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UCO Foundation Announces New Foundation Board of Trustees

Foundation Board of Trustees Headshots

The University of Central Oklahoma Foundation announces the election of eight new members to its Board of Trustees. 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.

The new board members began their three-year term with the UCO Foundation on July 1. The new board members are Derrek Belase, Stacy Bozarth, Brian Downs, Mark Holland, Mike Kloiber, Casey Moore, Jeanette Nance, and Scott Waugh.

Rev. Derrek Belase currently serves as the director of connectional ministry for the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. A lifelong Oklahoman, Belase graduated from Carnegie High School before attending UCO where he served as the student body president. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Central and went on to obtain a master’s degree in criminal justice from Oklahoma City University and a master of divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology. He is currently pursuing his doctoral degree at Eden Theological Seminary.

Stacy Bozarth is a certified speaker and coach, and uses her expertise to train individuals and organizations to increase their ability to lead. Bozarth graduated from Central with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and health sciences. After her graduation, she worked in both medical sales and the health and fitness industry.

Brian Downs is the first deputy commissioner and chief of staff for the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID). He joined OID in 2020 after serving as state health information exchange director and special assistant to the Governor’s Front Porch Initiative. His community involvement includes serving on the Edmond Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the Capitol Medical Center Improvement and Zoning Commission, and the Acacia Fraternity Alumni Association. He graduated from Central with a bachelor’s degree in corporate communication.

Mark Holland is the vice president of Unity Insurance Partners. He is a certified insurance counselor and certified in risk management. He has served the community on a variety of boards that include the Rotary Club, the YMCA Board, the Pivot Board of Trustees, and the Association of General Contractors Advisory Board.

Mike Kloiber recently retired as president and CEO of Tinker Federal Credit Union after serving in the role for 25 years. He also held positions as senior vice president/chief operations officer and vice president of operations. During his tenure as TFCU President/CEO, the credit union grew from less than $1 billion to almost $6 billion. Kloiber earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a Master of Business Administration both from Central. He was recently appointed as ambassador director for the WEOKIE Federal Credit Union Board.

Casey Moore is the director of management services for the City of Edmond. In this role, he oversees four city departments, leads government relations, oversees strategic planning, and manages a portfolio of special projects. Prior to the City of Edmond, he spent a decade working in higher education, including serving at UCO. Moore holds a bachelor’s degree from Central and a master’s degree from Wichita State University.

Jeanette Nance is the executive director of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful where she serves as the statewide administrator of both Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and Keep America Beautiful programs and projects. Previous roles include external affairs specialist with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and director of constituent services for the Office of the Governor for the State of Oklahoma. Nance earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with an emphasis in public administration from Central. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in the UCO Master of Public Administration Program.

Scott Waugh is a retired dentist who served the Edmond community for more than 45 years. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Central and went on to study at the Baylor College of Dentistry. Waugh has a passion for teaching and giving back.

To learn more about the UCO Foundation, visit

UCO Alumni Association announces new Board of Directors members

Alumni Board of Directors

The University of Central Oklahoma Alumni Association announces the election of seven 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 Adan Loera-Gonzalez, Jen Harris, Lauren Riepl, Julie Robinson, Jennifer Sanchez, Dana Stevenson and Jessica Venne. The new board members began their three-year term with the UCO Alumni Association on July 1.

Adan Loera-Gonzalez is an assistant branch manager at Tinker Federal Credit Union (TFCU) where he has the opportunity to make an impact on TFCU’s membership while assisting and mentoring his team as they grow in their careers. Prior to his current role, Loera-Gonzalez served TFCU as a member service officer, LEAD associate, teller supervisor and lobby supervisor. He graduated from UCO’s College of Business with a Bachelor of Business Administration in business management. During his time at Central, he was involved with several student organizations including Broncho Business Leaders and UCO’s Human Resource Society.

Jen Harris is currently a senior marketing manager at World Vision U.S., a global humanitarian organization whose mission is to help children, families and their communities lift themselves out of poverty. Passionate about making an impact, she also serves on the Association of National Advertisers Education Committee and leads the mentor program. Harris earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Central and proudly served as Miss Asian UCO in 2007.

