San Diego, California
ORANGE PASSIONS:Agriculture Arts Athletics
Helen Hodges doesn’t seek the limelight when it comes to philanthropy at OSU — she’s after the sense of joy it brings.
Helen has been involved in several transformational projects at OSU, including The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, the new building for Spears Business and New Frontiers, which will replace the aging Agricultural Hall for the Ferguson College of Agriculture. She’s also an avid supporter of OSU Athletics and has contributed to several scholarships.
The 1979 accounting graduate loves hosting people in her suite at Boone Pickens Stadium and is thrilled to watch world-class McKnight Center performances, which rival what’s available in San Diego, where she lives.
“It’s just so much fun,” she said. “There are so many opportunities to get together with my friends and family and have wonderful experiences at Oklahoma State University.”
Her greatest influence on her alma mater comes from her passion for music and agriculture, both of which have family beginnings. Helen grew up as an only child on a farm outside Hennessey, Oklahoma, not far from OSU. Her mother took her regularly to Enid to attend piano lessons.
Both her parents were Oklahoma A&M graduates, and when Helen headed off to Oklahoma State, it was her pragmatic father who encouraged her to major in accounting rather than political science. As a student, Helen learned to fly. She was a member of the 1980 Flying Aggies team that took top honors at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON. She was also active in Mortar Board, Beta Gamma Sigma and Beta Alpha Psi.
Helen said her OSU accounting degree made her career. After graduation at OSU, Helen earned a law degree in 1983 at the University of Oklahoma, where she was the managing editor of the Oklahoma Law Review. A shortage of jobs in the legal sector led her to take a position as a staff accountant with Arthur Andersen after law school. Helen went on to serve as the law clerk for the Penn Square Bank cases. Beginning in 2001, she helped prosecute the securities fraud case on behalf of Enron investors, which received a record recovery of $7.2 billion.
Decades after graduating, she honored her parents by establishing the Dillon and Lois Hodges Professorship in Plant and Soil Sciences in 2008 at OSU. This position strengthens the Oklahoma Wheat Improvement Team through cutting-edge technologies and next generation sequencing and follows the university’s land-grant mission.
“Even though Helen isn’t a graduate of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, she was born of and raised on a farm, and she wanted to find a way to honor her parents,” said Thomas Coon, dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture. “She ended up making an investment that is having a fundamental impact on the wheat industry in Oklahoma. I think of her having a broad impact not just at OSU but also on society with her generous philanthropy.”
That impact was on full display during the October opening of The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts where Helen and other Patron donors celebrated the audacious vision to bring world-class artistic performances to Stillwater with a concert by The New York Philharmonic.
The McKnights’ idea to host the famous philharmonic in Stillwater, and thus the inspiration to create the programming endowment that made it possible, was born from an invitation from Helen to attend a concert at BravoVail! in 2015.
“I’m just happy to be able to come here and see how much joy it brings to others,” she said, adding that it’s hard to quantify the impact of The McKnight Center’s inclusion on OSU’s campus. Some students have told her it’s been life changing. “Helen Hodges’ impact, in particular on The McKnight Center, goes well beyond her financial support and generosity,” said Mark Blakeman, Marilynn and Carl Thoma Executive Director of The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University. “She operated, very quietly, in the background as an important connector for us with BravoVail! and Anne-Marie McDermott, who is now the artistic director for our Chamber Music Festival.”
“So not only has she supported us with a generous contribution, but she has also really invested herself in helping us be successful.”
Helen said there have been three main role models who have inspired her to give: her mother, Lois Hodges and Ann Phillips — who established scholarships and donated her entire estate to OSU — and Ross and Billie McKnight.
Helen made it a habit to send roses to her mother monthly when she lived in a retirement community in Yukon, Oklahoma. She said her mother would keep some for herself and share the rest with residents who were unable to leave home due to their health.
“That was a powerful example,” Helen said.
Ann Phillips was her mother’s neighbor, and Helen didn’t realize she was a fellow OSU alumna until she read about Ann’s gift to establish an endowed scholarship fund.
