Oklahoma Gazette Announces Forty Under 40 Class of 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Gazette (OKG) hosted the Forty Under 40 Class of 2017 Awards Reception on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Vast 2 on the 50th Floor of Devon Tower. The evening provided guests and honorees an opportunity to meet and learn more about each other while taking in some of the best views in the state.
High achievement among Oklahoma City’s young innovators, entrepreneurs and creatives is never a surprise, but in 2017, competition to get into Oklahoma Gazette’s Forty Under 40 was extraordinary. As OKC continues its trajectory as a city of boundless possibilities, much of the fuel for this growth comes from young people with big ideas and skills to match. As our population grows, OKC remains a small-town city making the Forty Under 40 recognizable to Gazette readers. Far from being remote and unavailable, the members of the 2017 class of Forty Under 40 make noticeable, palpable, impacts on our daily lives. They lead by example and make us feel proud of the city we call home. More than anything, these 40 people will be responsible for how OKC will look, feel, work, play, eat and thrive in the years to come. This is the future of OKC. This is Forty Under 40.
OKG Associate Publisher James Bengfort welcomed honorees and guests to the awards ceremony and provided details on the Forty Under 40 process and how the selections were determined. OKG Editor George Lang introduced each member of the Forty Under 40 Class of 2017 while sharing a bit about each honoree, highlighting why each deserved to be selected as a 2017 honoree. A more detailed bio on each honoree was published in the commemorative awards magazine provided to each guest. The magazine was reprinted in its entirety in the Nov. 15 issue of Oklahoma Gazette and is available online at okgazette.com.
2017 event sponsors included Citizen Potawatomi Nation and Oklahoma Shirt Company. Additional sponsorship was provided by Republic National Distributing Company, which generously donated the evening’s beverages including a selection of Conundrum White and Red wines along with several choices of Shiner beers. Guests enjoyed appetizers of seared rare ahi tuna tartare, Low Country kimchee served on a wonton chip, wild mushroom and Parmesan tarts and bacon-wrapped tenderloin bites with blue cheese, sage and a balsamic glaze — all prepared by the award-winning Vast culinary team.
To view photos from the event please click here.
Oklahoma Gazette‘s Forty Under 40 Class of 2017
Lead Architect, Benham
Aaron Fox is the lead architect of the architectural department of Benham, a leading firm in the fields of architecture and engineering in Oklahoma City.
“My most significant business achievement occurred in 2015, when I was selected to take on a new role as the lead architect for Benham in OKC,” he said.
Fox was a member of the design team for projects at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Will Rogers World Airport, Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center and many others.
The University of Oklahoma graduate is active in the American Institute of Architects, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards and Church of the Servant. He serves on the Division of Architecture Professional Advisory Board of OU’s College of Architecture, the board of Oklahoma Children’s Theatre and the board of the Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity.
The firm won the 2017 People’s Choice Award in Canstruction, a nonprofit organization providing canned food to local food banks. It also was the overall winner and People’s Choice Award winner in Science Museum of Oklahoma’s Out of the Box Design and Construction Challenge in 2012.
Co-owner, Easy Time Clock
Alisha Allen-Gardner is the co-owner of Easy Time Clock, which she purchased with her husband, Chuck, in 2016.
Since then, they redesigned the website, resulting in web traffic growing from 300 visits monthly to 16,000. Gross revenue is up 30 percent.
In expanding, the couple developed a day care management product. “My husband and I overcame our fear, and we persevered in succeeding as business owners,” she said.
She helped organize Good to Grow, a health and wellness event for underprivileged children. Seventeen organizations participated in this year’s event.
Allen-Gardner serves on the Community Engagement Committee of the Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber. She is active with Aspire, the Impact and Development Committee of the Oklahoma City Young Professionals.
She volunteers for Vizavance, an organization where she worked previously to prevent and advance children’s vision. She received Vizavance’s Above and Beyond Recognition Award.
“Through her involvement over the years in multiple fundraising events for our organization, she exemplifies a level of commitment that serves as a model for others,” Vizavance’s President and CEO Dianna L. Bonfiglio said.
Allen-Gardner also volunteers at Piedmont Public Library and Edmond Public Schools. Her company is a corporate sponsor for Family Builders.
Clinic Administrator, Infectious Diseases Institute, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Andy Moore is the clinic administrator for Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
This year, he received the Public Citizen of the Year Award from the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
“Through the hard work and determination of our team and other members of the Oklahoma City AIDS Coalition, we have achieved viral suppression in nearly 90 percent of our patients — as close to a cure as current science allows,” he said.
In April 2016, he organized a group of people to talk to legislators. When more than 100 people attended, he founded Let’s Fix This, Inc., which educates and equips Oklahomans to actively engage in their government.
He is a member of the Oklahoma HIV and Hepatitis Planning Council and a board member of Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund, Diversity Center of Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business MBA Student Advisory Board.
He is a single dad of Hudson, age 5, and Elise, 3.
“I am incredibly fortunate to have a very supportive family and friends who encourage me, ensure I get enough rest and are understanding that I still haven’t watched a single episode of Game of Thrones,” he said.
Coordinator and Program Officer, GiveSmartOKC, Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Ashlee Adams is the GiveSmartOKC coordinator and program officer for Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
GiveSmartOKC, a local version of GuideStar USA, is an online platform for nonprofits to tell their story. It seeks to enrich charitable giving in the community.