Lauren Riepl is the communications director for the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma. Riepl earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Central in 2010 and 2017.

Julie Robinson earned a bachelor’s degree from Central in 1994.

Jennifer Sanchez is the human resources manager for Dexter Axle Co. in El Reno, Okla. Prior to her time with Dexter, she spent more than 10 years in human resources with Oklahoma City’s ClimateCraft, Inc. Sanchez earned her bachelor’s degree in human resource management from UCO and later earned professional certifications from the Human Resources Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management. During her time at Central, she served as president of the university’s chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, and in 2008 was recognized as the UCO Human Resources Student of the Year and Officer of the Year. She enjoys serving the community through an array of organizations in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area and currently serves as the president of Junior Hospitality Club, Inc.

Dana Stevenson is an elementary school teacher at Thelma Parks Elementary in Oklahoma City Public Schools. Stevenson earned a general studies degree from Central and is currently pursuing a Master of Education in elementary education. She possesses skills in strategic planning, fundraising and grant writing. She has also served the community through CASA of Oklahoma County, Angels Foster Family Network, and Restore OKC.

Jessica Venne is a material cost analyst at Boeing where she has served for more than four years. Venne earned a bachelor’s degree from Central in 2018.

To learn more about the UCO Alumni Association, visit

View the full 2022-23 slate of the UCO Alumni Association Board of Directors at

Impactful Central coach, educator Gerry Pinkston honored with Broncho Strong Scholarship

Longtime University of Central Oklahoma supporters Larry and Leah Westmoreland recently surprised Gerry Pinkston, Ph.D., with the establishment of the Broncho Strong Scholarship in Honor of Gerry Pinkston.


The Broncho Strong Scholarship was established to honor Pinkston, her service to UCO and the inspiration she provides current softball students. In keeping with her spirit and example, scholarship criteria include academic achievement, contributions to the softball program and demonstrating a strong character.


Softball Coach Cody White, Dr. Gerry Pinkson and pitcher Kylee Lynch stand on softball field

“We have created several scholarships in honor of professors who have made a difference in our lives but have passed on,” said Larry Westmoreland. “We decided – why don’t we recognize someone living who has impacted lots of lives and still is making a difference. We’ve known Gerry for several years and know that all she has accomplished has indeed made a difference.”


The Westmorelands worked with the UCO Softball program and the UCO Foundation in order to surprise Pinkston with the scholarship announcement during a recent softball tournament at the newly renamed Gerry Pinkston Softball Field on campus.


“As we were walking onto the field, the announcer started saying what was happening,” said Pinkston. “That was my first clue [the scholarship] had anything to do with me. They really pulled off a surprise!”


Pinkston calls the scholarship establishment humbling. “I value education more than anything,” she says. “The more we can help students get their education the better.”


In addition to announcing the new scholarship opportunity, the inaugural recipient of the Broncho Strong Scholarship was named. Bronchos pitcher Kylee Lynch of Chandler, Oklahoma, received the scholarship. Lynch is a sophomore majoring in psychology who has played softball since she was 5.


Dr. Gerry Pinkston, Pitcher Kylee Lynch, donors Leah and Larry Westmoreland in the bleachers during a softball game

“When I received the Broncho Strong Scholarship I was in disbelief,” said Lynch. “I am very honored to have been selected to receive a scholarship in honor of Coach Pinkston. This scholarship will impact me financially as well as hold me to a higher standard on and off the field.”


Lynch chose UCO  because of its competitive softball program and the proximity to home. Currently, a sophomore majoring in psychology, her future plans are to pursue a master’s degree in order to become a licensed professional counselor.


“It was a fun day,” Pinkston says. “I am truly honored by it. I am glad Kylee got the scholarship. She has been the number one pitcher all year. She’s also the team’s number one cheerleader – I would hear the girls yelling and screaming in the dugout and it was Kylee who was leading them.”


The Westmorelands have dedicated their lives to education. Larry served as a professor of chemistry for 25 years within the UCO College of Mathematics and Science while Leah was a German instructor and coordinator of the Foreign Language Department at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School before retiring. In addition to laying the groundwork for the UCO Softball Program, Pinkston also taught in the Kinesiology Department within the UCO College of Education and Professional Studies.


