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Students from 5 decades honor their music mentor

SHAWNEE, Okla. (BP)–Warren M. Angell, despite the fact the crowd was helping him celebrate his 90th birthday, was young once more.
He tickled the ivories just like he always has and drew sweet music from his old students just as he did in the 1930s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s.
A May 15-17 weekend tribute drew 700 alumni and guests to Oklahoma Baptist University’s Shawnee campus to honor Angell — dean of Oklahoma Baptist University’s college of fine arts from 1936, when he assumed the post at age 28 as one of America’s youngest college deans, until his 1973 retirement.
Angell, who turned 90 on May 13, was featured in a mini-concert during the tribute, also with performances by varied special ensembles of past and present students. The crowd included a few alumni who had never sung in the renowned Bison Glee Club, started by Angell in 1938, or any of the other musical groups he led but whose lives he had touched in other ways.
“It was thrilling to see hundreds of people laughing, singing and swapping stories of the way they were influenced by Dean Angell,” said Richard Huggins, chairman of the organizing committee for the tribune to the emeritus dean, whose contributions to the university were noted by OBU’s board of trustees as long ago as 1956 when they named the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts in his honor.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on May 13, 1907, Angell received both bachelor and master of music degrees in piano and composition from Syracuse University and a doctor of education degree from Columbia University Teachers College.
Additionally, Angell received three Boy Scout merit badges during the weekend, which he had felt he was cheated out of when he was 12 years old.
In the 78 years since, Angell has told, retold and embellished the merit badge story, so when his former students decided to organize a 90th birthday celebration at OBU, they contacted the Boy Scouts of America and surprised Angell with the hard-earned merit badges.
In 1919, as Angell often told the story, he attended Camp Russell, a Boy Scout camp in the Adirondack Mountains in northeast New York. There, he worked on merit badges for diving, survival swimming and first aid.
He didn’t quite complete the requirements that week, partly because the camp leaders discovered what an accomplished pianist he was, even as a 12-year-old, and kept him busy at the keyboard. They enlisted him to play the piano during assemblies that week.
Young Angell was thrilled when they invited him to stay an extra week as staff pianist. That would give him time to complete the requirements for the three merit badges, he thought.
When the award ceremony rolled around that second week, Angell had completed the necessary requirements and eagerly anticipated receiving the awards. But before the ceremony, one of the camp leaders explained that he couldn’t receive the badges because he was on staff.
Crushed and disappointed, the young pianist sat through the ceremony fuming and plotting revenge.
Early the next morning, the last day of camp, Angell packed his things and hiked out of camp through the woods. Someone noticed, alerted the camp staff, and they headed off after him. When Angell realized he was being chased, he gleefully accelerated his getaway.
The path he was following led out to a highway, and strange as it may seem, a taxicab was headed his way. Angell flagged down the taxi, explained his plight and learned that the driver was headed to Brooklyn, his hometown. The driver agreed to take him home, leaving the camp staff bewildered about the whereabouts of the young camper.

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