The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

July 5, 2012

University of Tulsa purchases Skelly Mansion for new president

TULSA — There’s usually a bit of a gap between living in student housing and moving into a historic mansion. Not so for University of Tulsa President Geoffrey Orsak and his family.

The University of Tulsa is purchasing the Skelly Mansion, 2101 S. Madison Ave., as the family’s residence. The closing date is July 13, according to university officials.

The mansion, which sits at the southeast corner of 21st Street and Madison Avenue, will be renamed the Skelly House and will be home to Orsak and his wife, Catherine, and two children, Mary Elizabeth and Peter.

Orsak became president of the university July 1. He and his family have lived in student housing since June 27 while the university worked on locating a house for them.

Orsak and his family will live on the second floor of the home, and the university will use the ground floor for meetings and special events.

Accounts vary about the home’s history. According to the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places, oilman William G. Skelly and his wife, Gertrude, purchased the home in 1923 while it was under construction.

A news release from the University of Tulsa says that after William Skelly’s death in 1957, Gertrude Skelly donated the home and its furnishings to the University of Tulsa, which sold it in 1959.

Previous owners of the roughly 10,000-square-foot home include former U.S. Rep. and Ambassador to Mexico James R. Jones and Tulsa architect John Brooks Walton. Jeffrey and Cathy Ducato currently own the home, according to property records.

Skelly, who was originally from Pennsylvania, started Skelly Oil Co. in Tulsa in 1919. The Skelly family made numerous contributions to the development of Tulsa, and their ties to the University of Tulsa have a long history.

In 1930, Skelly’s donations made possible TU’s Skelly Field. In 1947, Skelly funded the creation of the university’s radio station, which was named using his initials — KWGS — and is now known as Public Radio Tulsa.

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The home has recently undergone “a painstaking restoration,” said Kayla Acebo, the university’s vice president for public relations.

Property records list the mansion’s fair market value at $1,185,200.

Until the upcoming purchase, the university has bought a different home for each new president since the 1950s, Acebo said.

“This will be a permanent home for TU, finally,” she said. “We’re very excited about that.”

In October, community leaders, alumni and others will get to meet Orsak and visit the Skelly House by invitation during the first official event at the home, Acebo said.

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