“Our initial goal is to help someone graduate from UCO,” said Larry Westmoreland. “After that it would be wonderful if sometime in the future that person was able to help another UCO student graduate!”


Larry Westmoreland and Pinkston currently serve as emeritus members on the UCO Foundation Board of Trustees as well as active members of the UCO Emeritus Faculty Association. The Westmoreland’s longtime friendship with Pinkston has drawn the couple to become supporters of UCO Softball.


“Women's softball is so much fun to watch,” said Leah Westmoreland. “The games move very fast and it’s exciting to see the athletic ability of these young women.”


Those interested in supporting the Broncho Strong Scholarship in Honor of Gerry Pinkston, or any of the established funds through the UCO Foundation, can donate at


I would just like to thank the Westmorelands and Coach Pinkston for all of their support toward our program,” said Lynch. “This would not be possible without them.”

Pitcher Kylee Lynch hugs donors Larry and Leah Westmoreland



Lost and Found: Central Alumnus Reunites with Class Ring Missing for 50 Years

Alumnus holding class ring

Fifty-four years ago, Howard Caplinger was looking forward to the future in front of him. He was a new graduate of Central State College and had recently married his middle school sweetheart. To celebrate his academic achievements, Caplinger purchased a class ring that he wore with collegial pride as he entered into the U.S. Army Reserve. Little did he know, his class ring would soon be lost and as fate would have it, miraculously returned to him half a century later.


Thinking back to the 1960s, Caplinger chose to attend Central State because of its proximity to his hometown of Piedmont. He recalls in his first year of college he paid less than $1,000 for books, gas for his commute and tuition, which was $5.25 per credit hour.


Bronzebook photo of Howard CaplingerWhen he first arrived to CSC, he studied mathematics and soon discovered his love of chemistry. Between semesters during his senior year, Caplinger married his wife, Karen, and they settled into an apartment that was one of six units off Hurd Street. Soon after graduating with a double major in chemistry and mathematics, he landed a job at Atlantic Richfield Company and soon enlisted in the Army.


In October 1968, Caplinger set out for basic training in Fort Polk, Louisiana – wearing his beloved class ring. At one point during basic training, he removed the ring from his finger to wash his hands and set it on the counter. After drying his hands, he mistakenly left the ring on the counter only to return later for it to be missing. He asked around but no one knew – or admitted – the ring’s whereabouts. “I thought the ring had been pawned,” Caplinger admits. “I was ashamed I lost it.”


When Caplinger returned to Oklahoma after basic training, his class ring was a distant thought. He continued working for Atlantic Richfield until they asked him to move to Wyoming or Alaska. With his roots firmly planted in Oklahoma, he found a job at Dayton Tire in Oklahoma City as a chemical engineer where he worked for 35 years.


Life has been sweet for the Caplingers. The couple has three sons who all grew up at their home on five acres in Piedmont. Howard enjoyed his time at Dayton Tire and Karen was a middle school secretary for more than 20 years. At 60, Howard retired and the couple has spent their time volunteering and serving as Sunday School directors at their church as well as spending time with their family that has expanded to include four grandchildren.


In fall 2021, Howard received a letter from University of Central Oklahoma Director of Athletics Stan Wagnon. When he read the letter, Howard was shocked – after 54 years, his Central State College class ring purchased in 1968 had been returned to campus.


Alum Howard Caplinger standing with Stan WagnonWagnon reached out to the UCO Office for Advancement to see about utilizing their alumni database to track down an alumnus from the Class of 1968 with the initials W.H.C., which was inscribed on the inside of the ring. Through some research, W. Howard Caplinger was reunited with his long lost ring after responding to Wagnon.


“I was just looking at the letter in disbelief,” Caplinger says. “I had not seen that ring in a long, long time – it’s just unbelievable.”


Wagnon was able to provide Caplinger with a little insight on how the ring came into his possession. Wagnon says that 20 years ago a previous athletic director received the ring and placed it in his golf bag where it remained for 10 years. One day the director’s wife found the ring and placed it into a drawer where it sat for another 10 years. Upon her passing, it was discovered in the drawer and given to Wagnon who worked on tracking down the ring’s owner.


