Distinguished Alumni Awards
By Holly Bergbower
From an opera singer to an Olympian, the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association recognized some of OSU’s most extraordinary alumni at the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Awards reception on September 18 in the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center. The six alumni were honored at several events, including during the halftime of the football game on September 19. The 2015 recipients of the award are Harry Birdwell, Sarah Coburn, Jan Riggs Cloyde, Linda Parrack Livingstone, Cassie Mitchell and Phil Terry.
More than 260,000 students have graduated from OSU in its 125-year history. Since 1977, 233 graduates have been recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award given out annually by the OSU Alumni Association. The award recognizes alumni who attain distinctive success in their fields, perform outstanding services for their communities, and strive to support the advancement of their alma mater and the OSU Alumni Association.
Harry Birdwell, of Edmond, Oklahoma, graduated from OSU in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. While at OSU, Birdwell served as president of the SGA and was a nominee for Rhodes Scholar. In 1975, he received his Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma.
As an OSU administrator, Birdwell served as chief spokesman and financial officer, vice president for business and external relations, and director of intercollegiate athletics. He was instrumental in integrating OSU-Tulsa into the OSU System and helped secure the finances for numerous campus building and remodeling projects.
Birdwell is the secretary and agency head of Oklahoma Commissioners of Land Office. He is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association, Supreme Court of the United States Bar Association and the vice president and president-elect of Western States Land Commissioners Association.
“Being honored by the Alumni Association was a personal affirmation of my lifelong love affair with OSU,” Birdwell says. “I spent half my professional career working for the university. I am grateful for this honor. It will always be a treasure to me. I am truly humbled.”
Jan Riggs Cloyde, of Los Angeles, graduated from OSU in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and in 1974 with a master’s degree in student personnel and guidance. Cloyde enjoyed a career in management with several top 20 banks. She first retired from City National Bank in Los Angeles in 2006. She co-founded a community bank after raising $350 million in the private equity markets in 2009. She served as its president and a board member until her second retirement in 2011. Cloyde has served on and led a number of nonprofit boards, including the Graziadio Board of Advisors at Pepperdine University, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and the National Breast Cancer Coalition President’s Council. Today, she serves on the council of Women for OSU and the OSU Foundation Board of Governors. She is a member of the President’s Fellows and a lifetime member of the OSU Alumni Association.
“Even though there are many who deserve this recognition, it was a privilege to be honored by OSU, where I spent an important, happy and foundational part of my life,” Cloyde says. “I always enjoy being back on campus and look forward to contributing to our students.”
Sarah Coburn, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduated from OSU in 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in music education. She earned a master’s degree in music with an emphasis in vocal music from Oklahoma City University. Coburn, an operatic soprano, captivates audiences with her “precision placement, mercury speed and gorgeous liquid tone,” according to The Globe and Mail, a Toronto newspaper. Career highlights include performing alongside Placido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera in Tan Dun’s The First Emperor and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Los Angeles Opera in Tamerlano. Coburn has also graced the stages of the Vienna State Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Boston Lyric Opera, the Cincinnati Opera and the Welsh National Opera. She has appeared in several international festivals, including the Tivoli Festival in Copenhagen. This year, Coburn released an album, Oh, When I Dream. Coburn has received awards from the George London Foundation, the Richard Tucker Foundation, the Jensen Foundation, the Liederkranz Foundation and the Metropolitan Opera National Council.
“I am incredibly honored to receive this award, especially in light of the major achievements, service and leadership of my fellow award recipients,” Coburn says. “The rigorous educational requirements that I experienced in the OSU music department, as well as the exposure to the joy of performing, gave me a wonderful start to my continuing education and career.”
Linda Parrack Livingstone, of Falls Church, Virginia, completed her bachelor’s degree in 1982 in economics and management while playing basketball for OSU. She obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate in business administration in 1983 and 1992, respectively. In 1991, Livingstone began her academic career as an assistant professor of management at Baylor University, going on to become associate dean of graduate programs. She became the first female dean of Pepperdine University’s Graziado School of Business in 2002 and is currently dean of the school of business at George Washington University. Livingstone is the author of several business textbooks and has been published in numerous academic journals. She serves on the board of directors of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and was previously on the board of the Graduate Management Admissions Council.
“Being recognized as a Distinguished Alumni was a humbling and moving experience,” Livingstone says. “My time at OSU and the people who have touched my life from OSU have had a profound influence on my life. I am deeply grateful for the tremendous education I received and for the lifelong friendships I have because of OSU.”
Cassie Mitchell, of Atlanta, graduated from OSU in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. At OSU, she was a national Goldwater Scholar and founded Chemkidz, a program that teaches chemical engineering principles to elementary students. Mitchell went on to receive a doctorate in biomedical engineering with an emphasis in neuroengineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. She is a research engineer and professor in biomedical engineering at Georgia Institute of Technology, where she predicts disease mechanisms, prognosis and potential outcomes. Mitchell competed with the 2012 London USA Paralympic Track and Field team in three events and placed fourth in all three. She is in training for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Paralympics. Mitchell volunteers as a mentor for patients at the Shepherd Center Spinal Cord and Brain Rehabilitation Hospital.
“To be selected by my OSU family for the Distinguished Alumni Award is one of the greatest honors of my life,” Mitchell says. “It is a tribute to all the wonderful family, friends, teachers, mentors and students who enriched my life to help me overcome seemingly impossible odds, turning tragedy into triumph. I am so very thankful to be selected for this tremendous honor.”
Phil Terry, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, graduated from OSU in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He began his career as an engineer with Mobil Oil Corp. and subsequently served in management and executive positions with several public and private energy companies. In 2003, Terry joined Arena Resources Inc., a small Tulsa public company, where he later served as president, chief operating officer and chief executive officer until 2010 when Arena merged with another public energy company. He went on to co-found Capstone Natural Resources LLC in 2011 and served as its chairman and CEO. Terry co-founded Capstone Natural Resources II in 2015 and serves as its chairman. He is a registered professional petroleum engineer and a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He now serves as an OSU Foundation trustee and sits on the budget and governance committees.
“Receiving the Distinguished Alumni Award is a tremendous honor,” Terry says. “I feel extremely humbled to be recognized by my alma mater, Oklahoma State University.”
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Uploaded December 5, 2015