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JANE JAYROE: Blazing Trails For Oklahoma Women

justin brotton - Wednesday, July 01, 2015

By Michael W. Sasser

jane jayroeTo hear Jane Jayroe tell it, all she needed to learn to excel in multiple careers as a pageant champion, media figure, author and community leader, she learned in the values, the inspiration and the drive instilled in her by her grandmother, and by Oklahoma City University.

"My grandmother, Clara Hill – or Mama May, as we called her – was a renaissance woman for her time," Jayroe explained. "She came to Oklahoma on a train, I believe, and settled in the Panhandle. She was just a young girl, but was able to homestead her own land. We actually have the deed, and she was the first owner of the property."

Hill would go on to become the first teacher in the county and, years later, an inspiration to Jayroe.

"She was the most feminine, beautiful woman," Jayroe continued. "Imagine, she survived the Depression, the Dust Bowl, six kids ... and she started the Methodist Church. She maintained a beautiful, feminine presence, even in a tough life. She and her husband both have been huge inspirations to me. I had a lot of cousins, and there was always so much laughter. We spent every Christmas at her house, and it was always such a great time, even with 20 cousins and the adults all in one house. One of my most vivid memories is of her rose garden – roses, in the Panhandle!"

Born in Clinton, Oklahoma, in 1947, Jayroe was no stranger to a childhood in the country. "There is something very special about a rural upbringing," she said.

Although Jayroe also cites her mother and other relatives for their inspiration, she firmly credits her college experience for opening her eyes to the larger world. She happened to see a production of a performance group from Oklahoma City University, and was smitten.

"The Methodist Church was always very important to me, so finding that there was a Methodist university in Oklahoma City was so exciting. Plus, they sent singers to the USO, which was a dream of mine – to perform for military overseas."

Jayroe was accepted into a public university but expressed a desire to pursue her education at OCU. Her parents made the desire a reality.

"It says a lot about my parents that they went the extra mile so I could go to OCU. It was a life-changing experience. There are turning points in everyone's life, and I believe God leads you, if you just listen."

She was just a small-town girl with grit and a passion for music and performance when she arrived at OCU.

"I was so very shy, I lacked confidence, so it was a huge deal to go to the 'big city,' which Oklahoma City was to me at that age."

A music education major, Jayroe learned far more from her program tract at OCU. She learned an approach to education and to life in general from the university's specific culture – a precious culture that has long inspired her commitment to the lauded university.

"OCU fosters an environment of support, of encouraging students to think big and to try, to explore themselves, their dreams and their capabilities," Jayroe said with obvious enthusiasm. "It wasn't the kind of place where you would fail and be demoralized. On the contrary, the students and faculty were right there to pick you up and help you get back on track. It has a uniquely loving and supportive environment."

Not that Jayroe had to confront much in the way of failure – although notably, despite her educational pursuit, she never did move on to become a teacher.

"That's a good thing!" Jayroe believes. "I would not have made a good teacher."

Fueled by inspirational predecessors and the nurturing environment at OCU, the beautiful but shy Jayroe was encouraged by sorority sisters to take a huge leap for a small-town girl – to compete to become Miss Oklahoma City.

"That had always been a dream of mine," Jayroe said. "I grew up watching the Miss American Pageant, and always wanted to be on that stage. I had a $50 gown my parents gave me for a Christmas present, I had no experience and very little training – and I won. Today, there is so much training. I had none of that, and no experience. I felt like I didn't have anything to lose. But that's part of OCU – students are very supportive of one another.

"I was the most surprised; my parents were second most surprised!"

Her passion continued as Jayroe competed in the Miss Oklahoma pageant, for which she and her mother had to travel to Tulsa.

"I loved the experience, and it was a wonderful time," Jayroe said. "I'd never been to Tulsa, so we were lost a lot of the time. I didn't feel like the competition was so intense with the other women. We became friends, and I didn't expect to win."

Instead, Jayroe was named Miss Oklahoma in 1966, which itself was a stepping-stone to the very Miss America pageant she had regularly watched in her youth. By 1967, she had an advisor and practiced intensely.

