The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes alumni who have attained outstanding achievements and success in their professions and/or have attained outstanding service to their communities.
Two awards may be presented each year (occasionally a third award is made under special circumstances) and nominees must be graduates or former students of Southeastern. There is a Call for Nominations each fall after which an Awards Committee will review the active nominations and make a recommendation to the President of the Alumni Association, who then presents the names to the Board of Directors for approval.
Recipients received notice by the University President and are asked to accept the award. The recipients are announced and honored as part of the Homecoming festivities with official recognition during the Homecoming and Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet.
Chris Anoatubby, Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, has served the Chickasaw Nation for more than 20 years. He has a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, a Master of Business Administration from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and is a registered Doctor of Pharmacy.
Lt. Governor Anoatubby began his career in 1997 as a staff pharmacist with the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health and was named inpatient pharmacy supervisor a year later. In 2001, he was named chief of pharmacy services, and in 2010 was promoted to chief medical solutions officer of the Chickasaw Nation and president of the tribe’s Sovereign Medical Solutions. While working as chief of pharmacy services, he was named Outstanding Young Pharmacist of the Year by the Oklahoma City Indian Health Service for his implementation of innovative programs, exceptional leadership skills and development of mentor programs.
In an effort to improve the Chickasaw Nation’s health system, Lt. Governor Anoatubby led the implementation of numerous initiatives designed to increase functionality, accuracy and efficiency. He was also instrumental in the creation of the state-of-the-art automated pharmacy refill center in Ada, which opened in 2007.
While serving as undersecretary of the department of commerce, Lt. Governor Anoatubby led business diversification efforts in health care, pharmaceutical industries, health information technology and other health related businesses. The success of these efforts greatly increased the Chickasaw Nation’s ability to provide and expand vital programs and services for the Chickasaw people, about which he cares deeply. His responsibilities also included analyzing industry trends and changes in the political and economic environment that could impact Chickasaw Nation plans for economic diversification opportunities.
In 2018, Lt. Governor Anoatubby was named deputy secretary for the Chickasaw Nation Department of Health where he was responsible for direct operational oversight of all clinical and non-clinical programs and services within the department. In this role, he continued his passion for service as the chief operating officer for the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, Ardmore Clinic, Tishomingo Clinic and Purcell Clinic.
Lt. Governor Anoatubby is committed to serving the Chickasaw Nation and is focused on the mission to “enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people.” He is dedicated to the core values of the Chickasaw Nation which guide him in his roles and responsibilities as a tribal leader. He is committed to the welfare, success and progress of the Chickasaw Nation and its citizens and will work for the benefit of future generations of Chickasaws.
Lt. Governor has served on numerous boards and committees including:
He currently serves on several boards including:
Lt. Governor Anoatubby and his wife Becky have three children, Brendan, Eryn and Sydney.
Wren Baker has risen through the ranks of collegiate athletics and now serves as the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at West Virginia University.
Originally from Valliant, Oklahoma, Baker earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Southeastern in 2001 where he was a member of the honors program. He went on to earn his master’s degree in education leadership from Oklahoma State in 2003. At Oklahoma State, Baker was operations assistant for the Cowboys’ men’s basketball program under legendary coach Eddie Sutton.
In 2005, Baker was named the principal and athletic director for Valliant Public Schools and, at age 26, was the youngest principal in Oklahoma history.
From 2006-11, Baker served as the first athletic director at Rogers State in Claremore, where he was also the school’s first men’s basketball coach. His team went 20-11 in his only season at the helm, and RSU teams combined to post a nearly 70% winning percentage despite being a start-up athletic program. During his tenure, Baker developed a full-scale collegiate athletics program.
From 2011 to 2013, Baker was athletic director at NCAA Division II power Northwest Missouri State, where he secured the largest gift in the athletic department’s history for improvements to the football stadium. Under Baker, Northwest Missouri saw its revenues increase by 60%, and he hired head football coach Adam Dorrel, who led the Bearcats to three consecutive national championships.
From there, he went to Memphis from 2013-15 as deputy athletics director. He secured the largest gift in the university’s history as Memphis posted its best fundraising year ever. While setting a school record for fundraising, major gifts and multimedia rights revenue, Baker also grew Memphis’ scholarship fund, was the sport administrator for men’s basketball and worked closely with football during a two-year run that included the Tigers’ first conference championship in football in more than four decades.
Baker was the deputy director of athletics at Missouri from 2015 to 2016, serving as the top advisor and chief of staff. He was responsible for assisting with all aspects of administration and led the external unit, helping Mizzou to a record fundraising year. He also served as the interim director of athletics at Missouri before moving on to North Texas.
He served the University of North Texas as Vice President and Athletics Director from 2016 to 2022.
At North Texas, seven Mean Green programs (men’s cross country, volleyball, women’s soccer, football, men’s basketball, women’s golf and softball) combined to win 17 conference or division championships during Baker’s tenure, and the overall athletic department’s winning percentage in the last year was the best in the modern era. In 2019, every Mean Green team achieved a winning season for the first time in school history. The Mean Green also reached program highs in academics, fundraising, and ticket revenue.
One of the biggest moments in the history of North Texas Athletics came under his watch, when UNT was invited to join the American Athletic Conference beginning in July 2023.
Baker was then hired as WVU’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics in 2022, where he has oversight of 18 varsity sports, a department budget of more than $90 million, approximately 250 employees and nearly 500 student-athletes.
Baker and his wife, Heather, a Bokchito, Oklahoma, native, have two daughters, Addisyn and Reagan.
Johnathan “Rusty” Benton earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Southeastern in 1991 and had an aviation career of over 30 years before his untimely death in a light aircraft accident in January 2023.
Benton graduated from MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, in 1987, went to Texas Tech to play football, then transferred to Southeastern and earned his degree in 1991.
In 1994, he was selected for U.S. Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training attached to the Oklahoma Air National Guard where he earned the honor of Distinguished Graduate and Top Stick.
