Eastern raises approximately $9,000 for student scholarships and honors supporters at fourth annual Sapphire Ball


Eastern President Dr. Stephen Smith (far left) gathers with honorees at the 2013 Sapphire Ball. Honorees include (from left to right) Dr. Billye Givens, President’s Excellence in Teaching Award; The Puterbaugh Foundation Trustees Lucy Smith, Cara Bland and Justice Steven Taylor, Community Spirit Award; Gaylon Brannon, J.C. Hunt Award; Linus Williams and Rhonda Fields, Distinguished Alumnus Awards.
WILBURTON, OK (March 4, 2013) – An elegant evening of dinner and dancing resulted in approximately $9,000 for student scholarships at Eastern Oklahoma State College’s fourth annual Sapphire Ball on March 2. The college also honored outstanding employees, alumni and community supporters at the event.

“Diamonds Are Forever” was the theme for the event which included dinner, the awards presentation, entertainment by students and local community members, a silent and live auction, and dancing.

The Sapphire Ball is Eastern’s largest annual scholarship fundraising event and this year’s event was the most successful yet with a capacity crowd of 200 guests. Proceeds from the event fund Eastern’s Sapphire Scholarship for deserving students.

“We are grateful for the generous support of so many people, including Eastern alumni and employees, as well as local business and community members,” said Treva Kennedy, director of Institutional Advancement. “Thanks to their support of the Sapphire Scholarship Fund, more deserving students will have the opportunity to attend Eastern and earn a degree.”

Four individuals and one organization were honored by Eastern President Dr. Stephen Smith at the event. Smith said that each honoree has been instrumental to the success of the college.

“The Sapphire Ball has become an extremely special event for Eastern,” Smith said. “This event allows us to honor some very special individuals that include our employees, community supporters, and alumni. We appreciate them all very much for how they support and represent our institution.”

The Puterbaugh Foundation of McAlester received the President’s Community Spirit Award. The Foundation is a long-time supporter of student scholarships for Eastern’s nursing program. Created by McAlester Fuel Co. founcder J.G. Puterbaugh (1876-1965), the Foundation supports a variety of social and education needs, youth projects, medical research, the arts and other worthwhile causes. Justice Steven Taylor, Cara Bland and Lucy Smith serve as trustees.

Rhonda Fields of Sulphur (Class of 1978) was named a Distinguished Alumnus. Fields is considered a pioneer in women’s athletics in Oklahoma. A native of Panama, she played basketball at Eastern and Oklahoma State University. She was the first full-scholarship female athlete in OSU history thanks to the landmark Title IX legislation. She was also a successful educator and girls’ basketball coach in Stillwater and Jenks.

Also named a Distinguished Alumnus was Linus Williams of Stigler (Class of 1962). Williams played both football and basketball at Eastern. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma and serving in the Air National Guard, Williams began a successful advertising career with Young and Rubican Advertising in New York. In 1980, he returned to his hometown of Stigler to take over the Stigler News-Sentinel from his parents upon their retirement.

Dr. Billye Givens of Wilburton received the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award. Givens is a graduate of Eastern and has spent her entire professional career at the college. She began teaching physical education and English at Eastern in 1973 and now serves as the Dean of the Division of Language, Humanities and Education. Givens is active with the local Partners for Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), the First Presbyterian Church, the First Methodist Church and other organizations.

An Eastern employee for 34 years, Gaylon Brannon of Bug Tussel received the J.C. Hunt Award for staff excellence. Brannon manages the college’s meat processing and food safety lab. He has also served as an instructor during his time at Eastern and was voted the 2012 Teacher of the Year by students. Brannon is also a graduate of Eastern.

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