Students at Southwestern Oklahoma State University's Sayre campus want to recognize noteworthy Western Oklahomans.

The students, under the guidance of English instructor Terry Ford, are writing research papers on people who have played a significant part in Western Oklahoma history.

Ford said in a release that the research paper essays will be published by lawyer and award-winning author Bob Burke, who has authored numerous books about Oklahoma on such diverse topics as baseball in the state, aviation and religion.

However Burke and SWOSU students are looking for more notable names before the book project can be completed.  They have turned to the public to contribute suggestions for Western Oklahomans who should be included in the essay collection.

Ford said in an interview that Burke is targeting about 60 persons for inclusion in the book.

"We have about 30 now," she said. "We haven't set a deadline yet, but it will probably take at least a couple of semesters (to finish), as more students enroll in the classes."

Suggestions for inclusion in the book should be given to Ms. Ford by calling (580) 928-5527, ext. 152, or e-mailing  When e-mailing, use "Burke Book" on the subject line.

The book is targeted to include individuals, dead or alive, of acclaim from the past or present. They can be from the areas of sports, business, politics, entertainment and more, Ford said, but they must have a connection to Western Oklahoma.

The students have already completed essays on several dignitaries, most of whom are or were from the Sayre, Erick, Elk City and Weatherford areas, she said.

The essays already selected for inclusion in the book include features on race horse owner Walter Merrick, world champion boxer Jess Willard, late Country singers Sheb Wooley and Roger Miller, 1981 Miss America Susan Powell, late operatic tenor Joseph Benton, and Kelli O'Hara, a three-time Tony Award nominee. Also to be included are heroes such as astronaut Thomas Stafford, Desert Storm leader Gen. Tommy Franks, and Lt. Donald Gott, a member of the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame, who died in World War II.

Ford said State Sen. Tom Ivester, a Western Oklahoma native, suggested the project after he became acquainted with Burke. Ivester noticed that most of the subjects of Burke's books were from the more heavily populated north and central parts of the state and thought it would be nice to get recognition for Western Oklahoma, she said.

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