Eastern’s sixth annual Sapphire Ball raises record funds for student scholarships while honoring supporters


WILBURTON, OK (March 13, 2015) – Despite a winter storm that blanketed the area in snow, Eastern Oklahoma State College’s sixth annual Sapphire Ball was the most successful yet. More than 230 tickets were sold for the event that raised $14,100 for student scholarships while honoring alumni, outstanding employees and community supporters.

The annual black-tie event, which is Eastern’s largest scholarship fundraiser, featured dinner, a silent and live auction, student entertainment and the awards presentation.

“An unexpected winter storm didn’t deter our supporters. We are enormously proud and excited that our Eastern family – our alumni, community partners, faculty and staff – support Eastern’s mission of providing a high quality education to as many students as possible,” said Treva Kennedy, Eastern’s director of Institutional Advancement. “The fact that the Sapphire Ball continues to grow each year is a reflection of the continued commitment of our sponsors, donors and community.”

The evening began with a reception and silent auction that included a diverse mix of items, including jewelry, home goods, gift certificates, handmade items, artwork, gift baskets and autographed Eastern athletic memorabilia. Attendees also purchased “sapphire 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.

Dr. Marsha Gore of McAlester (Class of 1974) and Dr. William Brewer of Yukon (Class of 1958) received the Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the college.

A career educator and community volunteer, Gore has served as the superintendent of McAlester Public Schools since 2011. Throughout her career in education, she has either taught, led as an administrator or developed curriculum for high schools, community colleges and universities in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. She is also an active community volunteer, serving on the boards of the EOSC Foundation, McAlester Boys and Girls Club, and the Southeastern OK Interlocal Cooperative Board. Last year, Gore was one of two Oklahoma superintendents chosen as a “Future Ready Superintendent” and attended President Barack Obama’s Future Ready Summit at the White House. While there, she was one of six U.S. superintendents chosen to review the national technology plan.

Brewer has enjoyed a diverse and exciting career since graduating from Eastern in 1958. Brewer began his career as a speech teacher for Midwest City Public Schools before earning his doctor of dentistry in 1968. Brewer also served 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, rising to the rank of Colonel and commanding the Dental Group Level Headquarters Unit. After 40 years of private practice, Brewer retired from dentistry and began a career as a voice and stage actor. He has appeared in several short films, television commercials and theater productions, as well as performed voiceovers for numerous television and radio commercials. He has also led more than 25 medical construction teams to all the countries in Central America as well as Vieques Islands, Puerto Rico and Alaska.

The Arkansas-Oklahoma Railroad (A-OK Railroad) received the Community Spirit Award for outstanding support and service to Eastern and the Wilburton community. A-OK Railroad began operating in Wilburton in 1996 with six employees. The company has grown to 51 employees and operates 127 miles of railroad. Owners David and Patricia Donley have been long-time supporters of many community organizations, including Eastern, Wilburton Public Schools, the Wilburton Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts, the Fire Department and local churches.

The President’s Excellence in Teaching Award was presented to Marilynn Duncan, dean of Eastern’s behavioral and social sciences division. A Muskogee native, Duncan has taught at Eastern for 40 years and has been named “Teacher of the Year” on six occasions. She was in inducted into the Muskogee Service Leagues Hall of Fame and is an active member of the national service sororities, Delta Sigma Theta and Phi Delta Kappa. During her tenure at Eastern, Duncan has served on numerous academic and faculty committees, sponsored the student psychology/sociology club and NAACP student organization, and is a former board member for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), an organization that supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy for abused and neglected children.

Karen Darby of McAlester received the J.C. Hunt Award for staff excellence. A 1997 Eastern graduate, Darby joined Eastern during her final semester of college as the administrative assistant to the Nursing Department. In 2001, Darby became a recruiter for Eastern, working with high school students in search of higher education possibilities. She is also an advocate for nontraditional adult students who aspire to get a degree later in life, as she did. Darby currently serves on the Advisory Board for Adult Education and the Advisory Counsel for Eastern Student Success.

Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith (far left) gathers with honorees at the 2015 Sapphire Ball. Honorees include (from left to right) Karen Darby, J.C. Hunt Award; David and Patricia Donley of A-OK Railroad, President’s Community Spirit Award; Marilynn Duncan, President’s Excellence in Teaching Award; Dr. Marsha Gore and Dr. Bill Brewer, Distinguished Alumnus Awards.

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