The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a nonprofit that recognizes and encourages excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, has added five members to its Board of Trustees.
Appointed to serve three-year terms are Shoney Blake, counsel at Pipestem Law, Tulsa; Patsy Mann, retired educator, Checotah; Laura Reed, retired educator, Foraker; Leonelle E. Thompson, manager of Early Career Development at Williams, Tulsa; and Dr. Melissa Woolridge, principal of Booker T. Washington High School, Tulsa.
“The foundation is truly honored to welcome this group of incredible community leaders to our board,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the foundation. “Their knowledge and enthusiasm will be invaluable to us, and we look forward to collaborating with them.”
One of the keys to the foundation’s success is the leadership of its 140 trustees. These leaders in business, education and public service represent every region of the state and help promote the foundation’s mission and its programs.
The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence was founded in 1985 by then U.S. Sen. David L. Boren to strengthen support for public education in Oklahoma. Through its flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation presents $175,000 annually to honor outstanding public school students and educators. The foundation’s Oklahoma School Foundations Network provides free training, resources and networking opportunities to new and established school foundations.
Among its other initiatives, the foundation coordinates a summer fellowship program to send Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. Through its statewide mentoring initiative, the foundation promotes quality youth mentoring as a positive step toward academic success.
More Information on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence’s New Trustees
Shoney Blake, Tulsa: A citizen of the Choctaw Nation, Shoney Blake practices Federal Indian and tribal law at Pipestem Law, P.C. where she has represented clients in federal litigation and co-authored amicus briefs on behalf of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center and the National Congress of American Indians at the U.S. Supreme Court and in federal appellate and district courts. Prior to joining Pipestem Law, Blake served as the Resident Fellow of Muwekma-Tah-Ruk, Stanford University’s American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander theme house where she focused on building a residential community supportive of resident and student community members’ academic and emotional needs and on ensuring continuation of community support post-graduation by creating opportunities for undergraduates to connect with indigenous alumni. A 2002 Academic All-State alumna, Blake serves on the boards of the Stanford Indigenous Alumni Association and Tulsa Literary Coalition. She is also a member of Stanford University’s Multicultural Hall of Fame.
Patsy Mann, Checotah: Patsy Mann is retired from 35 years of teaching English in Oklahoma public schools. The last 27 were spent teaching at Checotah High School, from which she graduated. She also taught in Henryetta and Oktaha. Mann earned a master’s degree from Northeastern Oklahoma State University. Mann earned her National Board Certification in teaching and served as president of Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English. She was honored three times as district Teacher of the Year at Checotah and once at Oktaha. She was a finalist for Oklahoma Teacher of the Year in 1994-95, which gave her the opportunity to attend Goals 2000 in Washington, D.C., and International Space Camp. The VFW named her secondary Teacher of the Year for Oklahoma in 2000. She was named an Educator of Distinction by the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation. Mann has also been a finalist for OFE’s Medal for Excellence Award in secondary teaching and has attended the foundation’s Academic Awards Banquet multiple times as an honored teacher guest for Academic All-Staters. Among her many volunteer activities, Mann serves on the board of the Checotah Foundation for Academic Excellence.
Laura Reed, Foraker: Laura Reed comes from a family of educators. She taught at Ponca City High School before moving to the ranch to work with her husband. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and a master’s degree from Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Educational Leadership. Before teaching, Reed also worked as the coordinator for High School and College Relations at Northern Oklahoma College. In the evenings, Reed also taught GED courses as well as English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) classes with Pioneer Technology Center in Ponca City. Reed is a member of Pawhuska United Methodist Church and active in her PEO chapter. Reed and her husband Taylor have two children, Gentry (8) and Gideon (4). Reed spends her time now volunteering and supporting Pawhuska Public Schools, where her children attend.
Leonelle E. Thompson, Tulsa: Leonelle Thompson is the manager of Early Career Development at Williams in Tulsa. She leads the group that is responsible for university recruiting, the internship and new hire rotational programs, and the learning and development of young talent who begin their career at Williams. Thompson graduated in 2004 with her BSBA in Accounting and in 2005 with an MBA from the University of Tulsa. She spent almost 13 years in the oil and gas industry with ConocoPhillips and with QuikTrip in a variety of roles including taxation and financial accounting, revenue accounting, and corporate recruiting and training. Prior to her current role, Thompson served as assistant dean and director of the Business Career Center in the Collins College of Business at the University of Tulsa and director of Career and Professional Development at Langston University. Thompson is a member of MOSAIC, the Tulsa Regional Chamber’s diversity business council. She also serves on the development committee for KIPP Tulsa and is a board member for CityYear Tulsa and the Thunder Fellows Program, which strives to introduce underrepresented students to the world of STEM.
Dr. Melissa Woolridge, Tulsa: Melissa Woolridge, Ph.D. has been principal of Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa since 2017. Prior to being appointed the school leader of her alma mater, Dr. Woolridge served as the principal of George Washington Carver Middle School for eight years. Most of Dr. Woolridge’s career in K-12 education has been with Tulsa Public Schools where she has served as a classroom teacher, dean of students, principal intern, and assistant principal. During her tenure at George Washington Carver Middle School, the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School and Dr. Woolridge was named a finalist for Oklahoma Middle School Principal of the Year. Dr. Woolridge has also served as a college science instructor and, prior to academia, served as a Virology Laboratory technician for the Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Woolridge and her husband Michael are the proud parents of two daughters, Morgan, a Ph.D. candidate, and Michelle, a 2022 Oklahoma Academic All-State Scholar and current Stamps Scholar at the University of Missouri.