Johnathan was a decorated combat veteran having spent more than two years deployed to Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In addition to flying the C-130 and KC-135, Johnathan also commanded the Operational Support Squadron and completed his career as the Chief of Wing Safety. Johnathan honorably retired in 2019 achieving the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He was hired at American Airlines in 2000, then upgraded to the Boeing 737 as a Captain in 2019. He was selected as Chairman of The Government Affairs committee where he spent eleven years proudly serving in Washington, D.C., on behalf of the pilots of American Airlines. In that capacity, Johnathan was honored for three consecutive years as one of the Top Lobbyists on the Hill and was influential in elevating the profession for all airline pilots and the industry as a whole. He was a tireless advocate for those he represented.
Shortly after his death in 2023, the Allied Pilots Association renamed its Capitol Hill property the Benton House in honor of Benton and his service as the union’s chair of its Government Affairs Committee. U.S. Representative Pete Sessions delivered the address at the naming ceremony.
Johnathan married the love of his life, Bridget Bryceland in 2007. His true passion in life was spending time and traveling with family. He is survived by his loving wife Bridget of seventeen years, their beautiful children, Nathan (15), Ashlynn (13), his mother Jean Benton, his siblings Rebecca Sposato and Scott Benton as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
He will be remembered for his infectious smile, sense of humor, dancing skills and his unique gift of making everyone feel special. Johnathan was known as an exceptionally skilled aviator and consummate professional on the flight deck. He was a mentor, friend, colleague and left a legacy of love, family, friendship, and service.
Johnathan was a devout Catholic and active member of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Mustang, Oklahoma
After a stellar playing career at Southeastern, Billy Jack Bowen retired in May 2023 as the winningest high school baseball coach in American history.
Bowen was a 2010 inductee into the Southeastern Athletic Hall of Fame. He played baseball here from 1978-79, as named Southeastern’s Most Outstanding Male Athlete in 1979, the same season he earned first team NAIA All-American honors for his work on the field.
His 1979 season is one of the best single-seasons on record, earning him three positions on Southeastern’s all-time lists, including the third best single season RBI total (84), the fourth best single-season home run total (18) and the fifth best single-season runs total (79). That year he boasted a .418 batting average with 82 hits in 62 games played.
For his career, he finished with a .375 batting average, with 133 hits, 120 runs scored, 135 RBI, 19 doubles, five triples, 28 home runs and a .693 slugging percentage.
He added four other honors for the 1979 season, earning first team all-OIC, first team NAIA all-district 9 and first team NAIA all-area 3, in addition to his Southeastern team MVP award.
After his playing career, he entered the coaching realm with stints at Silo, Bokchito, and Rock Creek. He coached baseball for 37 years and 74 seasons, winning 2,679 games in that time. He also won 24 Oklahoma state championships, including the last six in a row before his retirement in May of 2023.
He was selected by the National Federation of High School Sports as its 2022 National Baseball Coach of the Year, and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award, State Coach of the Year, and Sectional Coach of the Year awards. He is a two-time Oklahoma Baseball Coaches Association Coach of the Year, was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Association Hall of Fame in July of 2023, and the Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2004.
Jeff Frye’s story is one of a young boy who graduated from a small Eastern Oklahoma high school and realized his dream of becoming a major league baseball player.
Born in Oakland, California, in 1966, he moved to Panama, Oklahoma after his sophomore year in high school. He participated in baseball, basketball, and football at Panama High School.
He played junior college baseball his first two college years at Carl Albert State College in Poteau, Oklahoma under Coach Mark Pollard, a Southeastern baseball alumnus. Following a successful junior college career, he transferred to Southeastern and became an outstanding second baseman for Coach Mike Metheny.
Frye set a school record by hitting .455 in 1988. His .420 career batting average at Southeastern was the second highest in program history. He was twice an All-Conference selection and in his senior year was named the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Conference Most Valuable Player and an NAIA All-American.
Following completion of his collegiate career, Jeff was drafted by the Texas Rangers and began his climb to the top of the profession. He played well at all levels and was recognized early as the best prospect at second base in the Rangers’ organization. He was promoted to the major league club in 1992 and was named Ranger Rookie of the Year.
Frye played eight seasons of Major League Baseball with the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Colorado Rockies, and Toronto Blue Jays from 1992-2001. In his final season, he hit for the cycle on August 17, 2001.
After his playing days were through, Frye worked as an agent, representing players such as Darren Oliver and Ian Kinsler. Now with over 15 years of professional playing experience and 20 years as an agent under his belt, Frye is still active in the baseball community in multiple facets including brand ambassador, public speaker, television commentator, and podcaster of the popular #shegone show.
He now splits his time calling out the big money machine that has become youth baseball and working as a brand ambassador helping student-athletes navigate the confusing world of college recruitment.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brady Rudolf was a Durant native who graduated from Southeastern in 1993. He served his family, community, and nation as a pharmacist and soldier.
Rudolf joined the Oklahoma National Guard at age 17 and earned his doctor of pharmacy degree from the University of Oklahoma after graduating from Southeastern. He served as a pharmacist for Wal-Mart and the Veterans Affairs hospital in Oklahoma City.
He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, Task Force 34, Oklahoma National Guard, out of Lexington, Okla., and died in 2008 during Operation Iraqi Freedom when the CH-47 Chinook helicopter he was in went down in the vicinity of Tallil, Iraq. He was on his second deployment to Iraq, having originally deployed in 2003, and had served over 20 years in the National Guard.
A portion of Highway 70 in Durant was named the “Chief Warrant Officer Brady Rudolf Memorial Highway” after his passing. His legacy lives on as a hero, a comedian, and a loving husband and father.
A golf tournament is held every year in Brady’s honor, benefitting the Brady Joe Rudolf Memorial Scholarship to benefit young people pursuing their educational goals.
The Brady Rudolf Scholarship at Southeastern is available to students from area high schools who are majoring in Aviation-Professional Pilot, as Rudolf was a helicopter pilot in the National Guard for 11 years.
Rudolf is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and three sons – Braden, Ty, and Nate.
Dr. James Stewart continued a family legacy of education at Southeastern and turned that into a successful and decorated career in dentistry and oral and maxiofacial surgery.
Stewart attended Southeastern from 1954-58 and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, especially mentored by professor John Props. He was a third-generation legacy student. His paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Stewart, and both of his parents – Dan Stewart and Sue Hardaway – attended SE in the 1910s and 1920s.
Following his graduation from Southeastern, Stewart graduated from the Baylor School of Dentistry in 1962 and did his residency in maxilliofacial surgery at Alabama-Birmingham from 1962-66.
