Eastern’s fifth annual Sapphire Ball raises approximately $12,000 for student scholarships while honoring supporters


WILBURTON, OK (April 9, 2014) – The lives of many current and future Eastern Oklahoma State College students were changed on April 5 as the result of the college’s fifth annual Sapphire Ball. Approximately $12,000 was raised for student scholarships at the event, which also honored alumni, outstanding employees and community supporters.

More than 180 guests enjoyed the black-tie event which featured dinner, a silent and live auction, entertainment, the awards presentation and dancing. The Sapphire Ball is Eastern’s largest annual scholarship fundraiser.

“In the past three years, Eastern has raised nearly $31,000 in scholarship funds exclusively through the Sapphire Ball,” said Treva Kennedy, Eastern’s director of Institutional Advancement. “Not only was this a fun evening, but the generous support of our attendees and community partners will provide more students with the opportunity to pursue a college degree.”

The evening began with a reception and silent auction that included a diverse mix of items, including jewelry, home goods, services, handmade items, gift baskets and autographed Eastern athletic memorabilia. Attendees could also purchase “golden eggs” for the chance to win additional prizes. Guests were engaged in friendly bidding wars during a live auction later in the evening. All of the items were donated by local businesses, organizations and individuals specifically to raise scholarship funds at the Sapphire Ball.

Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith also honored four individuals and one organization during the evening. The annual awards presentation recognizes those who have made a significant impact on the college or in their community.

Anita Caldwell Jackson (Class of 1971) and John Redman (Class of 1987) received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the college.

A lifelong resident of the McAlester area, Jackson is a leading advocate for the arts in her community and is a co-founder of the SOFA Art Gallery. In 2011, as a gift to the community, Jackson helped initiate and design a project to paint an 80 foot-wide mural in downtown McAlester that celebrates the heritage of the community. Last year, 16 works of Jackson’s Native American art was donated to Eastern by Mike and Nancy McGowan, also of McAlester. The art is displayed throughout the first floor of the Library building in Wilburton. Jackson is a retired art teacher and counselor at Kiowa Public Schools.

Redman, who lives in Durant, has been employed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 1986. He currently serves as an enterprise community specialist for USDA Rural Development, managing a variety of community, business, water and sewer programs in southeast Oklahoma. He is committed to serving his community and is a graduate of three leadership training programs, including Leadership Durant, Leadership Southeast and Leadership Oklahoma. He also serves as a board member for the Eastern Alumni Association.

BP America Production Company received the Community Spirit Award for outstanding support and service to Eastern and the Wilburton community. BP America has provided more than $35,500 in scholarship funding to Eastern students over the past three years. The scholarships are available to qualifying students residing in BP’s operating counties of Latimer, Leflore, Haskell, Pittsburg or Sequoyah.

The President’s Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Margaret Sorrell, dean of Eastern’s science and mathematics division. A Wilburton native and 1982 Eastern graduate, Sorrell has a long history with college. She was a cheerleader and played basketball for the Lady Mountaineers and her parents were both long-time Eastern employees. In 1986, she returned to her alma mater as an adjunct mathematics instructor. She was hired full-time in 1994 and became dean of the division in 2007.

Trish McBeath of Quinton received the J.C. Hunt Award for staff excellence. McBeath joined Eastern in 2011 as the director of communications and marketing. McBeath oversees the college’s creative services, publications, advertising, news releases, website and social media. She also serves on the executive board for two statewide organizations, Communicators Council and the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association.

Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith (far left) gathers with honorees at the 2014 Sapphire Ball. Honorees include (from left to right) Carl Dupuy, site Manager for the Arkoma Operations Center, Community Spirit Award; John Redman and Anita Caldwell Jackson, Distinguished Alumnus Awards; Trish McBeath, J.C. Hunt Award; and Margaret Sorrell, President’s Excellence in Teaching Award. The event raised approximately $12,000 for student scholarships.

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