Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces New Board Members

Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Announces New Board Members

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, a statewide charitable organization that recognizes and encourages academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools, has announced the addition of 14 new members to its Board of Trustees.

Appointed to serve three-year terms are Matt Trentham, vice president and branch manager, Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma, BALKO; Terry Davidson, retired superintendent, COMANCHE; Jerrod Murr, professional speaker, Paradigm Shift, MUSKOGEE; Erika Wright, president, Noble Public Schools Foundation for Academic Excellence, NOBLE; Emily Virgin, minority leader, Oklahoma House of Representatives, NORMAN; Aletha Burrage, retired educator, OKLAHOMA CITY; Corinne Simon, corporate counsel, Ascent Resources, OKLAHOMA CITY; Alyson Willis, physician, SSM Health, OKLAHOMA CITY; Jason F. Kirksey, chief diversity officer, Oklahoma State University, STILLWATER; Ed Fite, vice president of water quality, Grand River Dam Authority, TAHLEQUAH; Diane Eason Contreras, director of immigrant & refugee services, YWCA Tulsa, Stephanie Horne, former director, Owasso Education Foundation, TULSA; John Waldron, Oklahoma House of Representatives, District 77, TULSA; and Dayna Rowe, executive director of external affairs, Redlands Community College, YUKON.

Five of the new trustees – Contreras, Murr, Trentham, Virgin, and Willis – received Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Awards when they were high school seniors. Two of the new trustees – Davidson and Waldron – received the foundation’s Medal for Excellence Awards recognizing their innovation and impact as outstanding educators.

“It is our honor to welcome such exemplary community leaders to our Board of Trustees,” said Emily Stratton, executive director of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. “Our foundation and our commitment to quality public education in Oklahoma will be strengthened by their talents and contributions, and we look forward to their partnership with us.” 

One of the keys to the foundation’s success is the leadership of its 180 trustees. They are leaders in business, education and public service, who 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 has presented more than $5 million in cash awards to honor outstanding public school students and educators. Through its Oklahoma School Foundations Network, the foundation provides training and networking opportunities to more than 200 public education foundations across the state.

Among its other initiatives, the Foundation for Excellence 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.

The foundation partners with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities for teachers in locations around the world. This year, the foundation launched the Teachers of English Learners Pilot Project, an online learning and networking platform to support classroom teachers in elementary schools with high enrollment of English Learners.

Since 1987, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its partners have invested more than $12.1 million in teacher grants, scholarships and awards directly benefiting Oklahoma public school teachers and students.


(EDITORS: New trustees are listed below by hometown.)

BALKO – Matt Trentham is vice president and branch manager of Farm Credit of Western Oklahoma. He is chairman of the board of directors for the Baptist Village Communities and a member of the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association, Oklahoma Farm Bureau, the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association, and the National Rifle Association. He was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 2000.

COMANCHE – Terry Davidson is retired superintendent of Comanche Public Schools, where he served 24 years. He is currently serving as part-time finance director for the district. Davidson received the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Elementary/Secondary Administration in 2010 and the Superintendent of the Year Award from the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators in 2012.

MUSKOGEE – Jerrod Murr is a speaker, leadership trainer and cultural entrepreneur. He was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 2000 and graduated from Northeastern State University. He is the founder and chief executive officer of Paradigm Shift, a leadership training and development company. He serves on the advisory board for the Salvation Army and was named a Partner Expert for The Forge, a business startup incubator administered by the Tulsa Regional Chamber.

NOBLE – Erika Wright is an architectural consultant for Burgess Company. She is currently the president of the Noble Public Schools Foundation and is a former member of the Noble Public Schools Board of Education. She is also secretary and den leader for Cub Scouts, Noble Pack 222.

NORMAN – Emily Virgin is a state representative and minority leader for the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She is an active member of the Oklahoma Bar Association. She serves on the boards of Bridges of Norman and Human Rights for Kids. She is a past board member of the Norman Arts Council and Thunderbird Clubhouse. Virgin was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence in 2005 as an Academic All-Stater.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Aletha Burrage is a retired educator and a member of the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association. She is also a board member of the Semple Family Museum of Native American Art located on the campus of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant.

Corinne Simon is corporate counsel for Ascent Resources, an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, the Oklahoma City Bar Association, the Energy and Mineral Law Foundation, and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association. She currently serves on the Wilson Elementary PTA and the Junior League of Oklahoma City. In addition, she is a mentor for Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Alyson Willis is a physician at SSM Health St. Anthony. She is a member of the American College of Osteopathic Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Osteopathic Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. She is also a participant in the Oklahoma County Medical Society Leadership Academy. Willis received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Academic All-State Award in 2000.

STILLWATER – Jason F. Kirksey is vice president for institutional diversity and the chief diversity officer at Oklahoma State University. He is also an associate professor in the university’s Department of Political Science and is the principal investigator for the Oklahoma Lois Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, designed to increase the number of minority STEM graduates. Under his leadership, OSU has significantly increased enrollment and graduation rates of students of color. In 2014, he pioneered a $6.4 million capital campaign that resulted in 50 new privately endowed scholarships focused on diversity and inclusion. He currently serves on the board of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education and the Oklahoma Diversity Officers and Practitioners Consortium.

TAHLEQUAH – Ed Fite is vice president for Rivers Operations and Water Quality with the Grand River Dam Authority, having previously served 30 years as the administrator for the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission. He serves as president of Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and the Midwest Chapter-River Management Society. In addition, he is active on the boards of Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission, the Solid Waste Research Institute of Northeast Oklahoma and the Illinois River Watershed Partnership. A co-founding member of Save the Illinois River, Fite instructs swift water rescue technicians and is a floodplain manager. He is also active in the Tahlequah Kiwanis Club.      

TULSA – Diane Eason Contreras is the director of immigrant and refugee services at YWCA Tulsa. She is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, Tulsa County Bar Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association and the OU Alumni Association. She was selected by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence as an Academic All-Stater in 1996.

Stephanie Horne is former director of the Owasso Education Foundaton and an active community volunteer. She a member of the American Indian Science & Engineering Group and the American Legion. She is active in Hunger Free Oklahoma, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, Junior League and the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.

John Waldron is a state representative with the Oklahoma House of Representatives and a member of the House Democratic Caucus. A former history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, he is a member of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association and the Oklahoma Educators Association. Waldron received the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence Medal for Excellence in Secondary Teaching in 2013.

YUKON – Dayna Rowe is the executive director of external affairs for Redlands Community College. Prior to joining Redlands, she served as Communications and Program Outreach Specialist for the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. Rowe is a member of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Communicators Council, the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association, and the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations. She is also a graduate of Leadership Canadian County and Leadership El Reno.