He then became a Professor of Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry, where for over 40 years, starting in 1967. He was Chief of the Veterans Affairs Los Angeles Ambulatory Care Center’s Dental Service and Oral-Maxiofacial Surgeon, where he was an innovative leader from 1968 to 2004. Through changes in leadership structure, continued research, and collaboration with multiple institutions of higher learning in Southern California, Stewart pushed the LAACC forward for over 20 years.
In 1996, he spearheaded an affiliation with the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry and the Los Angeles County+USC Hospital, which led to the creation of a unique advanced General Practice Residency program. All of the dentists at the LAACC then joined the faculty at USC.
Stewart also did over seven years of research in the role of lipoprotein lipase in fat cell metabolism, with his findings twice published in the prestigious Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Stewart is also active in the community, including offering services to homeless veterans and services through his church including the vestry governing board, school board, and service in the men’s group and soup kitchen.
In closing, a recommendation for this award noted Stewart as “an exciting and considerate colleague and an outstanding professional. He has touched many lives and in a variety of roles – clinician, scientist, and teacher. He represents the pinnacle of the profession.”
Colonel Dr. Anthony W. Waldroup has served his community and country with distinction in the field of aerospace medicine.
He earned bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and medical biology from Southeastern in 1992, his doctor of medicine from the University of Oklahoma in 1996, and his master of public health from the University of Texas School of Public Health in 2008.
Col. Waldroup served as a general practitioner and family doctor in Durant and Konawa from 1997 to 2005 and also served as a flight surgeon with the Oklahoma Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Squadron, 138th Fighter Wing out of Tulsa.
He entered active duty with the United States Air Force in 2005 and has served in multiple capacities with the Air Force since then, including deployments supporting Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and Deep Freeze.
Since 2022, Col. Waldroup has served as the Chief of Aerospace Medicine at the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. He advises the Commander of 711th Human Performance Wing and the Commander of the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine as the Chief of Aerospace Medicine and the Senior Consultant for Aerospace and Operational Medicine regarding human performance enhancement in the domains of air and space operations. He provides functional leadership to organizational aerospace medicine practitioners and teaches aerospace and operational medicine through formal courses supporting force projection for the United States Air Force Aerospace and Operational Medicine Enterprise.
He has helped pass along lessons learned through his multiple deployments and appointments as an expert consultant for the Department of Defense, NATO, FAA, and multiple other national working groups and advisory councils. He also has numerous publications in a variety of media from scientific journals to medical journals and bulletins for flight surgeons.
Col. Waldroup is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and the American Board of Preventive Medicine in aerospace and occupational medicine. He is also a single-engine rated private pilot.
He and his wife Candice have been married for over 30 years and have six children.
An individual and a family with deep roots to Southeastern Oklahoma State University will be honored during Homecoming festivities on Oct. 21-22.
Stacy Shepherd, Executive Officer of Member Services at Choctaw Nation, will receive the Distinguished Alumna Award, while the Semple Family will be honored with the Benefactor Award.
The Distinguished Awards banquet will be held Friday, Oct. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Visual & Performing Arts Center.
Shepherd earned a bachelor’s degree in English Education in 1980, and a master’s in secondary administration in 1987. She also received her secondary principal certification at Southeastern in 1988. As an undergraduate, she was a member of the Cardinal Key Honor Society.
In her role as executive officer, Shepherd is focused on providing opportunities for growth and prosperity for tribal members in the departments of Housing, Education, Culture, Outreach, and Special Services, as well as preserving the Choctaw Language. Her previous roles with the Choctaw Nation include Academic Employment Specialist in the Career Development department and the revitalization of the Chahta Foundation, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit that supports Tribal Members in reaching full potential through scholarships, wellness, and tradition.
Shepherd is the great granddaughter of Joseph H. Goforth, a Chickasaw who earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1900 and became the first Native American judge in Indian Territory. She is the granddaughter of Jesse Goforth Clark, who was both Chickasaw Choctaw and attended Oklahoma Presbyterian College, and the daughter of former Choctaw Nation Executive Director of Education Joy Culbreath (a recipient of the SE Distinguished Alumna Award in 2017).
Shepherd represented Durant ISD as a top 12 finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year in 2000 (Runner Up) and in 2010. She completed her teaching career after 30 years in Oklahoma public education. One of her greatest achievements was allowing students to explore the teaching profession through the Teacher Cadet program, mentoring a future teacher through college, and coaching a former student as a first-year colleague. As a Choctaw tribal member, Shepherd was afforded the opportunity to facilitate the Choctaw Language at Durant High School, where she studied alongside her students and has completed 18 hours of Choctaw Language at Southeastern.
Shepherd and her husband Danny reside in Durant. They have one son, two daughters, four grandsons, and one granddaughter.
Her sisters — Paula Harp and Richelle Acker — are also Southeastern graduates. Harp is senior director of school programs for the Choctaws and is a Southeastern Alumni Association Board member, while Acker is associate department director of admissions at Vanderbilt Law School.
And Shepherd’s daughter – Lauren Garner – is continuing the SE tradition as she serves as executive director for tribal relations at the University.
The SE Benefactor Award will be presented to the Semple Family.
Inspired by the legacy of their pioneer Choctaw family and the strong impact it had on the history of Durant, Southeastern, and Bryan County, as well as the desire to contribute to the future of Southeastern students and to educate future generations, the Semples were proud to fund the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art.
The Museum, which held its grand opening in the fall of 2021, is located north of the Fine Arts Building and Russell Building on Montgomery/Dunlap Drive. It serves as the permanent home of Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s extensive Native American Art Collection that represents 26 federally recognized tribes and 80 plus artists.
The 5,000 square-foot multi-level facility features an art gallery, an audio-visual room, reception area, storage, a balcony and walkout patio. The patio overlooks the historic Amphitheater, which was built by Southeastern students. Professors C.B. French (a cousin of the Semples), and E.B. Robbins directed the students though the construction, which was funded by the Civil Works Administration in 1934.
The establishment of such a museum had been on the minds of the Semples for a number of years.
