Eastern’s Sapphire Ball breaks record by raising more than $23,000 for student scholarships


WILBURTON, OK (March 2, 2016) – Eastern Oklahoma State College’s annual Sapphire Ball raised a record-setting $23,724 this year, bringing the event’s five-year total to more than $70,000 raised for student scholarships.

Treva Kennedy, director of Institutional Advancement, said an all-time high of 256 guests were in attendance for the event that supports the Sapphire Scholarship Fund while honoring alumni, outstanding employees and community supporters.

“From the increased number of event sponsors and auction donors, to the generous guests who bid on auction items, there are so many factors that made this year’s Sapphire Ball such a success,” Kennedy said. “I’m so proud of the continued support of this event that helps make a college degree possible for current and future generations of Eastern students.”

The annual black-tie fundraiser has become Eastern’s signature event. Kennedy said that for the past two years, tickets have been hard to acquire as the Sapphire Ball has sold out one month in advance. The evening included dinner, a silent and live auction, student entertainment, the awards presentation and a dance featuring live music from the Kountry Kowboys.

In addition to the record-setting fundraising, Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith 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.

Gary Wansick of McAlester (Class of 1980) and Teresa Jackson of Hartshorne (Class of 1985) received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the college.

Wansick, the McAlester Chief of Police, has committed his professional career to law enforcement for the past 35 years. He studied psychology and sociology and played tennis for the Eastern Mountaineers before transferring to the University of Oklahoma. Before he completed his degree, he began working as a police officer for the Moore Police Department and returned to the McAlester Police Department as an officer in 1981. He worked his way through the ranks as a lieutenant in the Criminal Investigation Division and a Captain before being named Chief of Police in 2013. During that time, he also returned to Eastern to complete his criminal justice degree in 2000. An active community volunteer, Wansick is a McAlester Lions Club and Masonic member. He has previously served as a board member for the American Red Cross, Pittsburg County Child Abuse Prevention Committee, Fraternal Order of Police (McAlester Lodge), and the First United Methodist Church.

A Choctaw Tribal Member, Jackson has worked for the Choctaw Nation for nearly 17 years. She graduated from Eastern in 1985 with a degree in business administration and continued her education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After starting her career as an auditor with the IRS, Jackson joined the Choctaw Nation as a comptroller for the health system in 1999. She quickly progressed in her career as the Chief Financial Officer, Hospital Administrator and now Senior Executive Officer. In addition, she is active on numerous boards and committees in the area. She currently serves as the Chair of the Eastern Board of Regents, Vice Chair of the Inter-Tribal Health Council Committee and Treasurer of the Oklahoma City Inter Tribal Health Board.

Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) received the Community Spirit Award for outstanding support and service to Eastern. TI been a valued partner for the Eastern GEAR UP grant program for several years. Through the partnership, TI has provided support for local high school math and science teachers through professional development, STEM workshops and technical expertise and support. In addition, 85 math and science teachers in 27 local schools now have TI-Nspire CX Navigators for use in the classroom. TI specialists installed the equipment and provided coaching in classroom to support those efforts. TI has also provided registration and accommodations for 20 local teachers to attend the T3 International Conference where math and science educators from around the world convene for three days of networking, sharing and exploration while learning the latest ideas, insights and strategies for using TI technology effectively in their classrooms.

The President’s Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Nursing Professor Gina Fields Bullock. Since joining Eastern as an adjunct clinical instructor in 2005, Bullock has balanced teaching with her work as a registered nurse in the Cleveland Area Hospital and St. John Medical Center in Tulsa. She began her education in nursing at the Meridian Technology Center by completing the certified nursing assistant and licensed practical nursing programs. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Langston University and her master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. Beyond the classroom, Bullock has served as a dedicated community volunteer. She helped treat the wounded in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City and worked with teens in pregnancy prevention programs in Oklahoma County. In 2014, Bullock was recognized as one of the top 100 nurses in the state by the Great 100 Nurses Foundation of Oklahoma. She was selected for her contribution to humanity through the nursing program as well as being an outstanding mentor to others.

Julie Lawrence received the J.C. Hunt Award for staff excellence. She has served as the administrative assistant for the Science and Mathematics Division since 2008. Lawrence provides day-to-day support for 10 full-time and seven adjunct faculty members, as well as numerous students in the Math and Science Club and the Multicultural Club. She also helps coordinate multiple activities for faculty and students including club fundraisers, Homecoming festivities, Mountaineer Mania, Wellness Week, Math Counts and the Regional Science Fair each year. Originally from Jakarta, Indonesia, Lawrence majored in marketing management at the Universitas Persada Indonesia before moving to the United States. She is active in the Wilburton community, volunteering her cooking and other creative skills for the Wilburton Chapter Masonic Lodge, Latimer County Shriner Club, Latimer Christian Clinic, Bowers Baptist Church, Tidwell Nursing Home, Latimer County Nursing Home and Latimer County 4H.

Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith (far left) gathers with honorees at the 2016 Sapphire Ball. Honorees include (from left to right) Julie Lawrence, J.C. Hunt Award; Gina Fields Bullock, President’s Excellence in Teaching Award; Gary Wansick and Teresa Jackson, Distinguished Alumnus Awards; Eric Batten with Texas Instruments Incorporated, President’s Community Spirit Award.

Back to News Listing