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.
The Stephensons have been active in many community affairs and boards. He has served on the boards of the Salvation Army, Indian Nations Council of the Boy Scouts and Philbrook Art Museum. He served as the capital campaign chairman for construction of the new headquarters building for the Indian Nations Council and has served as president of the Council.
He also sits on boards at the University of Tulsa.
His wife is executive director of the Charles and Peggy Stephenson Family Foundation that provides support for various church, community, education and health programs in Tulsa and throughout the state. She also comanages their personal philanthropic activities which, combined with the Family Foundation, support projects that make significant differences such as the Stephenson Research and Technology Center and the Stephenson Life Science Research Center on OU's rapidly growing Research Campus. Their efforts also support the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City.
She volunteers her time with First Presbyterian Church, American Red Cross, Cystic Fibrosis, American Cancer Society, Philbrook and Girl Scouts.
Both have received numerous awards for their service as well as honoree degrees for their services.
Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust,
Distinguished Oklahoma Institution
A strong scientific, evidence-based foundation is at the heart of the programs funded by the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the release noted. Created in 2000 by a voter-approved constitutional amendment, the trust has used payments from the 1998 settlement agreement from a multistate lawsuit against the tobacco industry to invest in research, prevention and opportunities to improve the health of Oklahomans.
The trust's prevention efforts include the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, which has coached nearly 37,000 Oklahomans a year to quit using tobacco. Prevention efforts also include community coalitions that work to create healthier environments by promoting policy and cultural change at the local level by partnering with local community leaders. The work has led to nearly 270 schools that are tobacco free and nearly 80 communities that have adopted clean indoor ordinances to protect the public from secondhand smoke. Nutrition and fitness grants are in the first year of work and will be focusing on improving health and wellness in schools, businesses and communities.
The board of directors has committed to deepening its research investments. Research efforts for the trust began in 2008, when the board allocated $5 million to fund the Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center within the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center. The mission of the research center is to fund researchers from institutions and organizations throughout Oklahoma to conduct behavioral and biomedical research in cancer and tobacco-related diseases.
More recently, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust expanded its role as a research partner to underwrite efforts to attract and sustain world-class scientists to the Stephenson Cancer Center and the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research.
At the Stephenson Cancer Center, the trust has committed $30.2 million over five years to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Cancer Research Program to enhance and accelerate cancer research in the state. An important part of this program is the trust's Phase I Program, which provides cancer patients with early access to emerging therapies. In most cases, standard treatments have failed and new personalized therapies offer hope for those battling cancer.
In 2009, the trust made a $9.5 million investment in the Oklahoma Center for Adult Stem Cell Research, which is collaboratively governed by the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. A portion of the trust's investment helps fund grants that allow scientists to focus on research that could eventually use stem cells to repair tissues damaged from a tobacco-related disease.
At the Evening of Excellence, Dr. James D. Miller will present the Stephensons; T. Boone Pickens, CEO of BP Capital, will present Cooper; and Andrews will present the third award to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, represented by Casey Killblane, board vice chairman.