Adams has grown GiveSmartOKC into the foundation’s primary tool for due diligence on nonprofits in evaluating grant applications.
Her community involvement goes beyond her official duties.
“I invest in helping others find their passion and connect them to resources and causes,” she said.
These efforts include volunteering with The Spero Project, which helps people in under-resourced communities, and by serving on the planning team for Marked OKC. Adams spent many years as a small group leader for high school girls and continues to support them as they near college graduation.
Adams is passionate about nurturing knowledge and leadership and motivating people into action. This passion led her to pursue a master’s degree in organizational leadership and learning from George Washington University.
“There are many good people in this work and our community. Sometimes all they need to reach their full potential is someone to help them along the way,” she said.
Company Broker, Adair & Associates Real Estate
A fourth-generation member of her family business, Ashley Adair-Garner serves as the company broker at Adair & Associates Real Estate in Norman.
She also is the executive director and founder of Downtown Norman Fall Festival.
Fall Festival partners with Center for Children and Families and Boys & Girls Club of Cleveland County in the Costume Closet, which offers free Halloween costumes to hundreds of children.
Fall Festival won first place for Outstanding Children’s Attraction or Event presented by the Central Oklahoma Frontier Country Marketing Association.
Adair & Associates won the Business in the Arts Award from Norman Arts Council and Norman Chamber of Commerce this year.
Adair-Garner helped restore historic buildings in downtown Norman for the past decade alongside her father and brother.
She is also the founder of Urban Alley, which is creating murals in hopes of decreasing graffiti in the downtown area.
The University of Oklahoma graduate is vice president of programs at Norman Chamber of Commerce, a board member at Norman Arts Council and Norman Downtowners Association and a member of Norman Arts and Humanities Roundtable.
Medical Practice Administrator, Retina Vitreous Center
Bansari Mehta is medical practice administrator for Retina Vitreous Center, which includes three physicians at five locations with a staff of 25.
“I have been at the helm of this organization for three years, and we are always working towards our goals for top-notch patient care, increased profitability and staff stability,” she said.
Her professional accomplishments include conducting a webinar for the American Academy of Ophthalmic Executives. She is the organization’s West South Central Regional Lead.
She earned a master’s degree in health administration and policy from the University of Oklahoma and was chosen as the Outstanding Multicultural Student among seven colleges.
She received a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy technology from Manipal University in India and an associate’s degree in respiratory therapy from Independence University in Utah.
Mehta, who speaks seven languages, served as a youth mentor for mentees worldwide for the United Nations 2017 Summer Youth Assembly.
She is the vice president of membership for United Nations Association of Oklahoma City and the treasurer of World Experiences Foundation.
She is active with Shot@Life Champions: Childhood Immunizations of the U.N. Foundation and is a Make-A-Wish Foundation granter.
Owner, OSSO Sports & Social
Blake Bullard owns OSSO Sports & Social. The company creates and manages adult social and competitive leagues in volleyball, kickball, flag football, Chicago-style softball, footgolf and nine-pin bowling.
“I created OSSO Sports & Social because I recognized that 20- to 40-somethings needed a social and active lifestyle,” he said.
Nearly 5,000 members have participated in OSSO Sports & Social since it was founded in 2016.
Bullard is chair-elect of Oklahoma City Young Professionals and a member of Edmond Chamber of Commerce and Edmond Young Professionals.
OSSO Sports & Social hosts several charity events for organizations such as Serve Moore, Warriors for Freedom, Support the Kid, Operation Smile and the equipment drive for Police Athletic League.
Bullard also is a partner in Lighthouse Beach Bar.
“We’ve created an outdoor mecca for sand volleyball players and built the largest footpool table in the U.S.,” he said.
More than 600 kickball players play at Lighthouse Beach Bar.
“By getting adults out of the house to play the games we loved as kids, OSSO Sports & Social and the Lighthouse Beach Bar are making Oklahoma City a better place to live,” he said.
Bullard received a bachelor’s degree in hotel/restaurant management from Oklahoma State University.
Senior CPA, B.A.; Kerr Financial PLLC
Blake Kerr founded and serves as senior CPA at the innovative accounting firm B.A. Kerr Financial PLLC in Edmond.
“I resist both how the accounting world tells me to run my firm and society’s narrow understanding of success,” he said. “I work to chart a new path, one in which CPAs are both a friend and a partner to and champion of the individuals, small businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators working to revive our home and using their passions and talents to bring vibrancy and life back into our community.”
His firm takes a laid back and playful approach aimed at encouraging creativity, thinking boldly and believing in your passion.
“We are committed to helping our clients understand that money isn’t the measure of success; it’s the agent,” he said.
Kerr is a member of Salt and Light Leadership Training (SALLT). He is board member of Urban Bridge Inc. and treasurer of Thunder Networking Group OKC.
He holds a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, and he is an instructor in the martial art. He is a board member of Oklahoma Wrestling Association and a member of OKC Midtown Rotary, Edmond Chamber of Commerce and Oklahoma Society of Certified Public Accountants.
He studied at the U.S. Air Force Academy before transferring to the University of Central Oklahoma, where he received his bachelor’s degree.
