OCTOBER 19, 2005

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TCC Vision dinner honors leaders in early childhood development


Vision Award 2005 honorees pictured are, from left, front row Bill Doenges, Nancy McDonald, Ruth Ann Fate on behalf of her late husband, Martin Fate, and Robert LaFortune; second row, from left, Pete Churchwell, Rep. Ron Peters, Sen. Ted Fisher, George Kaiser and Leonard Eaton. They were honored for their leadership in developing Oklahoma's national reputation in quality early childhood education Thursday night at the Crowne Plaza Tulsa.

Nine Oklahomans were recognized for their contributions to early childhood education at the Tulsa Community College Vision in Education Leadership Award Dinner Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Crowne Plaza Tulsa.

The annual dinner, organized by the TCC Foundation, benefits programs, grants and scholarships for TCC students, faculty and staff. Stan Lybarger, honorary chair for the dinner, announced during his opening comments that $110,000 had been raised by the Dinner Committee to support student scholarships and programs for students, faculty and staff. This year, a portion of the proceeds also benefited the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness Foundation and its local affiliate, Jump Start. TCC President Dr. Thomas McKeon also announced during the program the launch of TCC’s annual campaign with a $125,000 challenge from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

Each year the TCC Foundation honors an individual in the field of education. This year’s honorees have proven themselves in developing and improving the state’s early childhood education programs. Recipients honored were Martin Fate, posthumously; Leonard Eaton; Bill Doenges; former Mayor Robert LaFortune; George Kaiser; Nancy McDonald; Pete Churchwell; Sen. Ted Fisher; and Rep. Ron Peters.

“A wonderful thing about recognizing visionary leaders in our community is that we take time to reflect on our progress and acknowledge the incredible community in which we live and some of the many people responsible,” said Susan Neal, master of ceremonies, TCC Foundation trustee and city councilor.

The first person recognized was the late Martin Fate. He served as president and CEO of the Public Service Company of Oklahoma until 1995. His wife, Ruth Ann Fate, accepted his award. As chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, he stressed the importance of early childhood education to the community.

Eaton continued Fate’s mission as the next chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. His drive led to the ongoing work of the Tulsa Children’s Coalition comprised of several local agencies. The Coalition worked in the early 1990s to implement the School of the 21 st Century concept.

Doenges has carried the early childhood torch for more than a decade, playing several different roles at both the local and state levels. In addition to serving as finance chair of the new Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness and chairing the Partnership’s foundation, Doenges serves as the first chair of the Tulsa County Partnership for Early Childhood Success.

LaFortune, former Tulsa mayor, is most often acknowledged for seizing a public forum in 1999 and asking former Gov. Frank Keating, “What about early childhood?” Keating soon created a statewide task force to address early childhood education and school readiness needs in the state with LaFortune as a key member.

Kaiser has said he believes many people in this country are still living in poverty. He said in order to fix this problem, the nation needs to focus on the first three years of life. He has dedicated the bulk of his philanthropic dollars to increase the quality and availability of early childhood education in the Tulsa region.

McDonald began her advocacy on behalf of young children more than 30 years ago when she first learned about the poor quality of childcare and especially its impact on poor children. She has played leadership roles in childcare studies and through the Community Service Council.

Churchwell said his commitment to early childhood education comes from an understanding that children are the future workforce. Acting as the president of the Public Service Company and as a civic leader, he has been an advocate for state policies on early childhood education and school readiness.

Fisher was first inspired by the late Martin Fate to assume a leadership role in early childhood education. In 1999, Fisher called for a joint senate/house interim study on early childhood. He later reserved Senate Bill 1 for early childhood education, leading to the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness legislation.

Peters has raised early childhood education awareness to the Republican party, to the Oklahoma House of Representatives and former Gov. Keating. In 2003, his efforts resulted in the passage of legislation creating the Oklahoma State Partnership for School Readiness.

The Vision Dinner is held each year in September to commemorate the College’s opening in September 1970. At that time, it was the first institution of public higher education established in Tulsa.

Contact: Cindy Barton, TCC, 918.595.7885