"I was still so shy, but I had a great advisor and was prepared – that way, once I got into competition, the training took over," Jayroe said. "I had no expectations, and there really wasn't a lot of pressure. I don't think anyone from Oklahoma was there. I became friends with the other women. Most contestants just wanted to do their best to represent the people who'd sent them there."

Once again, Jayroe surprised everyone and was voted Miss America in 1967, opening doors to travel and the many skills associated with it – communications and public relations among them. It was during that year that Jayroe accomplished another long-time dream: performing for troops stationed overseas, in Vietnam. There, she entertained troops, met many young service members, and traveled the country – as the first Miss America to ever visit a combat zone. It was an emotional experience.

"We were 19 and so were they," Jayroe said. "They were our peers and friends. My cousin was there. Some of the other girls who were traveling with me had friends and family there, too. They stood in line for hours to shake our hands. We visited hospitals. It had nothing to do with politics. They were doing what they were told to do in Vietnam. I was always very patriotic, but I think that experience changed the way I saw America."

Just years later, Jayroe blazed yet another trail as a news broadcaster.

"I had spent most of my life in communications – writing, public relations and, of course, that's what Miss America does. I believe I always really wanted to be a journalist. Back then, though, you didn't see a lot of women in the media, particularly in broadcast media."

Jayroe was attracted to the writing end of broadcast news, but soon found herself on-air with KOCO, becoming the first woman hired as a prime time news anchor in the market.

"Oklahoma TV viewers must be pretty forgiving because I know I made a lot of early mistakes," Jayroe said. "More women came on the air in the next two or three years, which was a big deal. Previously, Barbara Walters was really the only major female broadcaster. I absolutely loved it."

Jayroe excelled with KOCO and KTVY (now KFOR-TV) in Oklahoma City and KXAS in Dallas/Fort Worth. She won several awards during her 16-year career, including the first female to be awarded “Outstanding News Personality” in the Dallas-Fort Worth television market. She also hosted a health-related public affairs show, “Health Matters,” on Oklahoma's PBS network, OETA. Jayroe later went on to co-host a popular television show, “Discover Oklahoma,” promoting tourism within the state of Oklahoma.

Being in broadcast media and having the opportunity to travel the state fostered a deep appreciation for Oklahoma. The next phase of her career enabled her to explore and share that passion – even if it started with a surprise.

"Actually, my life has been full of surprises, and very little of what I planned on worked out," Jayroe said. "But I also took opportunities when they presented themselves, and I always worked hard."

One day, post-broadcast career, Jayroe's phone rang. She was asked to become Gov. Frank Keating’s Secretary of Tourism and Recreation. In addition to her service as tourism secretary, Keating appointed Jayroe to serve as the director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation. Her communications skills and grace made it only a logical progression.

"I really enjoyed promoting the state of Oklahoma, both internally and externally – it was great," she said.

Jayroe was familiar with public service and assisting significant organizations. In 1992, she became the first spokesperson for the Oklahoma Health Center and vice president of the Presbyterian Health Foundation. She was the first woman elected chairman of the Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, and is on executive committees for the University of Oklahoma Breast Health Institute, Oklahoma City University Board of Trustees, and the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation. As a member of the United Methodist Church/Church of the Servant in Oklahoma City, Jayroe is on the Women's Ministries Team and a board member for the Education and Employment Ministries. She has taken an active role in issues affecting young people, serving as honorary chair for the Conference on Teen Pregnancy, Youth Arts Month and the Oklahoma Parents and Teachers Association. She is a former trustee for the Sarkey's Foundation.

Jayroe also launched Esther Women, an initiative she intended as a one-time occasion.

"I started it 13 years ago, and meant to do it once," she said. "I wanted to create luncheons for women leaders. Well, they didn't want to stop at just one luncheon, so I kept doing it another 10 years. It's been a labor of love. I don't think we have enough inspirational stories."

Although the structure has changed, Jayroe remains deeply involved in the group, and it helped inspire one of her books, “Devote Forty Days.” Jayroe is also the author of several articles appearing in McCall's and other publications, including Out of the Blue, Delight Comes Into Your Life and Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul. She was producer for "Daily Devotionals," a set of audiocassettes by area ministers and laypeople, and recently created a seminar for women titled “Living Grace-fully.” Her most current publications include “More Grace Than Glamour: My Life as Miss Americaand Beyond,” and “Oklahoma 3,” a book published for the Centennial year of Oklahoma’s statehood and portraying the diversity of the state.

