20 Sooner Women Who Empower & Inspire
In honor of International Women's Day, meet some of the Sooner women who made The University of Oklahoma what it is today.
Molly Shi Boren
First up is our beloved first lady. A woman of firsts, Molly Shi Boren has been trailblazing for women in Oklahoma and our campus. She was the first woman to serve as both the First Lady of the State of Oklahoma and First Lady of the University of Oklahoma. In addition she was also the first woman ever to serve on the board of trustees of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the first woman elected to the Board of Directors of Ada’s Chamber of Commerce. In 2004, she was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She's also the driving force behind the beautification of OU's truly stunning campus.
Blessing Anthony Nyong Ikpa
Blessing Anthony Nyong Ikpa recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in Criminology - Sociology with three minors in Women's and Gender Studies, Human Relations and International Studies. She is passionate about social justice, human rights and global affairs. Blessing has experience in administration, event planning, the non-profit sector, networking and research.
Blessing is a graduate student at American University's School of International Service in the Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs program.
She completed her Senior Honors Thesis and OU McNair Scholars research titled: "Defining the Concept of Intersectionality Within Academia," which focused on the experiences of Black female faculty in academia. She also presented her research at numerous conferences on race and education.
"There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure." - Paulo Coelho
Debbie was the first to hold the Chief Holistic Officer title for Publicis Worldwide. Debbie also held the position of EVP, Global Integration Director for Grey Global Group where she led the winning pitch team for the Oracle Corporation global account—re-launching the brand campaign in 40 countries. Her proven ability to build, run and grow an agency resulted in moving the business from a 33% loss to an 18% profit in two years.
Debbie is now a professor and the Strategic Communication Area Head for Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications, as well as a lifetime mentor to any student she's ever encountered.
AdWoman. Host. Writer. Foodie. Combining business savvy with creativity, Tammy La is an expert in online marketing and social media. An entrepreneur, she was an early employee and helped launch Grubhub.com in Los Angeles. Behind her own foodie brand, find her on Twitter @TammyLalaland, and is an expert in the food space.
Born in a refugee camp in Indonesia, but came fresh off the boat to grow up in a Chinese restaurant in Oklahoma, later graduating from OU with degrees in Business and Journalism!
She cooks with heart and constantly makes our mouths water.
Karen and Ally Renfroe
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Karen is Executive Director of the OU President's Associates and Ally is a recent Human Relations and Psychology grad!
This mom and daughter duo show us what the Sooner Family is all about: love, spirit and the home you have now and forever when you attend The University of Oklahoma.
Lamis is an international student from Cairo, Egypt studying International Studies. She decided to come to OU because she already had a lot of friends who came to OU ahead of her. "I asked them about their experience and all of them had very positive reviews and ideas about how their life is at OU when it comes to academics, friendship and the resources at the University." She goes on to say, "I haven't had any problems even though I'm wearing a hijab. I look different. No one is like, 'oh no your friend, don't bring that person. She looks weird.' Everyone was excited about knowing if I have the same celebrations in my country or not. What do you do there? They all try to include me." Even though she thought this was a huge university and she'd get lost, she quickly made friends and knows people every where she goes.
Louise B. Moore
OU Class of 1926
Louise B. Moore was a Journalism Professor at the University of Oklahoma Journalism School and became Faculty Adviser to The Oklahoma Daily in 1952, serving in that position for 19 years. She had a tremendous impact on students who majored in journalism and worked on the student paper.
"Mrs. Moore left us a lifetime legacy of high professional ethics, accuracy and fairness as well as personal courage, loyalty and friendship. To have her name prominently preserved in the new J-building can inspire OU's future journalists to embrace the qualities she held dear," said Carol Burr, who served as editor of The Daily in fall 1958.
An Oklahoma native, Mary studied Fine Arts from the Weitzenhoffer Department of Musical Theatre at the University of Oklahoma with a minor in political science.
While still at the University, Mary was president of the University of Oklahoma Student Association. Her political prowess led her to the White House as a presidential appointee. The Office of the First Lady invited her to sing for the White House Holiday Season as the featured soloist. She also starred in ‘S Wonderful Gershwin Tunes at Westchester Broadway in 2012 where a review from Woman Around Town raved, “The audience cheers after every song she sings.” Back at OU, we’re still cheering for you, Mary!
Head softball coach at the University of Oklahoma since 1995, Patricia M. “Patty” Gasso led the softball team to a National Championship in 2000, 2013, and 2016. After the championship in 2000, she built the Sooners into a national softball power house, winning over 40 games every year. Gasso was inducted into the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2012. Softball for Summer Olympics 2016, anyone? Patty for Team USA's coach!
Assistant Professor for the Women and Gender Studies program, Dr. Lisa Funnel is a favorite professor among students and her peers on campus. A scholar of James Bond, Lisa wrote of For His Eyes Only, which explores the women in the James Bond Franchise. She also wrote Warrior Women: Gender, Race, and the Transnational Chinese Action Star, which won the Emily Toth Award for Best Single Work in Women’s Studies from the Popular Culture Association. Thanks for illuminating the stories we tell about women, Lisa!
Myra Yvonne Chouteau (March 7, 1929 – January 24, 2016) was one of the "Five Moons" or Native prima ballerinas of Oklahoma.
In 1943, she became the youngest dancer ever accepted to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, where she worked for fourteen years, In 1962, she and her husband, Miguel Terekhov, founded the first fully accredited university dance program in the United States, none other than the School of Dance at the University of Oklahoma.
Governor Frank Keating designated her an Oklahoma Treasure on October 8, 1997. She is portrayed in the mural Flight of Spirit, by Chickasaw artist Mike Larsen in the Oklahoma Capitol Rotunda, and in The Five Moons, a set of bronze sculptures by artist Gary Henson on the west lawn of the Tulsa Historical Society.