President and Chief Operating Officer, Delaware Resource Group of Oklahoma
Brian Busey serves as president and chief operating officer of Delaware Resource Group of Oklahoma, a global defense contractor.
The graduate of Southwestern Oklahoma State University was a member of the 2003 Bulldog football team.
Earlier, he was a member of the Benedictine College Ravens football team that was a 2001 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics semifinalist.
Delaware Resource Group, which employs 700 people at more than 40 locations globally, specializes in training air crews and simulator maintenance for the U.S. military and for other allied nations. It also supports many Defense Department platforms.
Busey was named to the Native American 40 Under 40 by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. He serves on the Regent Bank board of directors.
He is involved with his family’s foundation, El Sistema Oklahoma, which operates an after-school program serving 200 underserved students in the heart of Oklahoma City.
El Sistema Oklahoma trains students on ensemble-based music.
“We want them to share the joy of music making and grow as responsible citizens,” Busey said. “I have been very fortunate and blessed to work alongside so many great people who have taught me so many life lessons.”
Owner and Interior Decorator, Scout Studios
Interior decorator Carissa Stevens owns Scout Studios.
While a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, she hosted a television show that was first runner-up in the Zenith Awards for electronic media from Public Relations Society Student Association.
While she attended Singapore American School, she performed humanitarian work, which included helping on a mobile surgery vehicle in India, cataloguing species of birds and fish in Australia and bringing first aid supplies to villages in Malaysia.
She helped create an Oklahoma Designer Showhouse this year. She is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City, and she is has held leadership positions with Arts Council Oklahoma City.
She co-chairs Arts Council’s Opening Night this year, which is expected to draw up to 50,000 people downtown.
“Once I decided to go out on my own, it became clear that my civic obligations and community involvement could play a bigger role in my life,” she said.
Growing up as an expatriate in Southeast Asia, her family hosted families that were evacuated from the Jakarta riots.
“This experience and my humanitarian work in high school fostered a sense of always wanting to do the right thing,” she said.
Director, Wellness Now Coalition and Open Streets OKC at Oklahoma City-County Health Department
Carrie Blumert directs the Wellness Now Coalition and Open Streets OKC for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.
She is a candidate for Oklahoma County Commissioner District 1.
The north Open Streets OKC event in the Uptown 23rd and Paseo Arts districts has been held for the past four years. More than 25,000 attended in 2016.
Blumert worked with Leadership Oklahoma City’s LOYAL program, Historic Capitol Hill District and Southwest 29th Street District to create the south Open Streets OKC event, which 15,000 people attended in 2016.
In 2015, Blumert coordinated Wellness Now Coalition’s Mental Health Work Group to bring free mental health online screenings to five Oklahoma City metro libraries.
Online screenings went from 500 in 2014 to 2,000 in 2015. The group received the Screening for Mental Health’s national award for Top Depression Screening Event.
Blumert’s work with the coalition’s Mental Health Work Group this year earned her the Future of Population Health Award from the Public Health Foundation.
Blumert is a yoga instructor, and she serves on the ministry team of Crestwood Vineyard Church.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Cody Blake founded liquidfish, builder of websites for nonprofits including YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, Friends of Multisport and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. His clients include two top professional basketball players, and Blake has served in many capacities with the Entrepreneurs’ Organization American Advertising Awards.
Blake taught himself web development at the age of 15 in 1999 and relied on web development to pay tuition while attending the University of Oklahoma.
“I started before there was any real interest in the niche market of digital marketing and web development,” he said. “My team and I strive to produce projects that are entirely new, fresh and unique each and every day for each and every client,” he said.
In 2016, liquidfish placed sixth in Metro 50, Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce’s recognition of the metro’s fastest growing companies. The company also won 17 American Advertising Awards in 2013, 21 in 2014, 16 in 2015 and 23 in 2016.
Under Blake’s leadership, liquidfish now employs 21 staffers. “We have become a leader in the industry with full-service capabilities, including web design, development and digital marketing,” he said.
Associate Director of Philanthropy, Major Gift Fundraising and Stakeholder Engagement, The Nature Conservancy
Cody Pepper was looking to make a lasting and significant impact in the state he loves. He found that purpose as associate director of philanthropy, major gift fundraising and stakeholder engagement for the Oklahoma chapter of The Nature Conservancy.
As part of his efforts to empower those working to protect Oklahoma’s environment, Pepper founded Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy. The 12-month program brings together people from diverse backgrounds to increase their ecological IQ and inspire innovative solutions to urban growth challenges.
Part of his inspiration for Oklahoma Conservation Leadership Academy came from Benjamin Franklin’s secret society, Junto Club. Franklin called upon community stakeholders and leaders to gather and discuss politics, economics, finances and more, resulting in the first public library and the idea for a volunteer firefighter system.
“I hope that the conservation leadership academy will inspire similar kind of innovations through nature-based solutions designed to help both people and nature thrive,” Pepper said.
In the training sessions, participants learn about science-based conservation principles and work together to develop innovative and sustainable nature-based solutions.
Pepper received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Representative, Oklahoma House District 85; Founder, 2020 Oklahoma
After losing a bid for Oklahoma House District 85 in 2014, Cyndi Munson went through donor information for her race and others.
“I noticed the lack of women donors for women candidates across the state,” she said.
