Henry Kirkland, Jr., Ph.D.
Project 850, GiANT Experiences,
Edmond and worldwide
Mentees: Recently some from Washington, D.C., but at Oklahoma Mentor Day was Wade McCoy, M.D., a former college biology student of Dr. Kirkland, ca. 1986
Short-term to 50-plus-year matches
Project 859 serves a violent area of northeast Washington, D.C. Last summer Dr. Kirkland, Dr. McCoy and others brought inner-city youth to experience Oklahoma, a safe zone, and to be mentored by men of character. These ninth- through twelfth-graders were introduced to the local culture, industry and educational opportunities in Oklahoma. Dr. Kirkland spent time advising these young men about the direction of their lives and the need to pursue their education. Even more impressive are the countless students who have been mentored by Dr. Kirkland over many years as an educator in Oklahoma.
Rocketing back in time, Dr. Kirkland himself was mentored by a ‘white’ pharmacist named F.K. ‘Skeet’ Carney in Atoka in 1945. Carney not only taught Henry important life skills but also encouraged and helped him pursue his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Dr. Kirkland, the first African-American teacher in El Reno schools during integration, became the first African-American professor at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. At Weatherford, he mentored young students to become doctors, vets, pharmacists, physical therapists and other science-related professionals. Neither would Dr. McCoy have become a medical doctor, nor Dustin Devine a D.V.M. had Dr. Kirkland not mentored them. They, too, now mentor.
Ripple effect: The mentee became a mentor himself—and still is.
Wade McCoy shared this reflection about his mentoring experience with Dr. Kirkland:
“I first met Dr. Kirkland in 1986 as a junior biology student at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Believing in my potential as a good student, he took an interest in my educational pursuits. He called me to his office one cold fall day and asked me if I had ever considered going to medical school. I never had. Raised in far Western Oklahoma on the farm, I graduated in a class of 10 people from Reydon High School, a farming community with about 200 people. Though many people from our area had received various degrees and taken a variety of occupational paths, no one had ever gone to medical school. Dr. Kirkland actively mentored me over the next few years. He was my professor, my mentor and finally—still—my friend.”
Wade McCoy, M.D.
Inspired by his mentor’s life, Dr. McCoy co-authored A Rainbow in the Dark, a historical novel based upon Dr. Kirkland’s growing up in segregated Southeastern Oklahoma. Dr. Kirkland, now 78 years old, just retired from adjunct teaching at OSU-OKC. The mentor and mentee, having developed more of a father-son relationship, live close to each other in the metro area.
|Wade McCoy, M.D., mentee, and Henry Kirkland, Jr., Ph.D., mentor and former mentee|