Frank Semple, a retired energy industry executive, Janie Semple Umsted, a local artist and curator of the Museum, and Sarah Semple Brown, a Denver-based architect who designed the museum, were raised in Durant and are sixth-generation Oklahomans. Their parents were Dr. Allen William Semple and Jane French Semple. Upon the death of their oldest brother, Bill (Billy) in 2016, the dream of a museum became a family commitment.
The Semple Family are members of the Choctaw Nation and direct descendants of their grandfather Charles Carl Semple, an original enrollee.
Greg Duffy (’73) served as the director of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation for 16 years before retiring in 2009. During a 38-year career with the department, he combined his biological and management training with exceptional logistical and people skills to make a number of significant contributions to the conversation if Oklahoma’s wildlife resources and environment.
Duffy also served in the following capacities; chief of wildlife division, assistant chief of wildlife division, wildlife and lands biologist, and waterfowl biologist. Under his leadership, the state’s anglers and hunters enjoyed expanded opportunities.
Oklahoma’s trout and paddlefish programs were expanded, along with an increase in urban fishing opportunities. Under Duffy’s watch, Oklahoma hunters have experienced additional opportunities through new and expanded seasons and cooperative habitat programs with private landowners
A Lomega High School Graduate, Duffy earned a bachelors degree in conservation at Southeastern. A longtime resident of Piemont, Oklahoma, he currently serves on the Piemont Public Schools school board. Duffy and his wife Jerrie have three daughters and four grandchildren.
Bill Brock (’76,’81) is a legend in women’s basketball, having most recently been a part of three national championships as associate head coach/assistant coach at Baylor University. Prior, the Durant High School graduate enjoyed great success at Grayson College, with a record of 371-50 as head coach. Brock served as an assistant coach for six years at Durant High School, before being promoted to head boys’ coach in 1982. Three year later, he joined legendary coach, Wayne Cobb as an assistant at East Central University.
In 1987 Brock was named head women’s coach at Grayson College. Grayson honored its former coach in 2019 by selecting him to the school’s inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame class. The Viking now compete on Bill Brock Court. In 2020, Brock was named to the A STEP UP Assistant Coached Hall of Fame. Brock joined the Hall of Fame coach Kim Mulkey at Baylor in 2000, where he was instrumental in the Lady Bears winning national championships in 2005, 2012, and 2019.
A Durant High School graduate, Brock eared a bachelor and master’s degrees in Education and Physical Education at Southeastern. He and his wife, also from Durant, have two daughters and four grandsons.
Mike Metheny (’69,’70) retired from coaching in 2017 as the NCAA Division II all-time winningest baseball coach with a mark of 1,324 victories, 679 losses and three ties. His career at Southeastern spanned for more than 40 years, from 1981-2017.
Metheny guided the Southeastern baseball program through its successful transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. In 2000, he led Southeastern to the DII national championship. That title earned him the 2000 National Coach of the Year award. Metheny’s team claimed 15 conference championships, and he earned conference coach of the year honors seven times.
He is a member of the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the NAIA Hall of Fame, and the Southeastern Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2019, the Ballpark in Durant was renamed Mike Metheny Field. He had his #1 jersey retired in 2017, joining Dr. Parham (#5) and former major leaguer Brett Butler (#2) in receiving that honor.
Metheny, who graduated from Star Spencer High School, earned bachelor and master’s degrees in Education at Southeastern. He and his wife Pat (a SE graduate) have two children—a daughter, Mishael (SE graduate), and a son, Michael (deceased). They have one granddaughter.
Upon his retirement from Bennington Public Schools in 2009, James Parish joined the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Driven by a desire to preserve and promote the words of his ancestors, Parrish has worked to ensure that the Choctaw language be accredited as a world language within Oklahoma’s public schools.
He also brought integral information and knowledge to the Oklahoma State Department of Education to help create an alternative pathway to certification for Native American Languages. To date, 10 tribes have taken advantage of the certification pathway, and students are now able to receive high school graduation credit for their world language study.
Parrish earned his bachelor’s degree from Southeastern in business education in 1975, and received his master’s degree in public school administration from Southeastern in 1993. His wife, father, and grandfather are all Southeastern graduates.
Colonel Tuan T. Ton enlisted in the Army in 1986 and served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany. He received his commission as an infantry officer in 1989 and began his service with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), including participation in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a platoon leader. Ton later served with the 1st Cavalry Division as a mechanized infantry company commander.
After earning Foreign Area Officer Qualifications in 2002, Ton subsequently served following assignments: County Director for Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam at U.S. Pacific Command; Policy Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs; U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Liaison Officer to U.S Embassy Islamabad and Pakistan’s Army Headquarters in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, to name a few
Ton immigrated to the United States in 1977 and is fluent in the Vietnamese language. He received a bachelor of science degree from Southeastern in 1984 and a master of art in national security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2000. In addition, his wife, older brother, and a cousin are Southeastern graduates.
Rick Wells is the Principal and Founder of Wells Hospitality Group, LLC, One Heart Ventures, LLC, and The Seed Project Foundation. Wells Hospitality Group is the developer and co-owner of McKinney (Texas)-based Rick’s Chophouse, Harvest Seasonal Kitchen, and Sterling Events and Catering. Each of these entities has won numerous awards ranging from Top Ten Restaurants in north Texas, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, to the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in the Dallas area.
Wells also owns Water Boy Farms, an organic flower, vegetable, and honey bee farm in Lucas, Texas. His background includes multi-unit management in the corporate, casual-dining segment during its explosive growth in the ‘80s and ‘90s with Bennigan’s and Dallas-based Sambuca Restaurant Group.
In addition, he and his wife Robbin own The Goddard School of McKinney, an early-childhood development center for children ages six weeks to six years. Active in his community, Wells is Past President of the Samaritan Inn, Past President of The Foundation for Lovejoy Schools, and former Chairman of the McKinney Chamber Services Media Inc. He has received various awards.
Wells earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from Southeastern in 1984. The Sterling, Colorado, native graduated from Antlers High School. While at Southeastern, Wells was president of Sigma Tau Gamma, and his father and brother are also SE graduates.
The late Dr. Herbert J. “Herb” Taylor did pioneer work in the fields of chromosomes and DNA. He verified by experiment, many of the theories that Francis Crick and James Watson held with regards to DNA. Crick and Watson, along with Maurice Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of the structure of DNA.
