Dr. Paul Root and his wife, Mary Windham Root, longtime faculty and staff members at Ouachita Baptist University, were honored recently with the dedication of the Dr. Paul and Mary Root Education Seminar Room.
The seminar room, housed in Ouachita’s Huckabee School of Education in McClellan Hall, was funded through a donation from the Clinton Family Foundation. President Bill Clinton named Dr. Root his “favorite teacher” during the years Dr. Root taught history and social studies at Hot Springs High School.
Dr. Root, professor emeritus of education at Ouachita, and Mrs. Root, retired academic coordinator of Student Support Services, dedicated their professional careers to the field of education and were leaders in school integration and racial equality issues.
Dr. Merribeth Bruning, dean of the Huckabee School, said university officials were “delighted to be able to honor Paul and Mary Root in this way. It has really been a joy to work on this project and it has really been a joy to know Paul and Mary Root.”
“This is a great occasion for us here today and one that is so richly deserved by Paul and Mary Root,” said Ouachita President Rex M. Horne, Jr. “When I think of them, I think of two people who get it, who understand not only about education but understand about vision, understand about needs, understand faith and the desire to make a difference in this world.”
Dr. Horne noted that “because of the relationship the Roots have had with President Clinton over many years,” he invited President Clinton to “perhaps make some kind of gift to get things started.” In response, the Clinton Family Foundation provided a financial gift in honor of the Roots that covered the cost of the project.
In a letter of congratulations to the Roots, President Clinton wrote, “Since Paul Root first inspired me as my 10th grade history teacher in Hot Springs, he and his wife, Mary, have been wonderful friends. They have played an important role in my life and work as well as in the lives of so many others all over Arkansas and around our nation.
“Paul has always been an invaluable advocate of quality education and equal access for all. He spent years working on desegregation efforts all over the state at the grassroots level,” President Clinton added. “During their years as beloved professors at OBU, Paul and Mary cultivated intellectual curiosity in so many students.”
Dr. Root first joined the Ouachita faculty in 1964. He served a total of 22 years at Ouachita, including serving as dean of the graduate school, professor and chair of the Department of Education and director of the Arkansas Technical Assistance and Consultative Center.
He also served as special assistant to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton from 1983 to 1987 and as special assistant to the director of the Arkansas Department of General Education from 1987 to 1989 before returning to Ouachita.
Mrs. Root began her career in education as an elementary teacher. She taught elementary education at Oakland City College before working as an elementary consultant and multi-ethnic specialist for the Arkansas Technical Assistance and Consultative Center on Ouachita’s campus.
For 10 years, Mrs. Root directed the preschool program at First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia. She later joined the Arkansas Department of Education as a licensure officer. She continued her licensure work at Ouachita in 1990, where she also served as the academic coordinator of Student Support Services until her retirement in 2001.
By Trennis Henderson, OBU Vice President for Communications