“I knew writing that letter was our only chance to find the rightful owner,” Wagnon said. “I really didn’t expect to hear back, let alone to hear back so swiftly and with such a great story attached! But I think part of my role at the university is to look after our own people and be sure our fans and alumni know they matter. Sending that letter was really just a simple expression of that approach, and I’m elated that it worked out.”


After all this time, the ring is in pristine condition. Caplinger admits the ring fits a bit tight but still enjoys showing off the piece of jewelry with its puzzling backstory.


“I just can’t believe something like this could find its way back,” Caplinger says. “You hear of dogs making their way back home from across the country. It’s a different story to have a ring go missing in Louisiana and then to make it to the athletic director 34 years later. I wonder where it was all that time?”


How the ring was stolen or misplaced at a basic training camp in Louisiana in 1968 only to be reunited with its rightful owner 54 years later in Oklahoma is truly a mystery. Caplinger admits he’s relieved he chose to have his unique initials inscribed on the ring.


“I told my Sunday School class about the story,” Caplinger says. “Nothing exciting ever happens to me; I get excited when it’s time to get a new toothbrush! So to get this letter… the fact that Stan took the time, it’s unbelievable. He was so gracious.”


Memories of Central State College

What did you do between classes?

I played pool in the Student Center. I had an afternoon job on the family farm so I only got to play a little.


Did you have a favorite professor?

Dr. Laverne Loman who was a mathematics professor.


Do you have a favorite newlywed memory?

Karen and I had only been married a month and we came home to our apartment on Hurd and all of our stuff was out on the front lawn. Apparently, the tenant above us left their bathtub running and our apartment was flooded. All of our wedding gifts were out in the yard and some were completely ruined. That was a memorable experience!  


What is your relationship to UCO today?

I follow UCO sports a lot – we especially watch the basketball and wrestling teams.


Also – in addition to me graduating from Central State, so did my brother and two sisters as well as my middle son.



UCO launches rural teacher initiative through Masonic Charity endowment

Photo of UCO faculty and staff with Masonic Charity of Oklahoma executive director and President Neuhold-Ravikumar

The University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies is launching the Masonic Rural TeacherPath Initiative thanks to a $100,000 endowment made possible by the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma. The UCO Foundation matched the endowment bringing the amount to $200,000.

The initiative was created to help meet the demand of the teacher shortage in Oklahoma as well as provide support for those completing state certification requirements.

“The Masonic Rural TeacherPath Initiative endowment is another example of Freemasonry’s commitment to public education and the youth of our state,” said John Logan, Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma executive director.

Endowed funds will go toward a stipend for a coordinator to research rural district’s needs for teachers and provide a support system to enroll and advise new students in UCO’s TeacherPath, a set of specialized courses in pedagogy and classroom management to better equip alternatively certified teachers with skill sets needed to advance student learning and to be successful in the classroom.

Dan Vincent, Ph.D., UCO Department of Curriculum and Instruction chair, says the overarching aim for the initiative is to improve teacher quality for children across the state.

Currently, TeacherPath courses are offered through UCO’s Connected Campus or synchronously remote instruction. The TeacherPath team works directly with district schools to recruit cohorts of emergency-certified teachers for coursework in education, which are mandated by the state.

UCO’s TeacherPath has been in place for four consecutive semesters and demand has grown each semester.

“Our state is in the midst of a historic teacher shortage,” said Kimberly Pennington, Ph.D., UCO Educational Sciences, Foundations and Research chair. “This generous gift enables our teacher preparation programs to provide essential coursework for teachers who are seeking certification while already teaching in an Oklahoma pre-K-12 classroom.”

Central’s Masonic Rural TeacherPath Initiative allows the university to serve a broader network of rural school districts beyond the Oklahoma City metropolitan area by adding a cohort to be seated each semester consisting entirely of rural emergency or alternative-certified teachers for early childhood, elementary and secondary education. The dedicated rural cohort will not only enhance the teaching experience but will bring more consistency and accessibility to the preparation of Oklahoma teachers.

Thanks to the endowment from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, the initiative is set to launch at Central as early as summer 2022.