In 2006, a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory textbook stated that Taylor “comes as close as anyone to being considered the father of the field of chromosomes.” He published more than 100 scholarly papers in the field. In 1960, Taylor co-founded the American Society for Cell Biology, which is still active today. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1977, which is one of the highest honors a scientist can hold.
Taylor graduated from Southeastern in 1939 with a double major in biology and mathematics. In 1941, he received his M.S. in botany and bacteriology from the University of Oklahoma and in 1944, received his PhD in Biology from the University of Virginia. Taylor took time off from his studies during World War II to serve in the South Pacific as a sergeant in the Army Medical Corps. After the war, he became an assistant professor of botany, first at the University of Oklahoma, then the University of Tennessee, and then landing in 1951 at Columbia University. Taylor’s final stop was at Florida State University, where he was hired as an associate professor of botany and later became a full professor of cell biology.
The Corsicana, Texas, native died in 1998 at the age of 82. In 2005, Florida State University published his biography entitled, J. Herbert Taylor: DNA Pioneer.
Col. Tray Ardese participated in track and football at Southeastern, serving as team captain and earning all-conference honors in football. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1989. He later earned a master’s of strategic studies at the United States Army War College. Ardese began a highly decorated military career in 1990 when he entered the Marine Corps. During his time in the Corps, he was an FA-18D Weapons and Sensors Officer (WSO), a C-12 Pilot, a ground Forward Air Controller (FAC) and was a Battle Watch Captain in the U.S. Strategic Command as part of the U.S. nuclear forces.
During his years of flying, he amassed more than 3,000 hours flight time and 257 Combat missions in the air. During his ground time, he completed three tours as a FAC and two combat deployments with Special Operations Forces (SOF), doing direct action missions as a forward air controller/fire support coordinator. While on his first deployment, he was wounded in an intense fire fight and received the Purple Heart.
He served on missions around the world during his military career. He retired from the military service in the fall of 2015. Col. Ardese (ret.) now serves as director of government and internal affairs for Magpul Industries Corp. and director of Magpul Core. Ardese and his wife Tammi have five children, including son Ethan, who also attended Southeastern.
Dr. Russel DeBose-Boyd was born in Ardmore, OK and raised in the small Oklahoma community of Boswell, where he graduated from Boswell High School in 1989. He soon started studies at Southeastern where he participated in the Minority Biomedical Research Support program. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with minors in Mathematics and Biology in 1993.While at Southeastern, he cites chemistry professor Dr. John Wright as his major mentor, as he decided to pursue a career in biomedical research.
Upon completion of undergraduate studies, he was accepted into the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and joined the laboratory of Richard D. Cummings, Ph. D. In 1998, he successfully defended his thesis. Following his defense, Dr. DeBose-Boyd joined the laboratory of Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D. and Michael S. Brown, M.D. at UT Southwestern Medical Center as a fellow of the Jane Coffin Childs Memorial Fund for Medical Research. After a successful postdoctoral fellowship, Drs. Goldstein and Brown invited Dr. DeBose-Boyd to join the faculty of the Molecular Genetics department as an Assistant Professor in 2003. He became an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association in 2005 and a W.M. Keck Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research in 2006. Dr. DeBose-Boyd was promoted to Associate Professor in 2007 and in 2009 he was appointed a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. In 2013, Dr. DeBose-Boyd was promoted to Professor and was named the Beatrice and Miguel Elias Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science in 2016.
Dr. DeBose-Boyd is married to Gwendolyn and has two sons, Reginald and Ryan.
Dr. Barbara Rackley grew up in the small town of Kenific, OK, and her 47-year professional career in the areas of education and business development have led to many accomplishments. She cites her family as a source of motivation and instilling values and providing support.
After graduating from Bokchito High School in 1969, Rackley entered Southeastern State College. She went on to Oklahoma State University to receive her bachelor’s degree in Vocational Home Economics. She returned to Southeastern to earn her Master’s degree in Education with an emphasis on Home Economics in 1980. She holds a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Home Economics Education and Higher Education Administration from Oklahoma State University.
Since leaving Kenific, Rackley has achieved success in four different careers: home economics teacher at Caddo High School (1973-1981); Southeastern Oklahoma State University Home Economics Department (1981-1986); Associate Professor and Teacher Educator and Department Chair (1987-1994); Southeastern Career and Placement Services Director (1994-2001); and Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc. (REI), Women’s Business Center Program Manager (2001-2018).
She has received a number of awards during her career, including the Small Business Administration (SBA) Women in Business Champion (WBC) of the Year award in 2004. The WBC was the recipient of the Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award in 2011, 2012, and 2016.
Rackley was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Association of Women’s Business Centers. She has been President of the Oklahoma Economics Association, Oklahoma Council of Home Economics Administrators, Durant Fortnightly Club, Durant B&PW, and held other local, state and national organization leadership positions.
She has advocated on numerous occasions for the REI Business Women’s Center, Women’s Business Centers nationwide, and women business owners with Congressional leaders and participated in a round table with President George W. Bush.
In addition, Rackley has been an advocate for Southeastern students by participating in many activities, attending events and most recently serving on the John Massey School of Business Advisory Council.
After 27 years working in TRIO programs and teaching in the Business Department, Joy Culbreath retired from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Thus, began her impressive career with Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Culbreath serves as Director of Education of Special Projects, and is also chairman of Jones Academy Foundation, which supports a legacy school founded by the Nation in 1891. Prior to takin on her current position, Culbreath retired as Executive Director of Education for the Nation.
In 1993, she started building an adult education program as the department’s only employee. Under her guidance, the Education Department blossomed, as she oversaw 14 programs, including TRIO, Early Childhood, Adult and scholarship programs. Today, those programs provide funding to thousands of young Choctaws.
In 1997, Culbreath began building a language program from scratch. No teaching materials were available and coursework and reference materials had to be developed for classroom use. Today, Choctaw is state-certified and taught in public schools and college campuses for credit.
She has received her Bachelor’s in Business Education and Elementary Education in 1975 and a Master’s degrees in Behavioral Studies (Certified Professional Counselor) and Administration in 1977 from Southeastern. In 2002, Culbreath was honored by the Oklahoma State Board of Regents as the first recipient of the “Champion for Student Success” award. In 2011, she was named to the prestigious Oklahoma Women’s Hall of Fame.