"I love writing, and I love writing inspiration," Jayroe said. "I'm working on another book – more men and women telling their Oklahoma stories. Well, really they are God's stories told through Oklahomans."

Trailblazer though she may be, and as far as her diverse and impressive career has taken her, Jayroe remains rooted in the powerful influences of her youth. That includes her commitment as a trustee at OCU, an institution she has loved for decades.

"OCU’s unique culture fosters fertile ground for creativity and growth," she said. "It's a loving and kind place, an environment for students who tend to be driven. OCU is a place for people who want to live with purpose."

Given the influence of a grandmother whose achievements were remarkable in her – or any – time, a supportive, dynamic family and an approach to life buoyed by the culture of a faith and of a university that inspired her, it's little wonder there is anything Jayroe can't achieve, even today.

Well, almost anything.

"I've tried taking Bridge lessons," she said. "But I just don't get it. I don't think I will ever be any good at it."

Generally, Jayroe said she is no longer driven to pursue serious goals.

"I am at the point where I am filled with gratitude for what I have today. The gift of aging is the appreciation of every day, the people I care about, the people I love. I want to love them more and to be more spiritual. I don't want to be driven anymore; I want to be called by His love and grace."

However, Mama May's influence might still prompt Jayroe to take on a new challenge.

"Oh, a rose garden! I might just have to try that! Although, maybe not in the Panhandle!"


justin brotton - Monday, June 01, 2015

By Jason Black

For one night every year, Oklahoma City is the center of the college basketball universe when the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards take place at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. The 2015 Integris Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award went to Jahlil Okafor, center for Duke University. The award was presented by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and past winners of the national freshman of the year award include Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Jason Kidd and Chris Webber.

Okafor is having one of the best years a college basketball player could have. He won a National Championship with Duke, he was named the best freshman player in the NCAA and, along with the other four finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Award (Stanley Johnson, Arizona; D’Angelo, Russell, Ohio State; Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky; and Melo Trimble, Maryland) was chosen for the USBWA 2015 Freshman All-America Team, only the third season the USBWA has chosen a freshman team. And he is probably going to be the first or second player taken in the NBA draft. Who knew he was from Moffett, Oklahoma?

The top player in the draft is an Okie?

“I am,” Okafor said with a smile. “I really am.”

Moffett is a tiny little town that sits on the Oklahoma/Arkansas border close to Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“It’s where it all started for me,” Okafor said. “Oklahoma is where I fell in love with the game of basketball.”

Okafor lived there until he was 9 years old, when his mother, Dacresha “Dee” Benton, passed away. After his mother’s death, he moved with his father, Chucky Okafor, to Chicago, where Jahlil lived until going to Duke.

Flying from Los Angeles to Oklahoma, Okafor was having problems fitting his seven-foot frame into his seat. Some nice folks (Oklahomans, no doubt) switched seats with him so he could fit more comfortably in first class.

Stepping off the plane in the Sooner state, Okafor looked at his dad and told him he felt like he was home. He still has quite a bit of family living here, including his grandmother and brother, but hasn’t had a chance to get back to Oklahoma in a while.

“I love Oklahoma so much,” Okafor said, and thinks about his time here. He loved being outside – playing basketball, of course. Playing with his neighbors, “who were basically like my cousins and brothers,” he added.

“The population in Moffett is low,” Okafor said. “There’s hardly anybody there, but the people that are there are very close.”

He was a Moffett Elementary Wildcat until third grade, coming back to visit his grandmother in the summers.

“I miss going outside,” Okafor said. “I miss horses – being with horses … playing with them … feeding them.”

Growing up, Okafor always watched the University of Oklahoma and University of Arkansas on television.

“I always wanted to play basketball for OU,” Okafor said. “They didn’t end up making my top five, but I grew up watching them.” Having grown up watching the Sooners, it’s appropriate that he would one day win an award named after the greatest Sooner, Wayman Tisdale.