Munson co-founded 2020 Oklahoma, a political action committee working to increase the number of women in the Legislature by 2020, and in 2015, she won the set in a special election and is now the House’s assistant Democratic whip.
This year, Munson received the YWCA Social Justice Activator Award for Civic Engagement.
While working for Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma, she got to know young women in the juvenile justice system.
“Each of the young women I had worked with experienced some type of trauma,” she said. “These young women were not criminals. They were children who have experienced challenges that very few of us understand.”
In partnership with the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, she helped develop the Girl Scouts Art Program.
“Much of my desire to run for the House of Representatives began while working with young women in the juvenile justice system,” she said.
Munson holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master’s in leadership education from the University of Nebraska.
Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Department of Cell Biology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Invited by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research to speak at a congressional briefing on keratoconus, a condition in which the cornea becomes stretched and thins at its center, Dimitrios Karamichos is pursuing a patent for using the plant extract quercetin for treating eye disease.
“My long-term plan is to develop noninvasive treatments for people who lose their vision due to corneal injuries, trauma or dystrophies,” said Karamichos, an associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and the Department of Cell Biology at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Karamichos previously was a researcher and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He has spoken at professional conferences in Germany and China and elsewhere.
Having received numerous professional recognitions, Karamichos has made more than 20 presentations for professional groups and is a reviewer and editor for several professional journals and publications. He is also a member of several study sections for the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and OU College of Medicine Alumni Association. The Greece native also serves on the college’s graduate council.
Karamichos received a doctorate from University College London, a master’s degree from Imperial College in London and a bachelor’s degree from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Chief Operating Officer, Accele BioPharma
As chief operating officer for Accele BioPharma, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology incubator, Elaine Hamm manages research and development operations for two infectious disease companies and a hearing loss company that are in drug trials.
Working as venture advisor with i2E, Hamm helped close $7.6 million in equity investment for Oklahoma startup companies and created two statewide technology accelerator programs, Venture Assessment Program and Oklahoma Proof of Concept Center.
She was a finalist in 2017 for the Combating Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria Award. Hamm holds two commercialized patents.
“My passion is to get science out in a real and tangible way to the public and to bring communities and resources together in our state,” she said.
Hamm holds a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the OU Health Sciences Center.
“Watching ideas become reality and helping develop new therapeutics that could help people is an amazing and humbling experience,” she said.
Group Account Director, VI Marketing and Branding
Greta Anglin, a group account director for VI Marketing and Branding, is dedicated to improving health indicators in Oklahoma.
The agency creates communication messages to improve the health of Oklahomans.
“My team’s award-winning work has caught national attention and set the bar for best practices in behavior change,” she said. “But the best part of my job is that we actually save lives and create systemic change in our state.”
Anglin led a team that made seven presentations this year at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Conference of Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta. She was named the Oklahoma City Ad Club’s member of the year in 2015.
Anglin chaired the American Advertising Awards (Addys) for three years. The competition brings in 1,200 entries, and 675 people attended the last gala she chaired.
In addition, Anglin helped develop the Ad Club’s People’s Choice Award, which raised almost $3,000 for student advertising scholarships in its first year.
Anglin is proud of leading her team in their professional development. “My desire is to hire smart people who want to not only help the agency better itself, but also to help the city and the state prosper,” she said.
Director of Peer Programming and Integration, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
The director of peer programming and integration for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Heath Hayes also administers the Employee Assistance Program for 50,000 state employees and their family members.
As part of his duties, Hayes helped create a requirement that all contracted and certified providers with Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services become tobacco-free workplaces and incorporate tobacco cessation interventions.
This year, Hayes received the Professional of the Year Award from Oklahoma Citizens Advocates for Transformation and Recovery Association.
He serves on The National Council’s Addressing Health Disparities Leadership Program as well as the board of directors of the Healthy Minds, Healthy Lives Foundation and is a member of the Oklahoma Public Health Association.
Hayes received master’s degrees in human relations and administrative leadership from the University of Oklahoma and a women’s and gender studies graduate certificate. His bachelor’s degree is from the University of Central Oklahoma.
A published researcher, Hayes served as a fellow with the Center for Social Justice and is past member of the board of Oklahoma City Pride and Oklahoma City Youth United. He is also a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City.
Executive Chef, Aurora Breakfast, Bar & Backyard
Henry Boudreaux, who recently ended a long tenure at Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Museum Cafe, is now executive chef at Aurora Breakfast, Bar & Backyard, a successful new eatery in 16th Street Plaza District.
“I worked my way up at a relatively young age from prep cook to executive chef at the Museum Cafe,” he said. “My hard work, dedication and willingness to learn, combined with eight years of loyalty and stability, enabled me to rise to the top position.”
He also was co-lead cook at Ludivine, and Boudreaux served as lead cook at Agriturismo Tenuta Antica in Italy for four months in 2011.
Boudreaux received various awards, including second place in Taste of Elegance in 2016 and first place at Artini in 2015.
He has participated in many events, including Chocolate Decadence, Oklahoma Iron Chef, Pork Summit in Napa Valley, Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts, Design Appetite, Tree to Table Benefit and Chef’s Feast.
He has also volunteered for activities with Russell Westbrook’s Why Not? Foundation.
