Shirley Ann (Narmour) O’Dell

B.A. 1953

shirleyodell-largeShirley Ann (Narmour) O’Dell was born on February 22, 1931, in Douglas, Arizona, to Ellis and Ruth Narmour. She spent most of her childhood in Deming, New Mexico, where her father was a Gulf oil distributor. She graduated from Deming High School in 1949.

Following high school graduation, she enrolled at Hardin-Simmons University, graduating in 1953 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Spanish. While a student at HSU, Shirley was a member of the Cowgirl Band from 1950 to 1953, serving as Social Chairman in 1952 and as president in 1953.

She was on the Mary Frances Hall Council in 1951 and 1952, was a cheerleader in 1952, and head cheerleader in 1953. Also in 1953, she was a member of the Cowgirls, was a University Queen Nominee and Runner-up, served on Inter-Club Council, and was the first Hardin-Simmons University Homecoming Sweetheart. She was named to Who’s Who in American Colleges, served on the Leader Publication, and was a member of Sigma Delta Pi.

After graduation, Shirley returned to Deming, where in 1954, she married Melvin O’Dell. Shirley taught middle school English and Spanish in Wilcox, Arizona, while completing her master’s degree at New Mexico Western University. Shirley loved southwest history and art, and wrote her thesis on the outlaws of the southwest.

In 1969, Shirley and Melvin moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, where Shirley continued to teach and was the first Baptist Student Union director at Northern Arizona University. She was active in the First Southern Baptist Church in Flagstaff.

In 1985 Shirley and Melvin moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she lived the rest of her life.

A leader and devoted member of her church, Shirley was a board member of the Arizona State Mission Board and the Home Mission Board. She has been honored by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention for her work. Shirley served as secretary for the Flagstaff Summer Festival Board of Directors for several years, and as State Women’s Missionary Union director, she participated in mission trips to China, Mexico, and Chile.

Dedicated to her alma mater, Shirley hosted HSU alumni meetings in her home, and furthered the cause of Hardin-Simmons University by recommending HSU to students in her church. She also served on the HSU Board of Development from 1997 to 2002. An active member of the Board of Development, she and Mel made many trips from Tucson to Abilene to attend Board meetings and participate in HSU Homecomings. Shirley was exemplary in her service to her alma mater, as well as in financial support for it. Shirley was a member of the John G. Hardin Society and the HSU School of Music Foundation.

Shirley was known for her sweet and loving spirit, out-going and witty nature, and her love for and devotion to her husband. She and Mel celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary in 2010.

Throughout her life, Shirley demonstrated her desire to follow the Lord’s leadership. That resulted in a life of service, a special love for missions, and extraordinary efforts to advance the cause of Christ.

The 1891 foundation statement of HSU states that the institution would aspire to “bring young men and women to Christ, teach them of Christ, and train them for Christ.” The founders would be extremely proud of Shirley O’Dell for being an example of the fulfillment of all three elements of the foundation statement.

Shirley succumbed to the effects of Alzheimer’s on February 26, 2011.

It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Shirley Ann (Namour) O’Dell into the HSU Hall of Leaders.

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