“I remember always hearing his name,” Okafor said. “He played before I was born, but when Jabari [Parker] (also from Duke) won it last year, I became familiar with the award. It’s really a credit to Duke University to win it after Jabari.”

Take a closer look at the Duke sidelines and you will realize there is another connection to Oklahoma for Okafor – former Sooner head coach Jeff Capel is now an assistant at his alma mater, Duke, and was Okafor’s lead recruiter.

“Jeff Capel meant a lot,” Okafor said. “He was one of the biggest reasons I came to Duke. He would tell me about coaching Blake Griffin at OU.”

The future NBA player is also a fan of the Thunder.

“I’ve talked to my brother about how fun it would be to play with the Thunder,” Okafor said. “To play with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, those are two of my favorite players, that would be a lot of fun. That would definitely be a dream of mine to play with some of the best players in the game. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.”

Okafor wanted to visit his grandmother in Moffett and see his old stomping grounds, but he didn’t have a chance. For a freshman in college, winning championships and flying across the country means you miss a lot of school. Okafor had to get back to Duke to finish essays and complete his schoolwork.

“Back to the real world,” Okafor said. “My dad and my uncle both have masters degrees and my aunt has a PhD, so I will definitely be getting my degree.”

From small town Moffett, Oklahoma to a National Champion at Duke, Jahlil Okafor has come a long way.

“I talked to my grandmother a few days ago,” Okafor said. “I used to live with her when I was in Oklahoma. I was sitting in Los Angeles, and she emphasized what a long way I had come and how everyone that knows me knows I’ve come a long way. Hopefully I make everyone proud.”

Whether you knew he was from Oklahoma or not, there are plenty of reasons to be proud of Jahlil Okafor.

That same evening, the Henry Iba Coach of the Year award went to Tony Bennett, University of Virginia. It’s appropriate that he would win the award bearing Mr. Iba’s name. Bennett’s father is longtime coach Dick Bennett, who had a lot of influences on his coaching style including Bobby Knight and Al McGuire, but his biggest influence was Henry Iba. He credits Coach Iba’s influence on everything from the flow of the game, and how he coached the completeness and defense of basketball.

Frank Kaminsky, University of Wisconsin, received the Oscar Robertson Trophy as player of the year. Just as Johnny Cash sang the lyrics “I’ve been everywhere, man,” when you look at Kaminsky’s résumé, it would appear he’s also been everywhere. He grew up in Chicago, attended Wisconsin, and has been to two Final Fours. Now he can add Oklahoma to his list of travels.

“I hadn’t been here before,” Kaminsky said. “It looks nice. The lady who drove me from the airport was telling me about it. It sounds nice. Getting to see different places, it’s fun.”

Welcome to Oklahoma, Frank!

The Wayman Tisdale Humanitarian Award was given to Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University. Boeheim has been the head coach at Syracuse since 1976. It’s safe to say he has probably coached against everybody, and that includes Wayman Tisdale when he played at Oklahoma.

Boeheim’s Orange also played Oklahoma in 2003 in the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight on its way to its only National Championship.

“It was a bad memory,” Boeheim said. “Wayman kicked our butt up and down. They had a really good team. He was a handful. He was great. Wayman Tisdale was a special player.”

Boeheim beamed about the kind of player and person Tisdale was. In fact, it was hard for him to find words to describe him. He just kept coming back to the word ‘special.’

“We lost him too soon,” he added.

“It means a lot [to win an award with Tisdale’s name attached to it],” Boeheim said. “Coaches do a lot that kind of goes under the radar, more than people realize. This is one of the best awards to get.”

Boeheim has also coached two Oklahoma City Thunder players – Dion Waiters at Syracuse; and while an assistant coach on the U.S. National team, he coached Russell Westbrook at the World Championships and the Olympics.

“Dion’s good. He’s got to figure his way in. He’s very talented. He’s really not a spot-up shooter, he’s a driver,” Boeheim said. “He can shoot, but he needs to drive and go to the basket. But he’ll figure it out.

“I would rather coach Russell Westbrook than any player in the world,” Boeheim said. “He’s one of my favorite players of all time. He’s the only person, other than my mother, who died 30 years ago, who calls me Jimmy.”