“By bringing locally sourced foods to Oklahoma City and preparing them in new and exciting ways, I help Oklahomans develop a broader palate,” Boudreaux said.
Janine E. Collinge, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus, Dean McGee Eye Institute, University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital
Janine Collinge’s mother inspired her with advice she gave in the family’s kitchen.
“She told me, ‘You can be anything you want to when you grow up,’” said Collinge, who has treated patients in China, Swaziland and Guatemala. “‘Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.’”
Collinge, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Adult Strabismus at Dean McGee Eye Institute and the University of Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and her medical doctorate from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
She completed her ophthalmology residency training at Washington Hospital Center and Georgetown University Hospital and a fellowship in pediatric ophthalmology with Indiana University School of Medicine and received the Edward and Thelma Gaylord Faculty Honor Award in 2016 and the TARFF Resident Feedback Award 2015.
“I live each day with the hope that the relationships I build with families and patients, meaningful beyond measure, and the medical knowledge I foster over my lifetime have the impact of a butterfly effect, living up to the aspirations of a little girl standing in her mother’s kitchen,” she said.
Associate Attorney, Crowe & Dunlevy
Jennifer Lamirand is an associate attorney at Crowe & Dunlevy in Oklahoma City.
She serves as an associate justice for the highest appellate court of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
“Since the justices of the court protect and interpret our tribal law, selection for such a position represents the recognition that the nominated attorney possesses a high level of legal ability,” she said. “It’s quite an honor for the nation to choose me as one such attorney.”
Lamirand received a master’s of law conferred with merit from The London School of Economics and Political Science and a juris doctor cum laude from the The Law School at the University of Notre Dame. She received a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University.
She is the budget officer for the Oklahoma Bar Association Indian Law Section, and she is a member of several other professional groups.
Lamirand is also secretary on the board of directors of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park.
“Shakespeare’s lessons, language and magic transcend time,” she said. “I recognized this fact from the very first performances by Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park I attended at Hafer Park over 20 years ago, and I still believe it today.”
Program Manager, Supportive Services for Veteran Families
John Rorke is program manager of Supportive Services for Veteran Families, which assists hundreds of veterans and their families who experience homelessness.
He received a Veteran of the Week citation from the Oklahoma House of Representatives and Outstanding Teamwork Award from Goodwill.
Rorke started in public service in the Army.
“I have always considered my most successful business achievement in the nonprofit sector to be providing necessary services to those populations, even when community resources are at their leanest,” he said.
Rorke received a master’s degree from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s in social work from Arizona State University. He also obtained a graduate certificate in social entrepreneurship and community development from ASU. His bachelor’s degree is from Oklahoma State University.
He has made presentations and written articles on topics including greening social work education, equine-facilitated psychotherapy, underage drinking diversion and building global estimates of child domestic workers.
He is a field instructor for the University of Oklahoma Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work.
Rorke is a member of the Oklahoma City Homeless Veterans Task Force, the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Oklahoma City and various other organizations.
Director of Development and Operations, Urban Management Inc.
John Ross is the director of development and operations at Urban Management Inc., which operates five restaurants in the OKC metro.
It recently added an 80-person private event space at Packard’s New American Kitchen.
It also is adding a new counter service breakfast and lunch concept, HunnyBunny Biscuit Co., in the Tower Theatre building, 429 NW 23rd St.
“We create and host some wonderful experiences for people, and we love that we get to share in people’s special moments, whether it’s a birthday, anniversary or first date,” Ross said. “We even had a couple that met, got engaged and got married at Packard’s.”
Packard’s has been featured in the Los Angeles Times and on the Food Network.
Ross has hosted many charitable events through Packard’s, including Chef’s Potluck Picnic benefitting Homeless Alliance and Oklahoma Hospitality Foundation’s Thirst for a Cause, which raises money for a hospitality worker with a serious medical need.
Rorke holds a bachelor’s degree in business entrepreneurship from the Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma.
He is on the Oklahoma Restaurant Association’s board of directors and is a merchant liaison for the Midtown OKC Association board of directors.
Joshua A. Busby
Dean of Students, Langston University
Joshua A. Busby is the dean of students at Langston University.
He previously was the university’s director of student life as well as the annual giving officer for the Office of Development and the coordinator of counseling in the Office of Financial Aid.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Langston and a master’s of public affairs from Indiana University, and he is working toward his doctorate of education from Oral Roberts University.
Busby has held many leadership roles at Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church. He is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City.
He is the past president of Oklahoma Lions Service Foundation and the current president of Langston City Lions Club. He received the International Melvin Jones humanitarian service award from Lions Clubs International.
He is the southwestern regional director of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and has been a volunteer basketball and baseball coach at the North Side YMCA.
He served on the planning committee that created ONE OKC: A Northeast Renaissance in 2016. The event won Neighborhood Alliance’s Best Neighborhood Project award.
Joshua is the husband of Kamisha Busby and the father of Cobie (14), Kara (11) and Joshua II (4).
Vice President and Business Relationship Manager, JPMorgan Chase
Joshua Whittington is a vice president and business relationship manager at JPMorgan Chase in Oklahoma City.
He started as a teller when he was 18 years old, and has had various roles in banking.
“In these roles, I have enjoyed developing and mentoring others into their own success,” he said.
He has a passion for the success of his clients.
