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University of Central Oklahoma Alumni Association announces election of new members to its Board of Directors

UCO Alumni Association names new Board of Directors members
The University of Central Oklahoma Alumni Association announces the election of five new members to its Board of Directors. The board helps to further the alumni association’s mission of fostering relationships among alumni and friends, while advocating for the benefit of the university, supporting students and creating Bronchos for Life.

Joining the Alumni Association Board of Directors are Gina Richardson, Heidi Russell, Paul Stuke, Bradley Ward and Aaron Welch.

“The Alumni Association Board of Directors plays an important role in all that the alumni association does for alumni and the university. They are critical to our mission,” said Lauri Monetti, director of UCO Alumni Relations. “We are excited to welcome these five alumni to our board. They already play an active role in our community, and we are excited about the experience they bring that will enhance the work we are already doing.”

The new board members began their three-year term with the UCO Alumni Association on July 1. The five new board members are: Gina Richardson is a proud Central alumna who holds a bachelor’s in Human Environmental Science (HES), Family and Child Development, and a master’s in HES, Family and Child Studies. In addition, she is a certified child and parenting specialist and a previous UCO adjunct instructor within the Human Environmental Science department. She currently works for the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s early intervention program, SoonerStart, as assistant director.

Heidi Russell is the executive director of the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates. She holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master’s degree in urban affairs from Central. She previously served as the president, education chair and communications chair for the Oklahoma Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2012, the organization honored her with its Mike McDonald Outstanding Professional Fundraiser Award.

Paul Stuke has spent more than 15 years in commercial real estate. He began working as a lender, then for a large title insurance company, and now as a commercial real estate broker for Plains Commercial Real Estate in Oklahoma City. He has a business administration degree in finance from UCO.

Bradley Ward is an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran who served eight years in the United States Army. His assignments include a deployment to Afghanistan where he earned special commendation for his actions. He is an alumnus of UCO holding both a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice Police and a master’s in Public Administration. Recently, Ward joined the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) providing both fiscal and program analysis to the LOFT Oversight Committee and Oklahoma Legislature.

Aaron Welch holds a master’s degree in education from Central. Aaron now serves a director of admissions for World Classrooms, an education travel program that focuses on helping middle school students experience the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. While attending UCO, Welch was a working professional and full-time student. He attributes his success to his supportive family. As a student he valued on-campus learning and interaction with his professors. At graduation he was awarded with the Outstanding Practitioner award.

To learn more about the UCO Alumni Association, visit

The slate of board members for 2020-21 is: List can be found here.

Pictured are new board members Gina Richardson, Heidi Russell, Paul Stuke, Bradley Ward and Aaron Welch.

Central alumnus, veteran creates impactful fund benefitting ROTC students

When Lt. Col. Oren Peters stepped foot on the Central campus this June, the visit was much different from those in the past. Not only was the alumnus and longtime university supporter wearing a face mask but he also had to stand far apart from the group he set out to visit. For a social 99-year-old, the pandemic has been one of the worst things Peters has experienced. Despite the virus, he has remained healthy, active and as generous as ever.

Lt. Col. Oren Peters ROTC visit June 2020

Peters has shaped his life around giving back. Knowing he wanted to become a soldier when he was just a kid, he eagerly enlisted in the Oklahoma Army National Guard at the age of 18. In less than a year, he was a private first class and a high school junior when his infantry division was activated.

What followed was 511 days in combat during World War II where he participated in eight major campaigns and four amphibious operations. When Peters returned home at the age of 21, he realized he had missed a lot. He completed high school and soon after married his sweetheart, Lucile.

He was too old to play high school football so he sought a coaching position at Edmond High School. He ended up coaching football, basketball and track. The students loved Coach Peters and even voted him as class president while he was coaching football.

Peters made a point to instill an appreciation of volunteerism in his students. He encouraged them to seek out the variety of opportunities that were available to them. He recalls telling them, “Volunteer. Find out what’s going on and do it. I volunteered for everything because I wanted to do it all. If you only see but don't do, nothing gets done. You should ask for the job then do the job. If you volunteer, you get to try it… that’s been my life.”

