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Mildred Laughlin
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Photo of Mildred LaughlinWhen Professor Mildred Laughlin retired from the University of Oklahoma in 1992, she had been a teacher for fifty years, and she was yet to be inducted into the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.

Professor Laughlin had had a successful career in Kansas school libraries when she left Wichita during the 1960s to become the first elementary school librarian in Norman and to pursue a doctorate at OU. Upon her graduation, she accepted a faculty position at the University of Southern Mississippi and later at the University of Iowa before returning as a tenured professor to OU where she continued to dedicate her teaching and research to young people and to libraries.

Logo of the Mildred Laughlin Festival of Books for Young PeopleWhile at OU, she founded the Festival of Books Conference; created school library courses that were adopted across the School’s curriculum; promoted children’s and young adult literature as a joy and an art worthy of literary criticism; established the Sequoyah Young Adult Book Award; created the Mildred Laughlin Scholarship, adding to that fund, even to this Centennial, through the legacy of her book royalties; and earned the Oklahoma Library Association’s Distinguished Service Award. Guiding this generous life, were the vision that literature for young people is an avenue through which one can form positive relationships with all library communities and the vision that reading pleasure reinforces literacy skills and engages young people in responses that lead to critical and creative thinking.

For her students, she was a beloved mentor and friend who inspired their lifelong enthusiasm for libraries and their confidence that they could create rich and happy learning environments. The inspiration, one can imagine, that she once offered a one-room Kansas school, she brought full circle on a June evening in 1994 when she was inducted into the Educators Hall of Fame. In that acceptance speech, her last formal presentation, she spoke of various members of the audience, validating and inspiring one and all, as she explained what each had contributed, as student, friend, and colleague, to libraries, to education, and to her life.

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