Dr. Lawrence K. Magrath
Bachelor of Science in Education 1967
Master of Science 1969
Dr. Lawrence K. Magrath, came from a farm in rural Coffey County, Kansas, to earn both a BSE and a Masters degree from ESU back in the school’s Teachers College days. He received a Ph.D. in botany in 1973 from the University of Kansas. His dissertation, entitled “The Native Orchids of the Prairies and Plains Regions of North America,” reflected his early interest in these beautiful plants and the Orchidaceae remained the lifelong focus of his research. In 1972, after teaching briefly at the University of Kansas and Oklahoma State University, Dr. Magrath accepted a faculty position at the University of Science and Art of Oklahoma. For the next 35 years, he was a beloved professor of biology, a distinguished ethicist, the Director of Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Curator of the USAO Herbarium which he built to its current size of 22,000 specimens. Dr. Magrath was an internationally recognized expert on orchids with over 50 publications. He described several new orchid species for Kansas and Oklahoma, he published Native Orchids of Kansas in the Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science which remains a standard reference key, and he also contributed the chapter on the Orchidaceae to the Flora of North America series. And it is no surprise that he was an accomplished poet who published in poetry journals. Dr. Magrath is remembered as an ardent advocate for campus beautification and he won several awards for his flower gardens and his flowering shrubs. He always credited his mother who inspired his love of books and he felt that it was reading that drew him into education and opened the door to the beautiful world of plants. His life was always guided by a principle he learned from Albert Einstein, that “the ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been kindness, beauty, and truth.” Dr Magrath was an inspiration to his students and they posted,“We love you and miss you, Dr. Magrath,” in a tribute on his Facebook Page when he died in 2007.
Illustration by Iralee Barnard
Photos by [left to right] Greg Sievert