He raved about what a competitor Westbrook is, and that he always gives you everything he’s got. As you can imagine, the crowd at the awards loved this.

The veteran coach probably has a lot of experience speaking and accepting awards. It was evident as he made a great speech to end the eventful, Oklahoma-filled evening.

A Conversation with Terry Bradshaw

justin brotton - Friday, May 01, 2015

Terry Bradshaw is known as one of the greatest quarterbacks in football

history. He is famous for leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl

titles and becoming a two-time Super Bowl MVP during a 14-year 

career that garnered him induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989. 

He is widely known as a popular sports commentator on “FOX NFL Sunday," as the author

of five books, and even as an actor in such films as “Hooper,” “Smokey and the Bandit II,” 

The Cannonball Run,” “Robots” and “Failure to Launch.” To that list

of Bradshaw endeavors and accomplishments we can also add Oklahoma 

ancher and land steward. Thanks to a very good friend of Distinctly Oklahoma magazine, 

Mary Blankenship Pointer, a cousin to Bradshaw, we were able to

sit down with the famous quarterback and discuss a host of topics including

his Oklahoma ranch, his boyhood days on his grandfather’s farm, 

football, reading, public speaking and true leadership.

David Althouse

”terryApproximately 125 miles south of Oklahoma City, just north of the Red River in the southern Oklahoma town of Thackerville, lies Terry Bradshaw’s Circle 12 Ranch, a 750-acre world-class horse and cattle operation featuring an 8,600-square-foot estate, an equestrian training and breeding complex, working cattle pens and ranch headquarters.

For the last 15 years, Bradshaw has spent a great deal of time on his Thackerville ranch, turning what was once rough property into a world-class center for champion horse breeding and training. He speaks passionately about his breeding operation and each of his top-notch horses.

“This is my fifteenth year to run the ranch,” Bradshaw said. “This summer, we will finally complete the improvements to the place that we started a long time ago. We have trimmed trees so grass would grow underneath them. I’ve built lakes. I’ve put in barns. This has been quite an undertaking, and I’m very proud of myself. I can’t imagine it being different.”

When Bradshaw first set foot on the land that became his ranch, there was little on it except an old rusting school bus. Now the property is home to extensive equestrian facilities, including a stallion barn, a mare barn, a covered arena, a pig barn, a hay barn, equipment barns and cattle pens.

Bradshaw’s love of the land and rural life was cultivated during his boyhood in Louisiana. Although primarily raised in Shreveport, the future NFL superstar was often found on his grandfather’s farm 40 miles away in Hall Summit. To hear Bradshaw reflect on his upbringing is to be taken back to another time and place, much like absorbing Mark Twain’s stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

“The influence of the farm comes from my grandparents,” Bradshaw said. “Grandfather had a 40-acre farm – 20 acres of watermelon and 20 acres of cotton. I picked both. I learned how to coon hunt and how to barbecue out of a side dirt bank. I ate raccoon and possum, stuff I would never eat today. I remember catching and killing the chicken after church, fighting off the dogs as the chicken ran underneath the house that sat on wood blocks. It was a good and happy upbringing, especially those days and summers spent on the farm.”

As a product of rural Louisiana, Bradshaw is blessed with a folksy demeanor that has served him well in life, but most notably in his work as a sports commentator on “FOX NFL Sunday." His country charm reminds one of the great Southern-born-and-raised baseball announcers such as Ernie Harwell who enthralled Detroit Tigers fans for 40 years with his Southern dialect and cadence, country-inspired wit and memorable one-liners.

Bradshaw said he once had to correct a group who had mistakenly listed him as a motivational speaker, telling them he did not consider his content motivational. The group said, “But you’re so funny!” Bradshaw said he liked that characterization better, and requested they publicize him with that moniker instead.

“I’ve always been a silly, funny kid,” Bradshaw said. “My uncle, my mother’s brother, was a funny guy, and when I think about my sense of humor I always think of him. He was always smiling, always joking, always laughing, always playing games like cards and dominos, and fishing. I hung with him because he was so much fun, and I’ve always remembered the many humorous stories he told.”