It was around this time that he decided to pursue a physical education degree at Central State College. One of his most exciting school projects was organizing Edmond’s first junior high basketball team – a concept he pitched to his university professors that was approved for course credit. He graduated from Central in 1950.

Prior to his graduation from Central State, he reenlisted into the Oklahoma National Guard and then served in the 45th Division in the Korean War in 1951. Serving his country is something deeply rooted within him and he has a volume of colorful stories that could fill several books.

After retiring from the Army, Peters became involved with the Boy Scouts of America as Scoutmaster – a role he proudly served for 21 years. In addition to being registered with the Boy Scouts for a total of 80 years, his community involvement is extensive: he is a distinguished Eagle Scout, serves on the National Boy Scout Community Relations Task Force, is involved with Kiwanis where he works with 11 classes of third graders in the Bringing Up Grades program, is a member of Masonic Lodge 37, and has served the Edmond Chamber of Commerce and numerous other civic and community groups. His tireless dedication to his community earned Peters the Distinguished Alumni Award from the UCO Alumni Association in 2019.

To further his already impactful legacy, Peters created the Lt. Col. Oren Lee Peters Endowed ROTC Scholarship that is the only scholarship within the UCO Foundation that awards ROTC students. The first recipients of the scholarship will be awarded in spring 2021. To celebrate the creation of the award, Peters visited the UCO ROTC Broncho Battalion this June – face mask and all. The battalion is extremely grateful to Peters and looks forward to awarding a deserving cadet next spring.

Lt. Col. Oren Peters displaying some of his military regalia.

University of Central Oklahoma Foundation Announces Five New Board Members and Names New Board Leadership

2020_New Foundation Board of Trustees
The University of Central Oklahoma Foundation announces the election of five new members to its Board of Trustees and a new board chair. Each will help support the nonprofit’s work to provide scholarship assistance to deserving students and support for faculty, campus activities and vital programs at UCO.

Joining the Board of Trustees are Tammy Alger, Ann Benjamin, Dr. Michael Chandler, Freda Deskin, Ph.D., and Jack Evans. Emily Lang will serve as board chair.

“We are excited to expand our board with five new members who will bring diverse expertise and insight to our work,” said Anne Holzberlein, UCO Foundation president. “Each of our new board members exemplify the spirit of community and bring expertise, talent and fresh perspective to the table. I am delighted to welcome such a strong group and I look forward to serving with each of them in the coming years.”

“Emily Lang is a standout leader in the public relations sector, bringing passion, creativity, and commitment to her work for the greater good,” Holzberlein said. “I am looking forward to the next two years with Emily at the helm of our board.”

The new board members began their three-year term with the UCO Foundation on July 1. Lang’s term is two years. The five new board members are:

Tammy Alger is the senior vice president and senior regional manager of Consumer and Business Banking at Bank of Oklahoma Financial Corporation, a role she has held since January 2016. An alumna of Central, Alger previously worked at U.S. Bank and BMO Harris Bank.

Ann Benjamin is a certified and licensed mental health counselor and executive coach in private practice. She earned her master’s degree in guidance and counseling from Central in 1977. She formerly worked as a speech therapist for the Employment and Residential Centers and as a school counselor for Edmond Public Schools.

Michael Chandler owns Edmond Dental Center. Chandler graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry in 2000. After graduation, he completed a general practice residency at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City for one year, followed by three years of service in the National Health Service Corps.

Freda Deskin is the chief executive officer and founder of ASTEC Public Schools. Deskin establishes and oversees ASTEC budgets, accreditation and academic accountability, along with marketing, staffing, strategic planning and logistics, training and development, and developing short and long term goals. An alumna of Central, she previously served as dean at Oklahoma City University and as principal at ASTEC.

Jack Evans is the founder and co-owner of Caerus Holdings LLC, which owns TimberCraft Homes LLC, Three Jacks LLC, Centerline Construction Services, and Thirteenth and Elm LLC. Before his career in real estate, Evans worked as assistant vice president at MidFirst Bank. He is an alumnus of Central holding a Bachelor of Business Administration in finance.

Emily Lang is an experienced public relations expert with a background in journalism and public affairs. She co-founded Price Lang Consulting in 2011 and prior to that, she worked for the Attorney General’s Office as a public information officer and legislative liaison before leaving to lead a gubernatorial campaign.