Cutline: The UCO College of Education and Professional Studies is launching the Masonic Rural TeacherPath Initiative thanks to a $100,000 endowment made possible by the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma. Pictured are UCO Educational Sciences, Foundations & Research assistant dean Mike Nelson, Ph.D., UCO Educational Sciences, Foundations & Research chair Kimberly Pennington, Ph.D., Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma executive director John Logan, UCO president Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar, UCO College of Education and Professional Studies interim dean Bryan Duke, Ph.D., and UCO Curriculum and Instruction chair Daniel Vincent, Ph.D.

UCO Foundation Partners with Steen Family Descendants, NSDAR to Establish, Award First Cordelia Steen Memorial Scholarship

Cordelia Steen Memorial Scholarship presentation
The University of Central Oklahoma Foundation in partnership with descendants of the Steen family and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Cordelia Steen Chapter have established the Cordelia Steen Memorial Scholarship, and recently presented the award to the first scholarship recipient. UCO student Logan Day, a junior history major, received the inaugural $2,000 scholarship.

The Cordelia Steen Memorial Scholarship was created to recognize the contributions made by the Steen family, the founding family of Edmond, and to provide an enduring legacy in their honor through an annual scholarship at UCO.

“I am so very honored to receive this scholarship, and what it means to me is more than I can possibly say,” said Day. “Thank you, thank you.”

During the scholarship presentation Andrea Wallis Aven, regent of the NSDAR Cordelia Steen Chapter, shared the history of the Steen family and the process of how the scholarship was established.

The scholarship was an effort between Steve Zielinksi, M.D., the great-great-grandson of John and Cordelia Steen, and his partner Elizabeth Barkley, and the NSDAR. During the dedication of the Steen Memorial Bridge in August 2021, the groups began their pursuit of a scholarship in Zielinksi’s ancestor’s honor.

At the scholarship presentation, Katrina Lacher, Ph.D., chair of the UCO History and Geography Department, presented a certificate of the scholarship to Day and stated some of his accomplishments that include one of his articles being published in the “Armstrong Undergraduate Journal of History.”

“We are deeply grateful to Dr. Zielinksi, Ms. Barkley, and the Cordelia Steen Chapter for establishing this important new scholarship, which we are honored to administer,” said David Macey, Ph.D., interim dean for the UCO College of Liberal Arts.

The Cordelia Steen Memorial Scholarship is open to current undergraduate and graduate students at UCO with a declared major or minor in history. To support the scholarship, visit

Cutline: The UCO Foundation in partnership with descendants of the Steen family and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) Cordelia Steen Chapter gathered to present the inaugural scholarship award to UCO student Logan Day. Pictured in front are: Brenda Knott, associate vice president for the UCO Office for Advancement; David Macey, Ph.D., interim dean of the UCO College of Liberal Arts; student Logan Day; Andrea Wallis Aven, regent of the NSDAR Cordelia Steen Chapter; and Katrina Lacher, Ph.D., chair of the UCO Department of History and Geography. Pictured in back are: Nicole Willard, assistant director of the UCO Max Chambers Library; Magen Runyan, Cordelia Steen Chapter member; Mae Runyan, Cordelia Steen Chapter member; Ellen Lee, Cordelia Steen Chapter member; Art Cotton, vice president of the UCO Office for Advancement; Debbie Adams, Cordelia Steen Chapter member; Jan Beattie, Cordelia Steen Chapter member; Tammy Ross, Cordelia Steen Chapter member; and Mary Poulain, Cordelia Steen Chapter member.

UCO Alumni Association announces new Board of Directors members

Head shots of new Alumni Board of Directors members

The University of Central Oklahoma Alumni Association announces the election of seven 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 Will Gattenby, Robyn Hughes-Drury, Andy Macaulay, Torrie Rennels, Regina Riley, Eric Russell and Andrea Worden.

The new board members began their three-year term with the UCO Alumni Association on July 1. The seven new board members are:

Will Gattenby, currently the senior director of membership and communications for the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® where he leads several departments providing core services to more than 13,000 members of the state’s largest trade association. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Gattenby has more than a decade of strategic communication, political campaign and government experience.

