Archive for Sunday, May 16, 1999


May 16, 1999


A longtime Kansas University professor who taught students to become teachers wasn't satisfied until they reached their goals.

It's no stretch of the truth to say that Kansas University English education professor Oscar M. Haugh's work was seen by hundreds of thousands of high school students.

Throughout the years, students taking standardized tests have had to answer many questions formulated by Haugh on reading comprehension, literature, writing skills and listening.

Haugh, who taught at KU from 1950 to 1979 and influenced countless students who later became teachers, died Saturday at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Haugh suffered a stroke earlier this month. He was 90.

Through the standardized tests, Haugh displayed an uncanny knack for crafting questions that would allow some students to shine, while being fair. He continued to work on the tests until he was 78, years after retiring from the university, said his daughter, Rita Haugh Oates.

Haugh was adept at bringing out the best in his own students, too, she said.

"He would challenge them to learn and grow on their own; he would find that spark of specialness in each individual," Haugh Oates said.

At KU, he advised Wilt Chamberlain and Dee Wallace Stone, encouraging them to follow their respective passions of basketball and acting, and to come back to their education backgrounds if that failed.

Haskell Indian Nations University English teacher Jim Hills recently dedicated a book to Haugh, who called his students' achievements "trophies of the chase." Haugh's professional boundaries extended beyond the KU classroom; he often traveled to Topeka, Kansas City and other areas to watch student teachers in action.

"He had a total involvement in the life of his students, which drew us to him," said Hills, whose wife, Clenece, was also a student of Haugh's.

Polly Rankin, another former student who lives in Lawrence, said Haugh pushed future teachers to work as hard as they could.

"He was earnest and dynamic," Rankin said. "He got after everybody in case anybody would lag behind in their duties."

George Baxter Smith, a former dean of the School of Education at KU, said Haugh was an "inveterate punster" who loved words.

"He just loved to pun better than he liked to eat breakfast," said Smith, adding that many of his colleagues at KU went to Haugh to tap his expertise when writing papers.

Bob Ridgway, a former School of Education professor, said Haugh was highly respected by students and other professors.

Haugh promoted the inclusion of black and Hispanic authors in the standardized tests, and strove to encourage women to pursue their goals.

"He encouraged an awful lot of women to achieve and succeed and publish," Haugh Oates said.

-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is

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