Southeastern is a proud tradition for the Dry family
May 1, 2023
For 114 years, family traditions have been important at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Just ask the James Dry family.
This spring, when Karson Dry walks across the stage to receive his degree, he will be the fourth-generation family member to graduate from Southeastern.
It all started in the fall of 1939 – 30 years after SE was founded – when twin brothers Ernest and Aaron Dry, fresh out of Goodland Indian Orphanage in Hugo, entered Southeastern State College on tennis scholarships. In addition, the brothers, who were originally from Yanush, Oklahoma, received financial aid from their mother Emily’s sale of a cow.
After a stint in the Army, 26-year-old Ernest “Pappy” (nicknamed because of his “advanced age”) returned to Southeastern in 1946 playing and (volunteer) coaching tennis. He graduated the following year under first-year tennis coach Clarence Dyer, who would go on to great success. Ernest enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an educator, serving as teacher-coach-principal -superintendent at a number of schools, including Madill and Wagoner.
The family legacy at SE continued with Ernest’s wife – Lucretia Loretta Adams Dry – who earned a master’s in counseling from Southeastern in 1968; Ernest and Lucretia’s son, James Hugh Dry, a 1974 and 1976 graduate who went on to a successful career as a tennis coach at Hugo and Pauls Valley; and James’ son, James Shannon Dry, who graduated in ’93 with a degree in occupational safety and health and who now serves on the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Tribal Council (District 9). He has been associated with the Nation in various capacities for more than 30 years.
Which brings us to Karson – Councilman Dry’s son, James H. Dry’s grandson, and the great-grandson of Ernest and Lucretia Dry. He’s graduating in 2023 with a degree in Health and Human Performance and will be pursuing a career as a chiropractor.
“Number one, my family drove home the importance of getting my education,” said Karson, who played basketball at Murray State College before transferring to SE. “But all along, Southeastern has been home to me.”
While all three of the Drys acknowledged their interest in athletics, whether it be tennis, basketball, or football, they are quick to credit Ernest Dry for emphasizing the value of academics.
“I think we all appreciate my (late) grandfather,” Councilman Dry said. “Because of him, there was an expectation for us to go to college. He instilled that in all of us.”
Indeed, all seven of Ernest’s children earned college degrees. (The Drys’ best estimate is that 17-20 family members have attended/graduated Southeastern over the years).
“I became a teacher because of him,” said his son James. “He twisted my arm to go to college. I liked sports, but I’m glad he stressed education.”
Both son and grandson said they were influenced greatly at Southeastern by Dr. Don Parham (late athletic director and baseball coach) and Dr. Don Ferguson, (late physical education professor), both of whom placed an emphasis on academics as well as athletics.
And Councilman Dry also gives a nod to current SE athletic director Keith Baxter, a former head football and tennis coach.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until Keith Baxter showed up at Pauls Valley the summer after my senior year and offered me a (tennis) scholarship (to SE),” he said.
Councilman Dry has many fond memories of his days at Southeastern in the 1990s, including the spirit of attending basketball games in the old Bloomer Sullivan Gymnasium.
“We used to pack the Pit at basketball games,” he recalled. “When we played ECU, you had to get there early to get a seat in the old gym.”
The Drys – Kason, James H. and the Councilman – all expressed great pride in their family history.
“Being Native American is important to us,” Councilman Dry said. “We are very proud Choctaws and proud of our history. We learned from my grandfather to always work hard, but also to always do the right thing. That’s a lot to live up to.”