“Working with businesses of all sorts in all manner of industry in my current role is the most rewarding step in my career,” he said.
Whittington is the treasurer of Norman Addiction Information & Counseling’s board and Norman Music Alliance’s board. The Alliance runs the Norman Music Festival.
He volunteers for Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) at Eisenhower Elementary School, which his son attends. Watch D.O.G.S. is a national initiative that brings fathers and father figures into public schools.
“As a single father, this opportunity has offered valuable insight into my son’s daily life that I otherwise would not have been afforded,” he said.
He is a graduate of Leadership Edmond and Leadership Norman.
Whittington is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and a graduate of Southern Nazarene University.
Attorney, Chesapeake Energy
Lindsey Kanaly is an attorney involved with litigation and the oil and natural gas industry at Chesapeake Energy. She also is a diversity and inclusion champion with Chesapeake.
She helped organize the Women’s March on Oklahoma in January. “That day has inspired me to do what I can every day for the people of my state and elsewhere,” she said.
She serves on the board of Freedom Oklahoma as well as a new national organization, March On, which looks to transform political action nationwide.
Kanaly holds a juris doctorate from Oklahoma City University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma.
When she was 21, she became pregnant with her son, who is now 13, but she continued her studies.
“I didn’t want school to take away from those precious years,” she said. “I would wait until he was asleep to study, sometimes only getting three to four hours of sleep a night. When I graduated law school with my 6-year-old son right beside me, saying he was proud of me, it was the proudest moment of my life,” she said.
Lead Designer and Communications Associate, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center
Luke Atkinson sees himself as an agent of change in Oklahoma City through volunteer service and his work in arts education.
As the lead designer and communications associate at Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, Atkinson works directly with camps, exhibitions and events.
He organizes community outreach events — Make + Take — that bring art projects to children and families. One was held at the Plaza Walls Mural Expo, and another is being planned in collaboration with Metropolitan Library System.
“Luke is one of the most talented designers I’ve had the privilege to work with,” said Oklahoma Contemporary director of communications Lori Brooks. “He’s embraced our mission of providing accessible, inclusive arts experiences to everyone, regardless of socio-economic status.”
Atkinson is vice president of Sunbeam Family Services’ young professionals board, Beacons, and he helped organize its first fundraiser, the Glow For It bowling tournament.
“My personal mission is to improve our community by elevating those less fortunate into positions of equal opportunity,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson has volunteered for TEEM (The Education and Employment Ministry), Pet Food Pantry of Oklahoma, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and Stop Hunger Now.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, and he is working on a master’s of public administration at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Director of Museum Experience, Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum
Marissa Raglin is the director of museum experience for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum.
She also is a visual artist creating ethereal, minimalist collage works on paper using imagery plucked from magazines and books.
Raglin helped create the interactive exhibition Picture Yourself at the museum.
The exhibition was the first investment in the museum in nearly a decade. Raglin said it increased monthly attendance by 60 percent.
America’s Road: The Journey of Route 66, which she helped create, was named the Best Temporary Exhibition in the Frontier Country Marketing Association Awards in 2015.
She has been selected as the 2017-18 Skirvin Paseo Artist Creativity Exposition Artist in Residence at The Skirvin Hilton Oklahoma City. While at The Skirvin, she will create a new body of work and oversee Cut & Paste OK, in which Skirvin guests create their own collage postcards.
She has participated in many exhibitions, including Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition’s (OVAC) 12×12, Allied Arts’ ARTini and Individual Artists of Oklahoma’s (IAO) Red Dot fundraiser.
Raglin volunteers with OVAC and co-chaired Plaza District Festival.
She received a bachelor’s degree and graduated magna cum laude from Oklahoma Baptist University.
Founder and Principal, KIPP OKC South Community Prep
Meg Wheeler is the founding school leader and principal of KIPP OKC South Community Prep, a public charter school for middle schoolers.
The school opened this August in south Oklahoma City.
Wheeler previously was assistant principal and taught writing and social studies at KIPP Reach College Preparatory in northeast Oklahoma City.
As an assistant principal, she helped to lead the school to the highest student achievement outcomes in its 15-year history. One hundred percent of KIPP students qualify for free or reduced-cost lunch.
“We inspire the hearts of our students to deeply know and love themselves and to uplift and push one another,” Wheeler said.
She is the leader of a racial affinity group with Teach for America in Oklahoma City.
Earlier, she was sixth-grade chair of Summit Academy Charter School in Brooklyn through Teach for America.
She was the manager the Harlem RBI youth softball team from 2010 to 2014. She led the team to runner-up and championship accolades in their final two seasons.
She received a bachelor’s degree and graduated summa cum laude from Oklahoma State University and earned a master of arts degree in teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education.
Internship Coordinator, Citizen Potawatomi Nation
Mindee Duffell, internship coordinator at Citizen Potawatomi Nation in Shawnee, helps develop internships, career development programs and employment placement services benefitting both Native Americans and non-Native Americans.
“I have a heart and a passion for helping people realize that they can reach their educational and professional dreams,” she said.
When she started working for the Potawatomi Nation, she did not have a college degree, but she credits her employer for encouraging her to reach that goal.
When Duffell graduated from St. Gregory’s University, she received the Joseph M. Dowd Award, which honors the valedictorian of the graduating class of the College of Continuing Studies.
