Memorial honoring Newby, Newby Field planned; Recognition committee seeks ideas, contributions

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Memorial honoring Newby, Newby Field planned; Recognition committee seeks ideas, contributions

Northwestern Foundation Release

February 1, 2010

Wister D. NewbyRanger football teams at Northwestern Oklahoma State University for 40 years battled their opponents on Newby Field on the southeast corner of campus.

But Newby Field is no more. Northwestern gridmen moved their games in 1970 to more spacious and modern facilities at Ranger Field. Newby Field in time became the site of the J. R. Holder Wellness Center and a half dozen tennis courts.

But Newby Field and the man for whom it was named, the late Wistar D. Newby, have not been forgotten. Some of his friends and former colleagues want others to know of the man and the athletic facility for which he was responsible.

A committee, organized and headed by John Barton, has begun plans to develop and finance an appropriate marker or display that will identify the site of Newby Field and memorialize its developer. Other members of the committee include Jim Barker, Bob Battisti, Skeeter Bird, Wayne Lane, Steve Valencia and Marie Kadavy.

Newby Field in 1931In cooperation with the Northwestern Foundation, the committee is inviting ideas for the memorial and contributions to finance it. Both may be submitted to the foundation office on the campus. Barton said anyone who knew Newby is welcome to join the committee as plans progress.

The need for a better football field at Northwestern became apparent in 1929, when the Rangers, coached by Newby, ground out a game in a sea of mud against Central State College. The difficult playing conditions were blamed as the Ranger offense was mired in the mud, and the opposing team managed to eke out a 3-0 win on a field goal.

Newby led a drive to develop a new playing field. He was personally involved as the area was graded and sod was placed. With little help, he pampered the new sod during the following summer, seeing that it was kept watered and mowed. He manned a hand-powered mower through the heat of the 1930 summer. Grass burrs were removed by hand.

Football game at Newby FieldLights were installed at the field that same year, making Northwestern the first school in its conference to have a lighted gridiron.

The field was ready for competition in the fall, when it was named for Newby in recognition of his work to make it a reality.

Newby himself fell victim to the political realities of the period, and his job at Northwestern was terminated in 1933 when Bill Murray became governor. After 10 years in other pursuits, he returned to Northwestern in 1943 to direct the physical training of soldier-students assigned there by the Army Air Corps and to head the physical education department.

Newby Field Scoreboard made from salvaged bricks of the Castle on the HillStill concerned with developing the football field, Newby headed a successful fund drive to replace wooden stands with concrete stadium seating in 1947-48.

Newby stayed on in the physical education department at Northwestern in different capacities until his death of a heart attack on Aug. 17, 1964. He was 64 years old. He had served as mayor of Alva from 1959 to 1963.

After football was moved to Ranger Field, the abandoned gridiron was the site of intramural sports. But the identity of the area as Newby Field was totally lost when much of the area was taken for the tennis courts and when the wellness center was built.

Although Newby Field is gone, the memory of it and its developer lives on, and perpetuating that is the goal of those who initiated the memorial movement.