Oklahoma City News, Entertainment & Occasional Humor • Established 2007

RIP: J. Rufus Fears

Before I left for college, I was under the impression that it would be a lot like a J. Crew catalog. But, alas, there were no people in khakis and sweaters reading philosophy on park benches or tweed blazers walking through the quad. Rather, there were a whole lot of jag bags in Alpha Gamma Phi Delta Kappa Pi Sigma Theta Blah Blah Blah shirts and chicks in Nike running shorts with Ugg boots. Say what you will about how preppy and lame J. Crew can be, but it will never be as terrible as Nike running shorts with Ugg boots.

But one of the best aspects of my college career was meeting professors who absolutely loved their jobs. I had quite a few of those, and I would say that there was no professor who loved his job more than Doctor J. Rufus Fears. He taught two of the most popular courses, and I had the privilege of taking one. He could be seen walking around campus with his backpack and walking stick on his way to and from classes. Dr. Fears passed away on Saturday and he will be greatly missed.

From the Norman Transcript:

University of Oklahoma professor J. Rufus Fears died Saturday, the university announced.

“Rufus Fears was one of the greatest teachers in the history of our state,” OU President David L. Boren said. “His death is not only a great loss to the University but to the future generations of students who will be deprived of learning from him in the classroom.”

I know not everyone went to OU, so allow me to relate how cool this man was. If you went to OSU, imagine losing the Turf Grass Management professor or the Director of the Dairy Department. If you went to UCO, imagine losing the professor who made fun of all the trophy wives in training. If you went to Oklahoma Christian, imagine losing the professor that told you dinosaur bones were put in the earth by Satan to lessen your faith in God.

I had Dr. Fears for Freedom in Greece. It was the best lecture class I’ve ever taken. Every Tuesday and Thursday at 3:00 PM during the fall of my senior year, I sat in a room with about 150 other students and listened while Dr. Fears spoke eloquently about Sparta, giving a more exciting story than that movie, 300. After the last lecture of the semester, the entire class clapped like they had just witnessed a performance.

Dr. Fears taught a class that was basically everything I had hoped college would be. Norman is in mourning, and OU will never be the same.


  1. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man, but for everything I have heard of him from ex-students, he was a saint.

    We need more J. Rufus Fears.

    And nice analysis of of the other schools, as well, Marisa.

  2. I took Freedom in Rome during my tenure at OU. Generations to come are going to miss out on getting threatened with his ‘stick’ (or ‘staff’) as he talks about how the Gauls would parade around with heads of their enemies on spears. Granted, I was bitter for awhile because the bookstores refused to buy back those awful $60 videotapes. Regardless, I am sorry to see such a wonderful educator pass away. We need more like him.

  3. Having retired from OSU, I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with him on a handful of occasions about his field and his life. Wonderful man, great teacher. RIP J.R.

  4. Dr. Fears was an amazing orator of greek history…sorry to hear of his passing…he def, was the best prof. Ive ever had…hate to hear this

  5. At the end of every semester when I was enrolling for the next batch of classes, my parents kept saying “You have to take Freedom in Greece.” Finally, during my last semester I listened.

    This was the best class I ever took. Period. My only regret is that I didn’t take another one.

    p.s. When did you take the class, Marisa? Fall 2006 was my last semester and I remember everyone clapping after the last lecture.

    • I’d bet the standing O was repeated at each semester’s end…happened when I took the classes in ’97-’98.

  6. I graduated from the Classics dept in 2006 and had many classes with Dr. Fears. He was an amazing and deeply passionate man. My heart ached when I heard the news that he’d passed. I’m so glad he was able to give that spark that you talked about to so many people. I mean, how many professors taught in the giant auditorums in Dale Hall and had people sit it b/c there weren’t any free spots in the class roster. They’d sit in just to listen to him tell the tales of the ancient world. I’m so thankful for my time at OU with him.

    Thanks for writing something up here too, Marisa! I’m glad he got a shout out.

  7. I had the good fortune of working in Ardmore in the Fall of 2010 and the Ardmore Community Lecture Series brought in Dr. J. Rufus Fears for five lectures over five weeks: Robert E. Lee, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, George Patton, and Ronald Reagan. I missed the first one (Lee) but made the rest. What a stunning event. What a friendly man,
    approachable and kind. May God bless him and his family. Bruce Ball University of Oklahoma Class of 1976

  8. There are no words to express the loss of Dr. Fears. He was one of a kind. Students waited forever to take his courses. I hope he is having his anticipated talk with Socrates…. Rest in peace Dr. Fears.

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