Robyn Hughes-Drury is an assessment specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. She enjoys helping people achieve their career goals and has worked in a variety of program areas, but most recently she has worked with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians helping candidates achieve their paramedic certification. Hughes-Drury earned her master’s degree from UCO after attending Central for a portion of her undergraduate studies.

Andy Macaulay cofounded and became the managing partner of AM & Associates, a private investment firm specializing in securities, real estate, art and antiques. Early in his career, he worked with Zale Corporation in various management positions, including divisional promotional director of the Fine Jewelers Guild. Macaulay graduated from UCO in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in fine art.

Torrie Rennels is a service department supervisor at Paycom where she oversees teams of client service specialists and leaders. Prior to her time in the service department she was in Paycom’s learning and development department, and has a background in sales, client, and operations training. She graduated from UCO with majors in marketing and management, and a minor in professional selling.

Regina Riley is the higher education director and tribal youth UNITY Advisor for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. She has extensive experience consulting, advising, and grant writing in academic environments in addition to a history of proven results in development, implementation, and maintenance of programs designed to directly benefit underserved demographics. Riley is a cum laude graduate of UCO.

Eric Russell is a fully licensed and registered financial planner. He enjoys educating and working with others to help create their personal legacies. Russell holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from UCO.

Andrea Worden owns and operates a law firm in Norman. She graduated from UCO in 2003 and obtained her juris doctor degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. In addition to her legal practice, Worden recently launched Myrna Mame, a members-only buyers club featuring items from artisan shops throughout Europe.

To learn more about the UCO Alumni Association, visit The slate of board members for 2021-22 is: List can be found here.

Pictured is Gattenby, Hughes-Drury, Macauley, Rennels, Riley and Worden. Not pictured: Eric Russell.

UCO Names Art Cotton as Vice President for Advancement

University of Central Oklahoma President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar recently named Art Cotton as the university’s vice president for Advancement and president of the UCO Foundation, effective July 1. Cotton succeeds current vice president for Advancement Anne Holzberlein, who will retire at the end of June.
Art Cotton head shot
“Art brings an impressive record of success in fundraising and administrative management both in and outside of higher education to the vice president role. I look forward to the energy and expertise Art will bring to our efforts to raise funds and friends to support our students and initiatives at UCO,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said.

Cotton’s 30 years of experience includes serving as senior director of development at the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, vice president for university advancement and external relations at Oklahoma City University, vice president for development at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, senior director of major gifts for the Oklahoma State University Foundation, chief of staff for the Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, manager of business development and marketing for The Benham Group and associate director for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. 

He is also committed to serving the community. He currently serves as board chair for Pivot and current or past involvement with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Association of Fundraising Professionals, Oklahoma Arts Institute Foundation, Teach for America, State of Oklahoma Board of Legislative Compensation and deadCenter Film Festival. He is a member of Leadership Oklahoma, Class II.

He holds a Master of Arts in Public Administration/Environmental Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Oklahoma State University.

For more information about the University of Central Oklahoma Office for Advancement, visit

Travel takes Buddy to South Dakota, Michigan and more

Travel Buddy recently experienced a trip of a lifetime with Advancement’s financial services director Liz Hall. Hall and her husband, Mike, who took Buddy with them on their road trip with visits to Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and South Dakota. The trio visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the awe-inspiring Mount Rushmore.

Read more about their travels below.

Hall Family 2020 Road Trip

From Liz:

We made a quick pitstop at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—where the greatest spectacle in racing is hosted annually. It’s 2.5 miles around, corners banked at 9 degrees 12 minutes and houses four golf holes in the infield. (How’s that for paying attention as a tourist?)

What’s a trip to “the Circle City” without a visit to the Circle? And this is about to become the best season to see it. OK – it’s really called the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument that was built to honor the Hoosiers who fought in the Civil War. Victory – a 30-ft., 10-ton statue of a lady – sits atop, facing south to welcome them home from that war. This time of year it becomes the world’s tallest Christmas tree when 52 strands of lights strung from the top of the monument down 254 feet to the bottom. (The lights don’t light till after Thanksgiving, so we only got a daylight preview – complete with an up close visit with one of the 26 toy soldiers around the base of the tree.) Buddy loved it!

