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October 31, 2000

While I was in the bank the other day, I had a chance to visit briefly with Beverly Alexander concerning a question that recently came up: Is there still a Student Entertainment Bureau at Oklahoma State University? Beverly herself is a product of that unique program and her husband, Ashley, was its director for many years before his retirement. Beverly said she does not think the bureau is still in existence, and that seems a great loss.

For many years, program chairmen in Rotary clubs, Lions, Kiwanis and many other civic organizations throughout the state relied on the OSU Student Entertainers to provide musicians, jugglers, tumblers, standup comics and assorted other young men and women with a variety of talents to entertain their members and guests. Ashley's predecessor as director of the bureau was A. Frank Martin. Both men had lengthy and successful tenures and the Student Entertainment Bureau was a big success. It enabled many students to work their way through college and it helped a lot of frantic program chairmen to line up great entertainment.

Beverly said that at one time Ashley had some 300 students on call for entertainment. While he headed the bureau during the school year, he also had a summer program under the auspices of the United Service Organization, better known as the USO, which provided hours of variety acts for U. S. military bases around the world. Ashley took the young people abroad to put on shows for Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and other personnel, and it was a great experience for all concerned. Beverly, who had been a student entertainer herself, assisted Ashley in handling many of the details of the program.

The Student Entertainment Bureau also helped a number of budding artists to perfect their skills and to continue performing after college days were past. Mary Malzahn, for one, was a singer with the Student Entertainment Bureau, and she certainly had a concertquality voice if she had chosen to follow that path. Another member of the bureau at about that same time was a young fellow named Jimmy Baker. He was drum major of the famed OSU marching band, and his style of arched back marching became the accepted form for drum majors everywhere. Baker also had a dance band in the early 1940s and for a few years after. I think the band was called "the Collegians." They were popular throughout this area and he continued in that role with a band in Oklahoma City after World War II. Mary Malzahn was one of his girl singers at OSU (then Oklahoma A. & M.). These days Baker is busy as a big-time television show producer on the West Coast.

Beverly believes several things brought about the apparent demise of the Student Entertainment Bureau. Scholarships and other awards now make it possible for young people to gain a college education. But, she says, the primary reason probably is the lack of a single person to handle the program. Ashley virtually dedicated his life to the job during his tenure, and by so doing he made it work. Today, he still has a music ministry with Beverly and their son, Richie, playing active roles as entertainers at nursing homes, hospitals and other venues throughout the state. But the OSU Bureau no longer provides programs for, harried Rotarians, et al. That is too bad for all of us who used to enjoy the variety acts brought to us by those energetic and talented young people.