Mark Hughes is a retired college electronics instructor and nationally recognized authority on Civil War cemeteries. He is the only author to publish books on both Union and Confederate cemeteries. His books include, “Bivouac of the Dead”, “The Unpublished Roll of Honor”, and two volumes of “Confederate Cemeteries”.
Hughes’ latest book, “The New Civil War Handbook: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages”, has been called a long-overdue update of the classic. He also wrote the “Introduction” and “Place Index” to the Roll of Honor Series, Confederate Soldiers in the American Civil War: Facts and Photos for Readers of All Ages”, published in the fall of 2017. In addition, he has written articles on a variety of subjects for a number of magazines.
In 1985, Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in Electronic Technology from Southeastern; he received a Master of Technology from Southeastern the following year. While in Durant, he was an engineer for the campus radio station and actively involved with the Baptist Student Union. He has done graduate work in Industrial Education at Clemson University and graduate work in history at Southeastern.
Hughes was named Faculty Advisor of the Year—Society of Manufacturing Engineers at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1988 and nominated for Cleveland (North Carolina) Community College Excellence in teaching Award five times. In addition, Hughes taught at Orangeburg-Calhoun (South Carolina) Technical College, and Southeastern (adjunct in 1984-85)
Hughes, his wife Patty, and their daughter Anna Grace reside on the family farm in Dixon Community near Kings Mountain, North Carolina.
Charles A. McCall, Sr., is the owner of AmeriState Bank, an Oklahoma corporation, and the Atoka State Bancorporation. After graduating from Southeastern Oklahoma State University in 1967, he began his business career and recently celebrated his 50th year of service to the bank. McCall served many years as the bank’s President, Chief Executive Officer, and Board Chairman.
Active in civic affairs, he is past president of the Atoka Chamber of Commerce, Atoka Rotary Club, and Atoka Lions Club. In addition, he served on the Atoka City Council for 16 years and was the first chairman of Atoka City Industrial Development Authority. McCall is a 1962 graduate of Atoka High School.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Southeastern, and was a member of Lambda Psi Omega men’s fraternity. Following graduation, McCall served in the Oklahoma National Guard from 1967-1973.
He is currently active as a member of the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Alumni Board of Directors. McCall and his late wife, Barbara Ann Clure, have two sons, Charles, Oklahoma Speaker of the House and CEO and Board Chairman of AmeriState Bank president.
His hobbies include flying, antique cars and watching his six grandsons participate in school activities.
Bill Groom has enjoyed a long career as a successful television and film designer.
Groom graduated from Southeastern in 1972 with a double major in art and theatre. He earned a Master’s in Fine Arts degree in Theater Design from Tulane University in 1974.
He was the recipient of a record four consecutive Emmys for his work on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.’’ Other recent TV credits include HBO’s “Vinyl,’’ and “When We Rise,” an ABC TV 7-part series about the history of the LGBTQ movement that will air next year.
Among Groom’s other credits is a 7-year stint as the art director of the popular TV comedy show, “Saturday Night Live’’ on NBC. Since leaving SNL in 1984, he has worked on hundreds of TV shows and scores of movies, including “Milk,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” “A League Of Their Own” and “Preacher’s Wife.”
Prior to his career in television and film design, Groom taught in the Theater Department of State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Groom, originally from California, Missouri, is married to the Rev. Dr. Jane Ann Looney Groom, also a Southeastern graduate. Their two sons both work in the entertainment industry. Brooklyn, New York, and a tiny hamlet in the Catskills are home to the Grooms.
William Fahrendorf serves as Executive Vice President/Chief Administration Officer of First United Bank. In this role, he oversees the planning and directing of the bank’s staff and service functions; develops and oversees staff and service policies, objectives and initiatives; and monitors operational performances.
Fahrendorf’s banking career began in 1971, more than 45 years ago, with Durant Bank and Trust Company, a one-location operation with $23 million in assets. First United is now a 3.2 billion financial institution serving 30-plus communities in Oklahoma and Texas.
While working at Durant Bank and Trust, and carrying a full college load, Fahrendorf also served his country as a staff sergeant and drill instructor with the 95th Division of the United States Army Reserve. He is a 1976 graduate of Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
Known for his quiet, low-key manner, Fahrendorf is recognized for his local and state leadership in service to the governance of the Oklahoma Public Education System. He was appointed to the Durant School Board to serve the remainder of a term in 1989 and remained on the board until 2000. He was elected to the Oklahoma State School Board Association and served from 1994 until 2000. In 1998, he served as the association president.
Along with his success in business and stewardship of Oklahoma’s public schools, Fahrendorf’s contributions to Southeastern Oklahoma State University are also significant. He served on the Southeastern Foundation Board of Trustees from 1989 to 2010, and as chairman from 1997 until his retirement in 2010. During his tenure, the assets of the foundation more than quadrupled.
Fahrendorf, and his wife Pam, a retired Chair of Computer Science at SOSU, reside in Durant and have three daughters and four grandchildren. His family has established a fully0funded endowed scholarship.
Lee Lipscomb enjoyed a successful 42-year career with Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack in Los Angeles, a law firm he co-founded in 1974. He retired in 2014.Lipscomb graduated from Durant High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Southeastern in 1961.
Four decades as a litigator in California found Lipscomb and his company in the thick of many interesting cases. In the early years, the firm primarily defended aviation insurance companies, but his ties to Lloyds of London Underwriters led to high profile cases involving entertainment law and motion picture litigation.
Lipscomb handled the Lloyds’ claims of MGM arising from the death of actress Natalie Wood and was successful in forcing MGM to finish her last, nearly completed film, “Brainstorm.” He also worked on the case of Bette Davis, when the movie star walked off the set of her last film, “Wicked Stepmother.”
Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack is also well-known known as lead counsel in the Hinckley and Kettleman, California, water contamination cases against Pacific Gas & Electric Company. This resulted in approximately $700 million recovered for 1,500 clients and is commonly referred to as the “Erin Brockovich” case.
During his summers in high school and college, Lipscomb worked as a firefighter with the U.S Forest Service. This included a five-year stint as a parachute firefighter. He completed his military service with the U.S. Army Reserve in 1968.