Bradshaw spent countless days and hours with his comedian uncle, and this relationship lasted well into Bradshaw’s pro football years.

“This uncle hated to lose, and he loved to fish,” Bradshaw said. “When I got into pro football I got a boat, and it was cool taking him out in the boat to fish. We’d go fishing, and some days we’d catch them and some days we wouldn’t, but we always told stories, ate Vienna sausages and crackers, and talked LSU football and the Pittsburg Steelers.”

Bradshaw feeds his humorous streak with a constant love affair with books.

“I love to read joke books because I’m a public speaker, and I love to steal material,” Bradshaw said, laughingly. “I’ve read scores of them – Milton Berle, Will Rogers, and so much more. But mostly I read to learn. I read about the great generals like Patton and MacArthur. I read about warfare. I love reading about horses and cattle. I read about psychology. I read inspirational books, and I read the Bible. Together, my wife and I read the Bible in a year’s time.”

Despite his many successes on the football field in front of millions of fans and despite countless scores of appearances before audiences as a speaker, Bradshaw says he often feels anxious in crowds of people.

“When I get around a big crowd of people, I get extremely uncomfortable,” Bradshaw said. “I start sweating. I can’t say I’m shy because I don’t meet a lot of strangers, but I get what I call claustrophobic because I go into a crowd and people are staring at me, and I don’t want them to, because I’m a person just like you. People see me shopping in Wal-Mart and they ask, ‘What are you doing in here?’ and I reply, ‘I’m shopping.’ I don’t hold my head above anyone because that’s not how I was raised.”

Bradshaw displayed that same humble attitude on the football field, leading men by his own example and not with words.

“I tried to never scream at a guy or call a guy out,” Bradshaw said. “In 14 years in the NFL, there was only one occasion when I yelled at a player because he didn’t think I could see the play clock and he jumped up and called a time out, and I was watching the clock the entire time. That was a Monday Night Football game against Dallas. I felt terrible about it later. I’m not a screamer. I needed all my energy just to play.

“I always felt like I was going to mess up enough and that just because I’m in the quarterback position doesn’t entitle me to run roughshod over the players who I am counting on. I always felt that the guy who says, ‘I threw that interception because the defense confused me’ is the guy who is admitting he can’t read defensive coverages.

“I tried to be the type of guy who took the heat. A player knows when they messed up, so it’s better just to move on. There were times when I often took the blame when someone else messed up. Everyone knew I was taking the blame. They knew it and I knew it. I can handle it.

“I never carried myself like I had all the answers. There were many times in the huddle after long series of unsuccessful offensive plays when I asked my own players to suggest plays of their own. I think that is smart. It demonstrates leadership because no one has all the answers.”

After listening to the famous football player, author, public speaker, humorist, sports commentator and actor, there are a number of things we at Distinctly Oklahoma magazine admire about Terry Bradshaw. He is a leader who believes in the free flow of ideas; who shoulders responsibility and does not play the blame game in the game of life; who believes each person has something to contribute; and who believes in faith, humor and humility in the face of life’s obstacles.

We are proud to call Terry Bradshaw an Oklahoma rancher.

Ann Lacy: A Force of Nature

justin brotton - Wednesday, April 01, 2015

By Michael W. Sasser


”annScratch the surface of any number of causes, institutions and charities and one is likely to run into Ann Lacy. There is the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management at Oklahoma City University, as well as the Ann Lacy Admissions and Visitor Center. There is support for the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Allied Arts, Go Red for Women and, most recently, the Oklahoma City Ballet.

These institutions and others have all benefitted from the philanthropy, business acumen and charisma of Lacy and the efforts of the Ann Lacy Foundation.

While Lacy's philanthropy has already left its imprint on Oklahoma City, Ann Lacy defies easy definition as a leading citizen and generous supporter of causes. She is also a self-described "fashionista,” author, former stand-up comedian and adventure traveler. Wrap that in a package that includes acclaimed style and wit, and radiant beauty even as an octogenarian, and that is Ann Lacy, an Oklahoma renaissance woman.

The multi-talented Lacy doesn't feel that philanthropy is terribly difficult.

