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Retreat Speakers

Paul SechristPaul Sechrist is the president of Oklahoma City Community College, a position he has held since 2005. OCCC is one of the most successful and largest single-campus community colleges in the nation, serving more than 22,000 degree-seeking and 10,000 non-credit students each year.

Sechrist has been a part of the administration of OCCC since 1995. Prior to being appointed president, he served as provost, vice president for academic affairs and dean of business and computer technology. Before coming to OCCC, he held faculty and academic leadership positions at Southern Nazarene University, including dean of external programs (now adult studies). He began his long career in education as a junior high and mid-high teacher.

Sechrist serves on numerous national, state and local boards, including the board of trustees of the College Board, headquartered in New York. He served as chair of the trustees from 2010-12. He is also a member of the board of directors of the United Way of Central Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Fair and Southwest Integris Medical Center. In 2011, he was named the Most Admired CEO in Oklahoma in the not-for-profit category. 

Sechrist holds a doctorate in communication from the University of Oklahoma and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Southern Nazarene University.

Mike KnoppMike Knopp's passion for rowing and paddling and a vision for bringing national and international sports to the Oklahoma River have been the driving force behind his leadership in developing the Oklahoma City rowing community, the Chesapeake Boathouse, national and international sporting events, and ultimately, the master plan development of the Oklahoma River.

Originally a practicing attorney, Knopp left his legal career in 2003 to establish the Oklahoma City University varsity rowing program and assume the position of executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation. Bringing corporate, civic and community leaders together, Knopp has led multiple Oklahoma River initiatives.

Knopp's professional and community positions have included Oklahoma County assistant district attorney; general counsel, Federal Aviation Administration; president and founder, Oklahoma Association for Rowing; head men’s and women’s rowing coach, OCU; board member, Bricktown Association, Leadership Oklahoma City, Downtown Rotary Club and the USA Canoe/Kayak Sprint Governance Committee; Last Frontier Council Executive Board Member, Boy Scouts of America; and den leader, Cub Scouts.

Knopp has been recognized with numerous awards and recognitions, including OCU Employee of the Year, the Oklahoma City Business Record Forty Under Forty Award, the Journal Record Achievers Under Forty Award, Leadership OKC Class XXV, the 2009 March of Dimes Headliner Special Award, the 2008 Harry Parry Award for Foundation Excellence, the 2012 U.S. Rowing Jack Kelly Award and the Neil Horton Award.

Knopp holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Oklahoma State University and a juris doctorate from OU.

Julie KnutsonJulie Knutson is a native Oklahoman who is president and CEO of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals (The Oklahoma Academy), a private, nonpartisan organization that provides evidence-based research on public policy issues facing the state, raises awareness on the issues and engages citizens in civil discussion and action on the consensus recommendations developed from its annual Town Hall Conference. She has been CEO since 1987.

Knutson has been and continues to be very active in several organizations. She is chairman of the Advisory Commission for Certified Healthy Communities and the Certified Healthy Businesses program. She serves as a board member of Great Expectations and on the University of Central Oklahoma's President’s Advisory Council. She is an advisory board member of N.E.W. Leadership for Women with the Carl Albert Center and is a member of the Norman Chamber, the State Chamber of Oklahoma and the Tulsa Region Chamber. She is active with the Southern Growth Policies Board, where she is a member of the Council on Communities in the South. She volunteers to tutor children in reading and social studies and volunteers annually for the Festival of the Arts in Oklahoma City.  The Journal Record selected her as one of the Top 50 Corporate Women in Oklahoma in 1997 and in 2006. She was recognized as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs in February 2011.

Knutson has served in various capacities with The State Chamber of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Counseling Association, the Midwest Region of the American Counseling Association, the National Licensure Committee for the American Counseling Association, the Advisory Committee for the Oklahoma State Department of Education to implement the AIDS curriculum in Oklahoma’s public schools and the SDE task force on Middle Level Education Development.  She was selected as a member of Leadership Oklahoma Class II and subsequently served on their board of directors for three years. She was also selected as a member of Leadership Oklahoma City Class XV and served three years on their board. She served on the boards for LINK Norman, the Myriad Gardens, the University of Oklahoma College of Education and the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth.

Knutson is certified in scenario thinking and planning and conducts seminars and workshops with private and public groups utilizing a scenario-planning approach to strategic planning. She also has conducted several workshops on leadership skills, effective communication, decision making, goal setting and government relations.   

Knutson received a Bachelor of Science degree in education (emphasis on English and debate) and a Master of Arts degree in counseling psychology from The University of Tulsa.