The next itinerary item was a trip to see the ‘You Can Be Anything’ Barbie display at the award-winning Indianapolis Children’s Museum. This was a highlight of MY trip, but Buddy apparently had other plans. As I reached for Travel Buddy to photograph him with the impressive Chihuly glass piece in the museum atrium, I discovered he was not with me for this slice of adventure.

As I looked for Buddy, I also took in all the museum has to offer. We strolled the Barbie display, enjoyed the individual accomplishments of women – Amelia Earhart, Aretha Franklin, Florence Nightengale and many more – along with some interactive displays of art, fashion design, rock climbing and bee keeping. Still, no Buddy, but lots of Barbie dolls to see.

Retracing our steps back to the truck, we were lucky enough to find the aforementioned missing Buddy laying on the ground in the parking garage!

In Ann Arbor, Mich., we enjoyed delicious food and spending time with family. You really haven’t gone to Ann Arbor until you visit the Big House – capacity 107,601 – so Buddy made a stop there. All of the local wolverines were hidden in fear of the fierce Broncho from out of state! Buddy also made friends with the horned fellow occupying the lobby of our Ann Arbor hotel!

From there, we headed west toward – and then around – Lake Michigan (from the Ojibwa Indian word mishigami meaning ‘great water’ and the only Great Lake completely inside the United States). The south side of Chicago, in the dark, and at 75 mph, is almost pretty – especially with a full moon.

We stopped in Madison, Wis. overnight and Buddy found some more mascots to pal around with, challenge or cower from – depending on his mood. We drove on toward Menomonie, Wis., and made a quick stop at the site of the world’s largest passenger pigeon gathering. The site covers 850 square miles and contains an estimated 136 MILLION birds. (Buddy just couldn’t wrap his head around those numbers!)

Finally we reached Menomonie Wis., (different than Menominee, Mich.) home of University of Wisconsin-Stout – and the closest thing to Old North that Buddy had seen on this trip. (Buddy kept trying to use the Wisconsin cheese curds as footballs. It did not work well at all. Darn that Buddy!)

After some small town shopping, historical building admiring and recording of the trip, Buddy was excited for a mountain of vanilla ice cream with whipped topping and a good night’s rest before the trip continued to South Dakota!

After Wisconsin, the caravan turned toward South Dakota to experience the scenic things that a fifth grader would have mentioned in his or her state report. (In South Dakota there are road signs a girl from the Midwest has never seen before. Still working on translation!)

First stop: Mitchell, SD – home of the world’s only Corn Palace. (Who knew corn cobs of many colors could be used to ‘paint’ the sides of an arena with different, intricate murals each year and have been used like that for more than 100 years? For the creative side of me, it was incredible – sounds kind of corny – but it was awesome! Did you notice Buddy and I trying to hide in that picture from long ago?)

Next, on to the National Park’s Miniteman Missile site – a location frozen in time during the heat of the Cold War. It was informative, touched on some vague memories and taught me many things I did not realize were going on right around me many years ago. The statistics, displays, videos and actual settings were great! Another obscure site worth the trip to South Dakota.

Then, we visited the thing that gives the state its nickname – Mount Rushmore! The postcards and photos I’ve seen don’t even begin to do it justice. The detail and magnitude of the sculptures IN THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN are very impressive, and the sheer beauty in the forest and sky around that mount make it hard to believe. It might just be four presidents – can you name them? – but having been there it’s a work of art in one of God’s works of art!

Buddy took a break to recognize the start of the Christmas season – and kept saying he could show Santa a thing or two in that canoe – after all, UCO has a national champion rowing team don’t they? Too bad he never got the chance!

Finally, the solo caravan began the trip back to Oklahoma with a very picturesque drive down the harrowing Iron Mountain Road in Keystone and at the end of the road turned toward home. While slightly scary, Iron Mountain Road was where 711 pictures were taken in less than one hour.

We are happy to be home! I think Buddy had a good time but is ready for a return to the more familiar and more mascot-friendly places. Did you see those buffalo?!


Where will you take your Traveling Buddy? Don’t forget to tag #buddytravels so we can keep up with him and you!

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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