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Evening Of Excellence honorees selected by OU medical alumni

The University of Oklahoma College of Medicine will celebrate three individuals and an institution during its 2013 Evening of Excellence on Jan. 31.
FROM STAFF REPORTS Published: January 13, 2013

The University of Oklahoma College of medicine will celebrate a physician, a philanthropic couple and an institution during the 2013 Evening of Excellence on Jan. 31.

The dinner, presented by the college's Alumni Association, will be at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63.

Honorees are aerobics pioneer Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper; philanthropists Peggy and Charles Stephenson and the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, according to a news release from the college.

Master of ceremonies at the black-tie dinner will be Dr. M. DeWayne Andrews, senior vice president and provost, executive dean, College of Medicine.

Proceeds benefit the College of Medicine's Research Fund, which includes administration of a seed grant program to help scientists who are trying to make important medical breakthroughs. More than $2.3 million in small seed grants to 129 junior investigators have been awarded since 1985 from proceeds of the annual Evening of Excellence, a news release from the college noted. This investment has generated more than $100 million dollars in grants and contracts to these young scientists and helped spark the development of Oklahoma's biomedical industry, the release said.

Here is more about each honoree:

Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper,

Dean's Award for Distinguished Medical Service

Cooper, a preventive medicine pioneer known as the “father of aerobics,” has spent his lifetime inspiring people to prevent disease through living healthy lives. An Oklahoma native, Cooper earned his bachelor's of science degree from the University of Oklahoma and his medical degree from the OU College of Medicine, the news release said. He also received a master of public health degree from the Harvard University School of Public Health. He is certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

During Cooper's 13 years of service with the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, he served as a flight surgeon and director of the Aerospace Medical Laboratory in San Antonio. He worked with NASA to help create the conditioning program that prepares astronauts for space as well as an in-flight anti-deconditioning program used to keep astronauts active aboard spacecraft.

Cooper's work with the military and NASA launched his aerobics work, but it was his own health crisis that made it personal. While water skiing at the age of 29, he thought he was having a heart attack. The doctor told him he was simply out of shape, having gained 40 pounds and becoming inactive. The experience catapulted the young physician to lose weight and run his first marathon, the Boston Marathon, one year later.

In 1970, Cooper founded Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, where he serves as chairman of seven health and wellness companies. He also founded The Cooper Institute, a research and education nonprofit organization with locations in Dallas and McKinney, Texas. Cooper has written 19 books dealing with health and has been active in the fight against childhood obesity.

Peggy and Charles Stephenson,

Dean's Award for Distinguished Community Service

The Stephensons grew up in a small town in southeast Oklahoma where they were childhood sweethearts and married while he was attending OU, according to the news release. They have been married 55 years and are partners in all aspects of their life: family, religion, work and charitable activities.

He graduated from OU in 1959 with a bachelor's of science degree in Petroleum Engineering. He served as an officer in the U.S. Army and, after discharge, has spent the last 53 years in the oil and gas industry. In 1960, he joined Amerada Petroleum Corp., serving in various engineering and management positions until becoming manager of the engineering.

Owner and president of privately-held Andover Oil Company between 1973 and 1982, he founded in 1983 Vintage Petroleum, Inc., an independent energy company based in Tulsa. In 1990, it became a public company with its stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange and Stephenson as board chairman, president and CEO. The company grew from three people to more than 750 employees before Occidental Petroleum acquired it in January 2066.

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