transferred and their scholarship endowments were created both were crafted by these women and not lawyers. Of course the documents were legally drawn by professionals, but the language in these agreements was drafted by the sisters.

 

“They know exactly what they are doing,” explains USAO President Roy Troutt, who has maintained a series of visits and correspondences with the sisters for several years. “Their education shows.

 

“This gift is original, quite generous, and well-thought-out,” Troutt said. “Together they have managed with this gift to honor the institution and its well-deserving future students even more than they have honored themselves. It is a tribute to their thoughtfulness and their love for the college.”

 

Under agreements made official in December 1996, the USAO Foundation has received mineral deeds on 10 tracts of land in Stephens County, one tract of land in Grady County, and seven tracts of land in Carter County. The deeds involve nearly 1,500 acres.

While it may take some years for the funds to accumulate sufficient earnings to produce scholarships, the two funds are expected to build up more than $1 million each in untouchable principal funds in 25-35 years, “which is not a very long time in the life of a university,” they wrote.

 

The first scholarships given each year from Anna Lee Mallory’s fund will be named to honor their mother, Sallie Ben Guest. The first scholarship from Mary Alleen Sellers’ fund will be named to honor their father, James Holland Guest.

 

As with similar endowed scholarships, a committee will identify and screen applicants. For these awards, the USAO Foundation has been instructed to give preference to women of need, and to upperclassmen in social studies, mathematics or education who consistently earn “B” average grades or better.

 

In some ways, times have changed. Technological advancements have linked USAO literally with the world, giving students opportunities to learn through computers and live, interactive television videoconferences. And yet, the University’s mission -- much like the Guest sisters’ purpose in their gift -- is an unchanging vision to provide broad-based education to deserving people who seek it.