She was selected as a member of Noek Nmeshomesek, a tribal professional leadership program teaching culture and leadership skills.
Duffell also is active in community groups, including the Youth & Family Resource Center, March of Dimes, Little Olympics, Bikes for Kids and Faith Christian Outreach.
She is a graduate of Leadership Shawnee, and she serves on the board of United Way of Pottawatomie County.
She also serves in leadership positions with the International Association of Workforce Professionals and is on Gordon Cooper Technology Center’s business advisory board.
Superintendent, Harding Charter Preparatory High School
Mylo Miller is the superintendent of Harding Charter Preparatory High School.
The school has been ranked at or near the top nationally by The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and TheBestSchools.org.
It was designated a National Blue Ribbon School in 2013.
As principal, Miller has many roles and duties at Harding Charter Prep.
He made a web-based presentation on civic engagement of students for the University of Oklahoma and Pennsylvania State University.
He also wrote successful grant applications to the Oklahoma State Department of Education and a $60,000 grant application to the Inasmuch Foundation for renovation of the school’s science wing. The Charles and Cassandra Bowen Charitable Foundation provided a $70,000 matching grant.
Miller organizes monthly parent workdays at the school and oversees community leadership projects for students. He coordinates food and donation drives for Make-A-Wish, Hearts for Hearing, City Rescue Mission and the YWCA domestic abuse shelter.
“Harding Charter Preparatory High School represents the outstanding positive outcomes school choice can provide here in Oklahoma,” Miller said.
He received a doctorate in education from the University of Oklahoma, a master’s degree from East Central University and a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University.
Owner, The Black Scintilla
Rachael Gruntmeir is the owner of The Black Scintilla, a boutique in Midtown.
She is most proud of her boutique for carrying sizes small to 3XL and offering free alterations. She is passionate about dressing all shapes and sizes of women while maintaining affordable prices and timeless styles.
Gruntmeir founded the biannual Midtown Walkabout, which encourages residents to get out and explore their own neighborhood while also bringing in a lot of foot traffic.
She is a member of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and Keep It Local. She also is an Adventure Road Travel Partner.
She previously worked as a residential and commercial interior designer.
She organized the first A Dog Day in December fundraiser and deadCenter Film Festival Pass Perks program. She volunteers for Russell Westbrook Why Not? Foundation and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
She was a Yelp Award winner for the Small Business Coast-to-Coast annual gathering in San Francisco and has been featured on Expedia’s website.
She has a marketing degree from Oklahoma State University and a bachelor of fine arts degree in interior design with a minor in art history from the University of Central Oklahoma.
Chief of Staff, Oklahoma City Public Schools
Rebecca Kaye has been the chief of staff at Oklahoma City Public Schools since January.
She and her family moved here from Atlanta, where she was the policy and governance advisor in the office of the superintendent.
In the spring, Kaye helped implement all-central office meetings that created two-way communications throughout the district. Based on feedback from the meetings, she sponsored a team charged with collaborating to improve morale and organizational culture.
“This work is still emerging, but the improvement on our staff’s sense of being valued is already palpable,” she said.
In Atlanta, she was featured on Tantrum!, a podcast featuring original stories and essays about the glory of parenting. She also served as a lay minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta.
She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, a master’s from the Georgia State University Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and an education specialist degree from the University of West Georgia. She is working on a doctorate from Vanderbilt University.
She said her greatest achievement was balancing work on her doctorate with raising her sons, Elliott (8) and Oscar (4).
“I am a lucky woman to have my husband Michael, a math adjunct at OSU-OKC and daddy extraordinaire, as a partner on this journey,” she said.
Singer, Songwriter, Musician, Activist
Samantha Crain is a singer, songwriter, musician and activist.
In 2009, Native American Music Awards honored her with the Songwriter of the Year Award.
Her music has been featured on 90210, HBO’s Hung and many independent films and documentaries, including Barking Water and Unreserved: The Work of Louie Gong.
She appeared on Conan on TBS with First Aid Kit for their filmed performance of “Stay Gold.”
Crain has toured with The Avett Brothers, Langhorne Slim, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Mountain Goats, Murder by Death, Brandi Carlile, William Elliott Whitmore, Josh Ritter, Adrian Edmondson and The Bad Shepherds, Ha Ha Tonka, Deer Tick and many other performers.
She has also produced many of her own recordings. In 2014, she produced the debut record of Oklahoma-based country singer-songwriter Kierston White. The album Don’t Write Love Songs was recorded at Blackwatch Studios in Norman.
In 2015, Crain produced Thought of You a God by the Oklahoma-based band Annie Oakley.
She has released five full-length records and two extended-play records and various recordings on compilations.
Co-founder, Ending Violence Everywhere
Sara Bana is a co-founder of Ending Violence Everywhere (EVE), a coalition seeking change in the culture of violence.
She also is executive director of Civic Services Community Advocacy (CSCA), which serves various people in need.
Her community involvement includes serving as vice chair of Amnesty International Oklahoma City and on the executive board of the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. She is the vice chair of the Police and Community Trust Initiative (PACT).
She has been involved in the YWCA Stand Against Racism series and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast Committee. She chairs the Midwest City Police Community Advisory Board.