When the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian opened in Washington D.C. in 2004, Chouteau was honored with the inaugural National Cultural Treasures Award, celebrating her contribution to the nation's cultural heritage.
She danced her way into many hearts and leaves a legacy full of love and hard work.
Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher
Playing a key role in the Civil Rights Movement in Oklahoma, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher applied for admission into the University of Oklahoma law school in order to challenge the state’s segregation laws. She was denied despite her qualification, but through perseverance she became the first African-American admitted to the University of Oklahoma’s Law school June 18, 1949 and went on to serve on the committee that denied her in the first place. Talk about being a boss.
Mary Margaret Holt
Mary Margaret Holt, an award-winning educator whose leadership has gained recognition for OU’s School of Dance as one of the top three dance programs in the country has now added Dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma to her long list of accomplishments.
The recipient of many awards, including the Oklahoma Governor’s Arts Award, she has choreographed over 40 ballets. Her choreography is in the repertoire of over a dozen companies in the United States, and it has also been seen in Great Britain, Europe and South America. She has also served as a guest artist, choreographer, consultant and teacher with more than 30 ballet and opera companies across the United States.
Put quite simply, she's amazing.
Dr. Theresa (Terri) Cullen
Terri is an Associate Professor at the OU College of Education. She coordinates undergrad technology integration programs and is Science Education Editor for citejournal.org. She's most recently been working on the iPadPalooza conference at OU! (ipadpaloozaou.weebly.com)
In just over a decade, Kindler has seen her transformative vision for the Oklahoma Women's Gymnastics program become a reality.
A three-time National Coach of the Year, Kindler led her program exactly where many said it could never go. OU’s head coach has taken the Sooners to the absolute height of the NCAA gymnastics world with NCAA Championships in 2014 and 2016, six top-three national finishes, seven straight regional titles, 81 All-America honors and eight Big 12 titles.
Doing what people say can't be done? Just one of the many reasons we flip for KJ.
Debbie Copp came to Norman in 1973 to attend the University of Oklahoma. She'd planned to study journalism and earn her degree. But things changed.
"Some people are on the four-year plan when they attend college. Others are on the five-year plan. I was on the major major plan. That meant I changed several majors before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up." Journalism was first. Then Spanish. Then English. Eventually, she went back to journalism. "I love to write," she said. "I just wanted to be a writer."
But throughout her time at OU, some things didn't change; namely her love of sports.
"I started out as a student assistant for the athletic department in 1973," she said. "Then, in 1974-1975, I went to work as an athletic manager." In 1977, Copp was offered a full-time job. She accepted and was named women's sports information director in OU's athletic department. She is currently Director of Publications for OU Track and Cross Country.
Copp is a longtime member of the board of directors for the Women's Resource Center, served as a member of the Norman Chamber of Commerce; participated in the Secret Santa program for children in the Department of Human Service system; and been active in the Lions Club.
Additionally, she has volunteered with the Cleveland County Habitat for Humanity Women Build and the local American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days and Relay for Life. She also served as a board member and officer of LinkNorman, an initiative that promoted community dialogue.
(M. Scott Carter The Norman Transcript. Full story: http://www.normantranscript.com/news/local_news/debbie-copp-came-to-ou-for-an-education-and-never/article_584d9065-f961-511b-bbed-d0806d3fa7b9.html)
When Lark Reely didn’t see herself or the women she knows reflected in mainstream magazine publications, she did something about it. Rallying a group of writers, editors, photographers and other creatives, she created Life of the Beloved, a publication aiming to give women honest encouragement in a magazine that doesn’t perpetuate the cycle of perfectionism. Young, fresh, and fierce, we’re proud to claim Lark as an OU alum.
“I want women to be celebrated and have a place to be heard and understood and practice the things they want to grow in.” -Lark
Coaching the OU Women’s Basketball Team since 1996, Coach Sherri Coale led the Sooners to the National Championship game in 2002. She not only strives to make her players succesful on the court, she prepares her athletes to excel in the classroom and beyond as well. She changed teams for a stint to support red, white and blue on the international stage when she was named assistant coach of the Team USA in 2001 but she’s our #1 women’s basketball coach for sure.
“At the end of this week, they’re going to hand out a trophy. And anytime they’re going to hand out a trophy, we’re going to go fight like crazy to make sure they hand it to us.” -Sherri Coale
Dr. Suzette Grillot has served as the Dean of OU’s College of International Studies since July 2012. She was integrally involved in the College’s creation after serving as the Associate Dean for four years. Additionally, she serves as OU’s Vice Provost for International Programs and William J. Crowe, Jr. Chair in Geopolitics.
Dean Grillot continues to teach courses every year, focusing on subjects such as the Global Community, Global Security, International Activism, and Illicit Trafficking. Regarding her work with students, Dean Grillot has been recognized with the Gary B. Cohen Distinguished Faculty Award, the Educator’s Leadership Academy Outstanding Professor Award and the OU President’s Distinguished Faculty Mentor Award.
Dean Grillot hosts the award winning weekly World Views radio show on OU’s NPR affiliate, KGOU. The program highlights various global topics and features outstanding international guests. Moreover, Dean Grillot’s research focuses on issues of global security and international relations. Throughout her career, she has published articles in the British Journal of Political Science, International Politics, Global Governance and Contemporary Security Policy, among many others. Selected book publications include the co-edited book Understanding the Global Community (2013) and the co-authored books Protecting Our Ports: National and International Security of Containerized Freight (2010) and The International Arms Trade (2009).