To learn more about the UCO Foundation, visit

The slate of board members for 2020-21 is:

Executive Committee

Emily Lang, Chair
Brad Pumphrey, Past Chair
Mike Patterson, Vice Chair
Peggy Kates, Secretary
Brandon Webster, Treasurer
Randy Ross, At-Large
Mike Moore, Audit & Finance Committee Chair
Stacy Bozarth, Committee on Trustees Chair
Margaret Brisch, Donor Relations Committee Chair
Sheila Stinson, Governance Committee Chair
Candace Hobbs, Investment Committee Chair


Ancel Airington
Tammy Alger
Jeff Atkins
Lee Beasley
Sherry Beasley
Ann Benjamin
John Bobb-Semple
Victoria Caldwell
Michael Chandler
Jeff Coil
Freda Deskin
Carlos Evans
Jack Evans
Violet Ford
Peggy Geib
Ben Harris
Joshua Hart
Ana Carmina Herrera Dange
Michael Kloiber
Thomas Kupiec
Alexis LoPresto
Joni McClain
Patrick Mok
Juliane Morgan
Kirby Ross
Todd Russell
Paige Williams Shepherd
Carolyn Stager
J. Michael Steffen
Scott Streller
Tom Thompson
Stacy Tiger
Max Tuepker
Larry Westmoreland
Garland Wilkinson
Ruth Boss, Emeritus Trustee
Mike Collison, Honorary Trustee
Judy Love, Honorary Trustee
Edmund Martin, Honorary Trustee
Gerry Pinkston, Emeritus Trustee
David Thompson, Honorary Trustee

Pictured are board chair Emily Lang and board members Tammy Alger, Ann Benjamin, Dr. Michael Chandler, Freda Deskin, Ph.D., and Jack Evans. 

Alumna swims with Sharks, lands investment in family company

First Saturday Lime on Shark Tank; alumna Jessica Jacobs Thompson
Alumna Jessica Jacobs Thompson
has had an exciting post-graduate life. She spent some time in Costa Rica for language school, worked for several companies using her kinesiology degree and got married. Now, she’s onto the most thrilling pursuit yet – helping her family grow a business. Luckily, her family got just the jumpstart they needed after a recent appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

Thompson and her family created First Saturday Lime, a company that specializes in eco-friendly insect repellent. The business venture stems from the Okarche family’s farming roots that date back generations. First Saturday Lime was developed after the family saw the need to create a pesticide that was tough on pests but not on humans and pets.

On the family’s recent “Shark Tank” appearance, Shark Kevin O’Leary (also known as Mr. Wonderful) invested in First Saturday Lime. Thompson and her family are looking forward to the next steps for First Saturday Lime. Before things get too crazy, we had a chance to talk with her and find out more about her "Shark Tank" experience as well as her cherished days at Central.

Why did you choose UCO?
My mother is a professor in the Psychology Department so UCO has always been a part of my family. I wanted to get a great education and knew the Kinesiology Program was for me.

What were you involved with at Central?
I was on the Women's Track team and Kinesiology and Health Studies Club. I also joined the Delta Zeta Sorority for a year.

What was the outcome of your "Shark Tank" appearance?

We got a deal with Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary). We are so grateful for the opportunity and excited we got to participate.

How were the Sharks in person?
The Sharks were everything you see and more. The entire pitch and questions lasted about two hours and it gets edited down to five minutes for TV. It was intense!

What advice do you have for student entrepreneurs?Alumna Jessica Jacobs Thompson_Shark Tank
It’s all about being brave enough to get started and never giving up. Everything after that falls into place.

How did UCO help you along your newfound entrepreneurial journey?
Juggling school, track, work and a social life taught me to be tenacious. All my wonderful professors pushed me to work hard and challenged me daily. I love UCO, and I always love meeting alumni and sharing stories about my time there.

What are the next steps for First Saturday Lime?
We have set out to provide the world with an alternative to pesticide. We have our work cut out for us but we are excited to see where the journey takes us. We hope to make the world a better place and grow the company.

Do you have any parting words for students?
Enjoy your time at UCO. It goes by in a moment. I am so appreciative of the lessons I learned and the friends I made while attending the university.

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