"You just have to have money!" said Lacy, 87. "I've always taken care of business and been good with money."

Ironically, Lacy did not grow up with a great deal of money. However, her atypical childhood might well have set the table for her extraordinary life. Among the oddities: Ann Lacy is a native Oklahoman, but has no real hometown.

"I really don't," Lacy explained. "I grew up in the 1930s when oil booms were happening all over the state. My parents owned little stores they opened in these little towns when the boom hit. The stores were similar to convenience stores today, only with full meat sections. I grew up in grocery stores all over the state."

Those early years influenced Lacy's skill with money.

"I used to play with money on the kitchen floor," she said. "My parents would bring home money from the store at night and I would sit and play with it. I've been good with it ever since."

For a time in her youth, Lacy and her family remained in place – long enough for her to complete junior high school in Tulsa and live in Muskogee – before finally settling into Oklahoma City.

By her teens, other of Ann's defining characteristics had begun to take shape.

"When I was in high school, I wrote duplicate letters to soldiers serving in the military, and they would write back," Lacy said. "I wasn't all that interested. But my mother was. She would read them and tell me what they said. I'm still waiting for 12 of them to come back from World War II!

"Boys would routinely ask me out," Lacy added. "I would turn them down. Then, they would go and ask my mother. I've had a lot of experiences with men."

While she would go on to have three husbands (burying all three, sadly) and enchant men wherever she went, Lacy made it clear most of her experiences and relationships with men were platonic.

"I've never married anyone who proposed to me – they just decided I would marry them," Lacy said. Her first husband simply stated the case why it was a good idea for them to wed. Another scared off all of Lacy's other male friends until he was the only one left around. Her most recent husband simply told Lacy he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her and that he would be happy to do so whether married or living together.

"I'm not that kind of woman, so we got married," Lacy said.

Having undergone the loss of three husbands, today Lacy tends to refer to them in reference to one another. She married her first, "an oil man and financier," who was also her boss, when she was just 25. Twenty years later, after losing her first husband, she married banker Dan Lacy. Several years after she lost Lacy, she married Dr. James Alexander – author, retired minister and one-time dean of the business school at OCU – whom she lost only a few years ago.

Along the way, Lacy learned a great deal about entrepreneurialism, money management and investment. Early on, she began investing in municipal bonds and continued over the course of many years, with much change and plenty of colorful adventures. Starting at a young age in the manufacturing business, she has owned and operated businesses in banking, manufacturing, retail and oil.

"My real business has been investment," Lacy explained. "I've always been very good with money. I also married well, but I never married for money."

Lacy was hardly entirely occupied with finance over the course of her adult life and marriages. She studied creative writing at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, and University of Central Oklahoma. She has written three books: “Concorde,” a novel, “Ann Lacy’s Dress Book,” and a children’s book, “Misty's Amazing Journey.” She has recently combined her writing talents and long history in the theater to write a new musical, “7th Avenue.”

Despite taking countless courses at numerous universities, Lacy didn't graduate, but did receive an honorary Ph.D. from OCU, and was admitted to the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame for her vast support of education.

"I filled out some medical paperwork recently, and someone commented on the number of years in the gap in my education on paper," Lacy said. "I said, ‘Hey, degrees cost money, and mine cost me $20 million!’"

Over the years, Lacy gravitated toward performance – modeling, acting and stand-up comedy. In the latter case, she took to the stage in the persona of a husband-hungry gold-digger complete with diamond rings on each finger.

"I've had many husbands," Lacy jokes, conjuring her comedy persona. "Some have even been my own!"

Fashion, of course, is another of Lacy's passions. Beginning as a child, she would design, draw and then make doll clothes. She founded Fashion Oklahoma in 1986 to promote Oklahoma fashion designers and provide a showcase for Oklahoma talent. She is a contributor to the Oklahoma Chapter of the International Fashion Group’s collection of famous designers. Both are now a part of the fashion merchandising department of OCU, where the history of fashion and construction of clothing are taught.

