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Oklahoma native and Victoria's Secret CEO Sharen Jester Turney to speak at OU symposium

Sharen Jester Turney grew up on a farm near Ardmore — today, she's one of the most respected women in business and fashion. Turney will deliver a luncheon address at a symposium hosted by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the University of Oklahoma, Turney's alma mater.
BY Heather Warlick hwarlick@opubco.com Modified: April 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm •  Published: April 9, 2013

But it was actually getting out to see the world, experiencing new cultures and people that really broadened Turney's horizons.

“Even when I think back when I was graduating from college, I just think what I lacked was that broad experience,” she said. “I think kids today have such an opportunity to be exposed to so much more than I was at that time, that now, you can see all the wonderful opportunities in front of you.”

And, perhaps accidentally, Turney's career led her to fashion in 1979 at Foley's.

From there, she went to Byer California. In 1999, she landed the title CEO and president at NM Direct (Nieman Marcus).

Then she was snagged by Victoria's Secret Direct, the brand's catalog and e-commerce arm, which she led to become one of the world's largest direct marketers of women's lingerie and apparel.

Turney was the recipient of the 2009 Hug Award, an honor given to individuals in the fashion industry “with a heart.” In 2005, she received the Dr. Catherine White Achievement Award from HeartShare Human Services, which promotes self-sufficiency for more than 16,000 children, adults and families throughout New York. Also in 2005, Turney was inducted into the Hall of Fame Business of Education at OU.

The secret is balance

When you're an exceptionally busy jet-setter like Turney, balancing a huge career, a family, philanthropic work and just taking care of yourself becomes a matter of prioritizing.

“I get my calendar out at the beginning of the year and my son's stuff — whether he was in grade school, kindergarten — his stuff went on my calendar first. If he had a play or parent-teacher (conference) or his spring break, I really tailored mine around his calendar so I could be there for him when it mattered. You just have to make the decision and you have to be very clear within your calendar about making time to be with family.

“When I'm with my family, I really try to turn everything off and be there now, and be in the moment,” Turney said.

“The job will still be there when I go in.”

Since her son is now off to college, Turney said she's got a little more time to do things for herself. She gets lost in books — she's been reading “The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen — A Woman's Guide to Living & Leading in an Illogical World,” by Barb Stegeman. She loves mysteries and biographies, and makes time to exercise in the mornings.

“I've been playing a little tennis and I'm still lousy, but it's such a release for me,” Turney said.

She may not be as good at wrangling a tennis racket as she was at herding cattle with her dad on the farm, but Turney seems well in control of all other aspects of her life.

“I think the most important thing is stay curious, be a lifelong learner, make sure you balance your time and that you actually take time to restore. That's the most important thing. To keep up on your mood elevator and stay happy. The way to do that is by taking care of yourself.”

And while her career and family life soar, Turney is still grounded firmly with two feet on the ground. Her proudest accomplishment, by far, she said, is how well her son has turned out.

“He is just grown up to be one of the most compassionate young men that I know and I'm very proud of him, his values, his discipline,” Turney said. “I think that he's got to be my best accomplishment.”


How do you give back? Giving back is not just money. It's time, it's energy, it's giving a helping hand.”

Sharen Jester Turney,
Ardmore native and CEO of Victoria's Secret

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