RON Norick was Oklahoma City's mayor at the time of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. The old Central High School, which had been converted into an office building, was a key facility to provide succor for the rescue workers charged with a grim task.
Eighteen years later, Norick is chairman of the board of trustees at Oklahoma City University and Central is about to become home to OCU's School of Law.
A part of downtown devastated by the bombing will thus see an influx of students who will attend classes in a historic structure designed for education. Norick is celebrating the rebirth of Central as a place of learning. OCU is continuing a $20 million-plus fund drive to buy and retrofit a building designed by Solomon Layton, who was also architect of the state Capitol building.
Under the leadership of OCU President Robert Henry and law school Dean Valerie Couch, the university will move law students off the main campus on NW 23, freeing space for the expansion of other programs. Norick, Henry and Couch envision a rich environment for law faculty and students, many of whom will likely live nearby.
Also within walking distance are the centers of justice in Oklahoma, including the federal and county court houses and the jail. Major law firms have their headquarters downtown, further enhancing the ease of integrating academia with the real world. Students will have an incentive to live in or near downtown because many of them will end up working there after they get their degrees.
OCU's law school dates to 1907, the year of statehood. Central was built in 1910. It occupies a full city block between Harvey and Robinson avenues and NW 7 and NW 8, two blocks from the Murrah site.
Central was the Oklahoma headquarters for Southwestern Bell at the time of the bombing. It became a dormitory and feeding station for rescue workers who came from across the nation to assist with the recovery. With five levels and more than 177,000 square feet, Central has ample room for the law school. Nearby parking is ample as well.