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Executive Q&A: Canadian Valley superintendent guided by father's words

Executive Q&A: The son of an ice cream maker, Greg Winters, the Canadian Valley Technology Center chief executive, hasn’t forgotten his Mangum roots, nor his father’s advice 30 years ago when he took his first superintendent position in Choctaw.
by Paula Burkes Published: July 13, 2014
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When Greg Winters, chief executive of Canadian Valley Technology Center, took his first superintendent’s job some 30 years ago, his father — who was never a boss and always worked by the hour — gave him these two pieces of advice:

No. 1: Don’t ever act like you’re the boss. “If you’re a good boss, everyone knows it,” his father told him.

No. 2: Don’t ask anyone to do anything you’re not willing to do yourself.

Winters said he’s frequently reflected on that wisdom over his long career in school administration, including — and especially — when an F-5 tornado destroyed the technology center’s El Reno campus on May 31, 2013.

Winters, who was named Canadian Valley superintendent in May 2008, donned his boots and jeans and worked alongside his 260-member faculty and staff to salvage what they could from the campus and be ready by Aug. 15 to resume classes in an old car dealership in Yukon.

Among that campus, one in Chickasha and a third at SW 15 and Czech Hall Road, Canadian Valley serves more than 1,400 students. Winters oversees an annual budget of roughly $43 million.

Winters, 61, recently sat down with The Oklahoman to talk about his life and career. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Tell us about your roots.

A: My father, who’s now deceased, worked as head ice cream maker for Gold Star Dairy and at a gas station on the weekends.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom. She beat ovarian cancer in 1986, after being told she had a 3 percent chance of survival. At 78, she still lives in Mangum, where she’s a frequent substitute teacher.

I have two brothers, who are 18 months and three years younger. Starting from when I was 8 or 9, I worked all night Friday nights with my dad at the plant, filling hundreds of gallons of condensed milk that he’d use to make ice cream the following week. When I was older, we tore down houses together and used the lumber to rebuild and resell frame homes, for which we did all the plumbing and electrical. Later in life, he worked as a truck driver.

Q: What were the highlights of your schooldays?

A: I should’ve taken harder classes, but didn’t. Along with being named the outstanding industrial arts student, I was a shooter on the basketball team, played center field and third on the baseball team, and worked on farms and at gas stations. I played drums in a rock ’n’ roll band, named “The Illusions,” whose members still gather and play some, including for a recent Mangum Alumni Association mixer at Quartz Mountain.

The last few years of high school, I lived with, and ran errands for, my maternal grandmother, who couldn’t drive. She died Jan. 23 of my senior year; 40 years later, my father died suddenly on Jan. 23; and one of my best friends died two years after him on Jan. 23. So, I try to stay safe every Jan. 23.

Q: How’d you meet your wife?

A: We were high school sweethearts, our junior and senior years. I attended Mangum schools and Meme was from Granite, 13 miles away. Her cousin asked my best friend to their prom, and their contrived plan included Meme asking me.

As a warm-up, I asked her to our Student Council picnic beforehand on May 4, which we still celebrate as our first date.

Q: And college?

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: superintendent, Canadian Valley Technology Center

Birth date and childhood home: May 28, 1953; Mangum

Family: Meme, a retired learning disabilities teacher/school counselor and wife of 39 years; sons J.J., 35, and Garrett, 28; daughter Dianna Pritchett, 32; and three granddaughters, ages 2 to 5.

Residence: Piedmont, 5 1/4 acres in the Dc Bar Ranch addition

Education: Oklahoma State University, doctorate in secondary occupational and adult education; University of Oklahoma, master’s in secondary education administration; Southwestern Oklahoma State University, bachelor’s in industrial arts education

Church: St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church in Yukon. He converted to Catholicism when he married.

Civic/professional involvement: He serves on the boards of the Canadian County United Way, Integris Canadian Valley Hospital, Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition and the National Technical Honor Society.

For fun: golfing, reading (most recent download is “The Real Life of Eliot Ness”), helping his children with home remodeling projects, and travel (Next up is Maine in September, but his all-time favorite vacation spot is Ouray, Colo.)

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