Supporting culture and developing talent has also been important to Lacy. In 2000, she was given the Oklahoma Opry Award for her philanthropic contributions to struggling Oklahoma country music artists and support of the Oklahoma Opry. Lacy helped several young artists from the Oklahoma Opry move to Nashville and find success in their dreams of stardom. Over the years, Lacy has belonged to nearly 50 other Oklahoma organizations and clubs.

In 2004, she founded and chaired the Oklahoma Centennial Book Festival, whose goal was to promote literacy, the art of creative writing and Oklahoma’s Centennial. Workshops by published authors, book signings and lectures were designed to encourage aspiring authors and bring those individuals in contact with editors and publishers. Lacy has a Lifetime Achievement Award from Oklahoma City Writer’s, Inc. for more than half a century of service in inspiring and educating writers.

"Ann has made a difference by initiating projects that changed the lives of everyone in the community," said close friend Mary Blankenship Pointer. "She is one of the most respected people I know. When Ann walks in, she takes command of the room with her grace and elegance. When you get to know her, you realize that she is a force of nature."

Lacy's gusto for life extends into her personal experiences. One of her books evolved from her experience flying around the world aboard the Concorde. She was already a senior citizen when she bungee jumped off a river bridge in New Zealand, and has para-glided off a mountain. As a younger woman, she found zip-lining rather dull, until she turned upside down and waved at friends on the ground below.

"They didn't want to be seen with me after that," Lacy recalls.

Still, it was Lacy's involvement with OCU that thrust her into the spotlight. She has devoted her life to expanding education and promoting the arts. Her philanthropic contributions have benefited thousands of students through the years. Gifts to various charities, students and aspiring young artists were unknown until 2001, when her donation to OCU, the largest in their history to that time, thrust her into the public eye. The Ann Lacy Admissions and Visitors Center welcomes potential students and hosts visitors to the campus. The successful OCU women's softball team plays at the Ann Lacy Stadium. And students from the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management, led by John Bedford and Jo Rowan, have placed Oklahoma in the forefront of the nation’s entertainment industry.

Some credit Tom McDaniel, former OCU president, for fostering support from Lacy, and the two are close friends.

"Ann has done some truly heroic things," McDaniel said. "What's interesting is that Ann didn't just give money and then come to the ribbon cutting. She's very involved. For example, the past few years she's sponsored trips to New York for dance students to meet our graduates there and learn from professionals. What I love about her is that she invests in the next generation, and she doesn't invest just money. She invests herself, her time and her effort."

Two other donors happened to emerge for OCU at the same time as Lacy, with the aggregate result being "transformational," McDaniel said. Today, the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management is considered one of the finest in the country, and the school has boomed in recent years.

Lacy also credits McDaniel with convincing her to establish the Ann Lacy Foundation, which today is headed by Chris Lawson, one of several grandchildren via marriage (she hasn't had children personally). The foundation centralizes Lacy's philanthropic efforts and permits her to work closely with Lawson, with whom she is very close.

"It's been a lot of fun," Lacy said. "After a while, he said 'I know my grandmother lived in the fast lane; I just didn't know how fast'."

Among current Foundation efforts are ongoing financial support for improvement along the river through the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation and the development of a highly anticipated project on Lake Overholser.

Working closely with his grandmother has provided a particular vantage point for Lawson.

"I admire her business sense and the way she combined that with the big heart she really has for the people around her," Lawson said. "She enjoys her life with others – and not just friends and family. She cares about the city and about everyone here achieving something great."

Being closely involved with foundation projects and numerous community and charitable events helps Lacy continue achieving, and continue pursuing her many interests. She has a script she is working on; she is supporting a potential museum exhibit based on fashion drawings; she is trying to go through years of couture crowding her closets; and she busily commutes around town in her hybrid car.

"I actually can't stand the car, but I am driving it as punishment to myself for buying it,' Lacy said.

Of course, there are countless personal efforts likely to keep Lacy busy as well. She will inevitably host another of her beloved karaoke parties. It's probably only a matter of time before she helps a young person achieve a lifelong dream – because courage, acumen and contribution are the manna that has empowered her life.

"My experiences have been different than many other people's," Lacy said. "It's like I am in another world. I feel like I am several people. Life has been just fun. I have no complaints about it, and I don't want to leave it." 

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