After his firefighting career, Lipscomb obtained his Commercial, Multi-Engine instrument and instructor pilot ratings. He then started an independent aircraft insurance claims adjusting company and later incorporated Aero Loss Adjustors, Inc., which he operated for four years while attending the Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles.
Lipscomb enjoys retirement life with his family—wife Robin, two sons, a stepdaughter and two grandchildren. The Lipscomb is currently reside in Jackson, Wyoming.
Frank T. Fietz (’57) earned his bachelor’s degree in business and went to work for the J.C. Penney Company as a management trainee. The Ryan, Oklahoma, native later became a division manager in Fort Worth, Texas. Fietz was recruited by Bealls Department Stores and joined that company in 1962. He worked his way up the ranks, and by 1987 was named Chief Operating Officer of Bealls Department Stores.
In this capacity, he oversaw 160 stores in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Alabama, along with buying offices in Dallas and a distribution center in Jacksonville, Texas. After facilitating the sale of the company to Specialty Retail Incorporated (SRI) and Bain Capital of Boston in 1988, he became CEO of the Bealls division of SRI. Fietz retired after 27 years with Bealls (now known as Stage) in 1989.
Following retirement, he served as president of “Christian International Business Network,’’ a part of Christian International Ministries.
Fietz, and his wife Gay, moved back to Durant in 2005 to be closer to family.
Sue Wilson Stafford (’68) of Madill began her teaching career in Duncan, Oklahoma. Forty-seven years later, she is still teaching – in Frisco, Texas, one of the fastest growing communities in the nation. After teaching 10 years in Duncan, where she was honored as the “Outstanding Young Educator’’ by the Duncan Chamber of Commerce, Stafford and her family re-located to Frisco.
After teaching middle school English and reading, she became the Frisco ISD migrant coordinator and teacher in 1983. The Frisco ISD has established the Sue Wilson Stafford Educational Scholarship in her name. In 2008, the Sue Wilson Stafford Middle School was built and named in her honor.
She has received numerous honors and awards during her career as an educator, and teaches today middle school social studies and English at the Frisco ISD Student Opportunity Center. Stafford also teaches English as a Second Language and GED preparatory to adult students in evening classes.
Dr. Jesse Arnold (‘60) is a Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech University. He served as department head for the Department of Statistics at Virginia Tech from 1973-1982, with his career spanning 34 years at the university.
The Wichita Falls, Texas, native earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics at Southeastern. He earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in mathematical statistics from Florida State University.
Arnold is an Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA). He is Past President of the International Biometric Society, Eastern North American Region, and Past Chair of the ASA Section on Statistical Education.
Arnold has published numerous technical papers in leading statistical journals and directed the research of 14 Ph.D. students at Virginia Tech. He is co-author of a widely used statistics textbook for engineers and computer scientists. In 1984, the Department of Statistics established the annually-awarded Jesse C. Arnold Graduate Student Teaching Award.
Josephine Wildcat Bigler (’45) is a full blood Euchee Indian, enrolled with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and the first in her family to earn a college degree. She may be the first Euchee woman to earn a four-year degree. Born near Sapulpa, Oklahoma, Bigler taught elementary school in Sapulpa and special education in Wisconsin.
Bigler served as a Special Education teacher when it was a relatively new field. A Euchee linguist and true expert on the language, she and three other elders are co-writing the first Dictionary of Euchee. Euchee is a language isolate with no other language in the world similar or related.
Her ability to recall older forms no longer actively used, plus explaining how women’s speech varies from men’s speech, makes her extremely vital in the effort to save the language.
Bigler was elected Chairwoman of the Milwaukee Indian Health Board and served as a representative to the Milwaukee Southeastern Malpractice Compensation Committee. In addition to earning her education degree at Southeastern, she received special education training at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.
Dr. David Whitlock (’84, ’85) has served as Oklahoma Baptist University’s 15th president since 2008. The Purcell native earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a master’s in business administration at Southeastern. He earned his Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Oklahoma in 1995.
Whitlock began his professional career at Southeastern, where he taught for 14 years. He joined the Southeastern faculty in 1985 as an instructor of business, was promoted to assistant professor in 1991 and associate professor in 1996. While at Southeastern, he directed the university’s Small Business Institute from 1990-97, working with small business development in the Durant area.
He was named chair of the University’s business information management program in 1995 and served in that role until moving to Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo.
At SBU, Whitlock served in various capacities, including associate provost, dean of the college of business and computer science, as a professor of business, dean of SBU’s adult and off-campus programs and assistant to the president.
In addition to his academic work, Whitlock has served in a bi-vocational role as co-pastor of Wellspring Baptist Fellowship in Bolivar. He previously served as bi-vocational pastor of Silo Baptist Church and Hendrix Baptist Church. He was licensed to preach by the First Baptist Church of Durant in 1993.
Dr. Jim Barnes (’64) served as the Oklahoma State Poet Laureate for 2009-10. Of Choctaw and Welsh anc
estry, he grew up in Summerfield, Oklahoma. His bachelor’s degree from Southeastern was in English and theatre. He earned his master’s degree (1965) and Ph.D. (1970) from the University of Arkansas.
Barnes was a professor of comparative literature and writer-in-residence from 1970-2003 at Truman State University (Kirksville, Missouri), where he helped establish a strong poetry series at the University’s Press. Barnes still serves as poetry editor there. He also helped create the T.S. Eliot Prize, one of the premier poetry prizes in the country.
After retirement from Truman State, he was a Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing and English at Brigham Young University from 2003-06.
His On Native Ground: Memoirs and Impressions (University of Oklahoma Press), now in its second edition, won The American Book Award in 1998. Among his many volumes of poetry, The Sawdust War garnered the Oklahoma Book Award in 1983.
His community service involves membership in many organizations, including the Associated Writing Programs, the National Association for Ethnic Studies, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West. He has sat on several National Endowment for the Arts committees.
Assistant Chief Gary Batton (’89) has served in a number of capacities with The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma since 1987. In 2007, he was named Assistant Chief under Chief Gregory Pyle.
In his 26 years with the Choctaw Nation, Batton has continuously looked for ways to improve and expand services and has been an integral part of the Tribe’s growth and success. Numerous Choctaw Nation programs and services have been created and enhanced under his leadership, including the Diabetes Wellness Center, the Youth Advisory Board, Veterans’ Advocacy, and Choctaw University.
