Class of 1975 Student Association - Chapman Legacy Society
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Gifts Established:

  • Student Association Library Fund | Est. 1975
brick engraved with name Class of 1975 Student Association

Class of 1975 Student Association

“The great use of a life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” This quote, attributed to well-known American philosopher and the father of modern psychology William James, can certainly be applied to the life and legacy of Jess L. Chouteau, Jr. (BA ’38), an alumnus, administrator, and trusted friend of The University of Tulsa.

Sociable and well-liked, Chouteau was featured in many articles in the Collegian over the years due to his deep involvement at TU and his lasting impact on the many students with whom he interacted.

Jess was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1915. His family, which included his parents and his brother, W. G., moved to Tulsa when Jess was 11 years old. He attended Tulsa’s Central High School, and after graduation in 1934, he enrolled at TU, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Speech and English in 1938. As a collegian, he was active in the Kappa Sigma social fraternity.

Chouteau’s first professional position was with Carter Oil Co., where he worked in the land departments in Tulsa, and in Bismark, North Dakota, before entering the Army during World War II. He served in the 45th Infantry Division as a Battalion Supply Sergeant.

Jess returned to TU in 1946 after serving his country well. At TU, he became the Director of Public Functions at TU’s Westby Center, a job he would hold for 32 years. In his usual humorous and self-deprecating manner, he once described himself as “the man who ordered potted palms for concerts.” He also assisted with the university’s Air Force ROTC unit, and he worked as a faculty advisor for both the Student Association and the International Student Association.

Jess’ time at TU was more than simply an occupation to him. Instead, he considered himself as an ally, an advisor, and a mentor to the students he came to know. One professor recalled that Jess was usually the first person alumni chose to visit when they returned to TU after graduating, and he was legendary for knowing every member of the student body by name each year.

In 1974, Chouteau was honored by the TU Alumni Association with the establishment of the Jess Choteau Outstanding Senior Awards, and in 1975, he earned the coveted title of Mr. Homecoming. He passed away in 1978 at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer.

Over the course of his career, Jess was well known for contributing books to the library from his own personal collection, often to honor friends or relatives who had passed away. It was estimated that he donated nearly 5,000 books for students to enjoy.  It was therefore a fitting tribute when the Student Association in 1975 funded the Jess Chouteau Memorial Browsing Library at the Harwell Alumni Library in Harwell Hall to pay tribute to their generous mentor and supporter. This collection was comprised of current and popular books suitable for leisure reading, embodying the sense of fun this kind administrator brought to TU. His namesake collection is currently housed in McFarlin Library in Special Collections.

Jess Chouteau’s life was definitely spent in a way that would outlast it, as expressed in the quote by William James. The University of Tulsa continues to appreciate the contributions of this fine man. The TU family is also grateful to the members of the Class of 1975 Student Association for their efforts to remember this friend and mentor who contributed so much to TU.