She received the State Sen. Connie Johnson Community Advocacy Award from the Oklahoma Black Museum and Performing Arts Center, the Community Advocacy Award from the Police and Community Trust Initiative and Summit and Outstanding Achievement in Human Rights Award from the Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Alliance.
Her family immigrated to the United States from Iran to flee political prosecution following the Iran-Iraq War.
“I believe that encouraging direct civic engagement utilizing our democratic procedures can empower all Americans to feel that their government is of the people, by the people and for the people,” she said.
Operations Coordinator, The Mettise Group; Owner, SkyeRockit Media
Skye Latimer is operations coordinator with The Mettise Group, a business consulting firm.
“The partners in the firm refer to me as the ‘Mettise Magic Maker,” Latimer said. “I am a Jane-of-all-trades office manager, executive assistant, researcher, social media consultant and project manager.”
She also owns SkyeRockit Media, which assists businesses in social media, media relations, customer service and engagement.
She has been active in many organizations, including the Exchange Rotary Oklahoma City, Women Lead Oklahoma, OKC Social, OK Women in Tech, Propel Women’s OKC chapter and the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Wellness Now Coalition. She was also on Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City’s mentor advisory board and the Arise Ministries governing board.
She is the assistant studio manager at Studio 7 and serves as a hip-hop and fitness instructor for adults.
She is the director of innovation and inspiration on the Confidence Con board of directors.
“After attending the debut of Con Con, I was hooked and was asked to be a panelist, emcee and marketing chair,” she said.
Through Worthy of Existing, an online community that promotes women of color and LGBTQ women, she is working on an apparel line.
Social Media Manager, Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau
Susan Riley is the new social media manager for Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. She also keeps busy with other endeavors.
“If you have ever flipped on a local radio station, been to a theater show in the metro area or attended an Oklahoma City Dodgers game, you probably have seen me live and in action,” she said.
She has been the voice of the Del Rancho cowboy, the Braum’s dairy cow and Rene from the Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel and has even appeared on Steve Harvey in a holiday challenge.
“I embraced a vegan lifestyle and strenuous workout regimen. I lost 30 pounds,” she said.
Riley was selected as one of 20 Hilton Socialites for creative thinking and creative use of media and has taught at Oklahoma Children’s Theatre, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, among others.
She has served on the board of directors of Poteet Theatre and the play selection committee for Carpenter Square Theatre.
She attended Oklahoma City University and the University of Central Oklahoma and received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Excelsior College. She continues to work in sales and marketing at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel on a part-time basis.
Founder, Eldorado Energy
Tara Roberts is the founder of Eldorado Energy.
As a child, she would visit the office of her grandfather, William D. Turley, at Transok. Turley died Jan. 25.
“I was fascinated by all the moving parts within the oil and gas industry,” she said. “I often would ask my grandfather if he was the boss, and he would always reply, ‘Yes, and someday you will be too in this industry.’”
Her company acquires non-operational financial interests in oil and gas wells.
In her office, Roberts has a drawing of Turley working on an oil rig.
“I often look at this picture for inspiration and gratitude,” she said. “He was telling me, a child in the ’80s, that someday I would be a leader in a male-driven industry.”
She has run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and joined with other Junior League of Oklahoma City members in creating a running club at Boys & Girls Clubs of Oklahoma County. Club members and Junior League members ran in the Redbud Classic 5K.
Roberts has a master’s degree in energy legal studies with high honors from Oklahoma City University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma.
CEO, Freestyle Creative
Vahid Farzaneh is the CEO of Freestyle Creative, a marketing and advertising agency, formerly Freestyle Marketing + Films.
The company, which was founded in 2007, reached $1.1 million in revenue in 2016.
It has received numerous awards, including Best Short Narrative at the Trail Dance Film Festival and Best Film at deadCenter Film Festival.
Its film The Posthuman Product was shown at Comic-Con International in San Diego and was released in AMC theaters.
It has produced work for the Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Muskogee tribes. Its marketing clients also include Price College of Business’ Gene Rainbolt Graduate School of Business at the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State University Medical Center and Galleria Furniture and Home Creations.
Farzaneh was the executive producer of Kevin Durant: The Speech, which won a Heartland Emmy in 2015.
His family donated more than $1 million to establish the Farzaneh Family Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Oklahoma and donated another $1 million to establish the Farzaneh Family Professorship in Iranian Studies.
Farzaneh graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in film and media studies.
Owner, Scissortail Media
William Stackable is the owner of Scissortail Media, a video production company.
He also is the co-owner of Upward VR, a virtual reality arcade, and of SpringboardVR, a VR software platform.
“I think the stories a community tells helps shape that community, and I’m proud to be part of an amazing group of storytellers in our state,” he said. “I love creating video content that helps people get noticed.”
Scissortail Media has filmed more than 300 videos for businesses and nonprofits in Oklahoma, tech startups in California, aid organizations in the Middle East and the University of Oklahoma.
“Being interested in new media, I got into virtual reality kind of early and felt strongly that it was going to be a revolutionary technology, a new medium for stories and entertainment,” he said.
In order to run their VR arcade, Stackable and his team built custom software and ended up selling it.
“We grew so fast we barely kept up. We were hiring developers left and right,” he said. “We were talking with customers all over the world and trying to not screw something up.”
SpringboardVR now has a team of 17 and serves customers in more than 20 countries.