He helps support Chief Pyle’s initiatives of health, education and jobs by expanding and increasing the profitability of current businesses and adding new businesses. Overall, businesses have shown a 69% increase in profitability since his appointment in 2007 and Tribal services continue to grow and evolve.
In addition, Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees, including the National Budget Committee for Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps National Advisory Council, and the Tribal Technical Advisory Committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He currently serves on the Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation Board, the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation Board, and the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board.
He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Southeastern with minors in computer science and accounting.
Mr. Robert “Rob’’ Wells (’71) is CEO of TAG Aviation Holding SA, located in Geneva, Switzerland, and is responsible for TAG’s six operating companies. TAG Aviation provides aircraft management, charter services, base level maintenance operations and other services for business aviation worldwide. The company also owns TAG Farnborough Airport in Europe and subsidiary companies in Hong Kong, Bahrain, Spain, and the UK. TAG’s business jet fleet currently numbers nearly 150 aircraft based on all continents, and of the company’s 1,100 employees, nearly 350 are professional pilots.
He joined TAG Aviation USA in 1999 as Base Manager at its Seattle, Washington, operation. In 2002, Wells moved to TAG Aviation SA as President and CEO, responsible for the company’s European operations. He served in that role until 2007.
Wells received his bachelor’s degree in aviation from Southeastern and earned his master’s of business from Southern Methodist University.
A licensed pilot with more than 8,000 hours logged, he currently serves on the Board of the European Business Aviation Trade Association. He was previously Executive Vice President for Piedmont Hawthorne Holdings, Inc. (now Landmark Aviation), where he held various management positions for more than 22 years.
Gail Gorski was a sophomore in high school when her dad, who worked for General Electric, was transferred from Illinois to Kentucky. Instead of ruining her young life, it was the beginning of a career filled with firsts. After one airplane trip with a friend, she started flying as a hobby at Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 1968. She was torn between horses and planes. At six feet, Gail was too tall to be a jockey and her dad, after paying for lessons that led to her private pilot’s license, strongly suggested she consider college and her career.
The airlines required a degree in aviation. Purdue, Parks College and Southeastern were the only schools in the nation at that time (1969) offering an aviation degree. Southeastern won the race and Gorski had to sell her horses to pay for her flying. Gorski attended Southeastern from 1970-74, with her junior year spent at the University of Louisville when she was chosen Kentucky Derby Queen. She spent most of that year traveling.
Gorski was hired in 1975 as the first female VIP pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was based in Washington, D.C. The following year, she became the first FAA Flight Inspection Pilot, based in Atlanta, Georgia.
January 8, 1978, was a red-letter day as she was hired by United Airlines as its first female pilot and based in San Francisco. At that time, United was the largest airline in the free world.
Today, Gorski flies as Captain on the Boeing 747-400 to China four days a week. Her routes include Sydney, Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, London and Frankfurt.
Gorski’s degree in aviation and business led to national and international success and recognition as a groundbreaking female flyer.
Steve Robinson is a home-grown success story. Growing up in Bokchito, Oklahoma, he started working at the age of nine in his father’s grocery store. Following his graduation from Bokchito High School in 1981, he has been on a one-way ride to the top. His experience in business started in high school when he managed his father’s grocery store and still found time to show Limousin cattle and serve as the State Vice President of the Oklahoma Future Farmers of America.
Robinson earned a double major in Accounting and Economics in 1986 and it has truly served him well. After graduating from college, he moved to Maryland with $100 in his pocket and just naïve enough to think that anything was possible. He went to work for a company as an accountant but could not get the entrepreneurial bug out of his system. In 1989, he teamed up with his best friend to purchase a small residential cleaning company based in Maryland, which serviced approximately 250 customers.
In 1996, they decided to take The Cleaning Authority nationwide and started franchising. At present they have 180 franchisees in 37 U.S. states as well as Canada. The company services 76,000 households and employs 4,500 people with total top-line revenues of more $175 million dollars a year. Today, Robinson lives in Highland, Maryland, with his wife and three daughters and is the Chief Executive Officer of The Cleaning Authority, which was recognized among the “Top 100 Fastest Growing Franchises” by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2003. In 2006, Franchise Business Review listed the company in the “Top 50 in Franchise Satisfaction.”
He has built a mail center and located it on the family farm in Bokchito. The mail center processes and mails more than 50 million pieces of direct mail per year and provides employment for 10 people within the Bokchito community. Robinson is also the owner of Bushy Park Farms, which is nationally recognized as one of the top producers of show cattle and quarter horses in the country with ranches in Maryland, South Dakota and North Texas.
Steve and wife Jeanne have been tireless supporters of Share Our Strength, a hunger relief agency where his wife worked for 10 years. He has supported the Oklahoma State FFA with financial gifts and has returned to Oklahoma to speak at their State FFA Convention. They have also set up a foundation called “Because it’s You,” to continue their passion of helping others.
Towana Spivey was born and raised in Madill, Oklahoma, and now resides in Duncan, Oklahoma.
After graduation from Madill High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in History/Natural Science at Southeastern. His graduate studies in Anthropology (archeology) and Museum Studies were at the University of Oklahoma in 1969-71. He did additional graduate work in Conservation of Historic Properties at the University of Denver in 1975.
Spivey was on the staff of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey (OAS) at OU in 1969-72. He conducted some of the first forensic archeology in Oklahoma while working for Dr. Clyde Snow of the Federal Aviation Administration Laboratories in Oklahoma City. The project involved multiple murders near Skiatook, Oklahoma, pertaining to organized crime. This work led to new training by the OAS for the Oklahoma State Crime Bureau in the field recovery of crime scene evidence.
Spivey has been recognized as a preeminent historian of southwest Oklahoma. He was Historic Archeologist for a joint project of OAS and the Oklahoma Historical Society that led to a fully restored South Barracks at Fort Washita Historic Site. Spivey spent his professional career preserving and interpreting the prehistory/history of the Trans-Mississippi West with particular interest in the Oklahoma area.
He recently retired after 30 years of dedicated service to Fort Sill and the United States Army. He served as curator and director of the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum, a model for several Army Museum programs across the nation. As a highly respected historian of Indian and military history, Spivey worked to educate the Native American people on the importance of preserving their own materials.
He was inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame in May