Everyone wants to have a legacy and make a difference, Ann told her. “She left her entire estate to OSU and set up scholarships for education,” Helen said.
Helen said she hopes people remember her as someone who loved OSU. Her actions are ensuring that will be so.
“There are few people who love Oklahoma State like Helen does,” said President Burns Hargis. “She proves it not just with her financial support but also with her presence and the various areas on campus she loves. She may have physically moved to California, but she’s never left Oklahoma State.”
Her love for OSU shows in a photo of her doing a polar plunge in Antarctica while wearing orange and with “pistols firing.”
“The image of her leaping off a ship into the ice-cold water of the Southern Ocean while going into Antarctica, that is Helen — all in,” said Coon.
Helen is Of Counsel in the San Diego office of Robbins Geller Rudman and Dowd LLP. She has received the Top Lawyer in San Diego and Super Lawyer honors. She is also on the advisory board for that community’s Mainly Mozart, a nonprofit that enriches lives through exposure to world-class music.
Helen has served on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees since 2013. She is a POSSE member and a life member of the OSU Alumni Association. In 2016, she was named a Distinguished Alumni Award winner and a Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Champion.
“Helen has a quiet strength, a gentle kindness and a loyalty for her friends and for Oklahoma State University. Helen, for OSU, is a triple “A” person because she supports athletics, academics and the arts,” said Billie McKnight.
It was an exciting year for the Women for OSU. If you are looking to be involved or would like to sponsor Women for OSU events, contact Michal Shaw.
The Women for OSU Philanthropist of the Year award is a nomination-driven honor of distinction for women changing the world that surrounds them. Below is a list and additional information about the inspirational women who have received the award since this tradition began in 2009.
Before Peggy Helmerich was a household name in Tulsa, she was a successful actress in Hollywood, co-starring in eight movies for Universal-International.
Then Peggy Dow, she earned degrees from Gulf Park College and Northwestern University before finding herself on the silver screen opposite the likes of Jimmy Stewart and living in the same chaperoned dormitory as Marilyn Monroe.
Love came calling, and Dow retired from show business after three years when she married Tulsa oilman Walter H. Helmerich III.
Together, Peggy and Walt became influential philanthropists with a deep love for their community — a passion that would become one of her most defining roles.
While raising five sons, Peggy Helmerich developed a passion for charity work. She served on the Tulsa City-County Library Commission from 1973-97, was chair of the organization from 1982-84 and was a member of the Tulsa Library Trust from 1981-94, serving as president from 1981-84. The Peggy V. Helmerich Library in south Tulsa was named in her honor.
Helmerich has devoted decades of her life to improving health care, education, arts, libraries and other charitable endeavors in Tulsa and at Oklahoma State University and other colleges throughout the state. Her involvement in projects oftentimes served as an endorsement for community support.
In the mid 90s, Peggy co-chaired Edmon Low Library’s fundraising campaign at OSU, resulting in several million dollars in gifts. The Helmerichs were also leaders in the campaign to renovate the historic basketball and wrestling venue Gallagher- Iba Arena. They’ve given to dozens of causes at OSU, and the couple was jointly awarded OSU’s Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award in 2001.
In 2005, the Helmerichs and their family foundation pledged $9 million for the Helmerich Research Center at OSU-Tulsa.
The couple had been married for 60 years when Walt passed away in 2012.
“I hope Walt and I, throughout our lives, have encouraged people to get involved in causes they are passionate about. We served on boards, worked on fundraising committees, volunteered in numerous ways; the work we did, no matter the task, was important,” Peggy Helmerich said. “I hope we have inspired people to feel connected to their communities in a way that makes them want to make a difference. It has been a joy to dedicate ourselves to improving the world around us.”
Peggy continues to volunteer with numerous community organizations, including the Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Symphony, Tulsa Garden Center and Friends of the OSU Library.
“Peggy has been a tireless public servant, giving sacrificially of her time, energy and resources to raise academic and public libraries to a new level of excellence in Stillwater, Tulsa and other areas of the state,” said Sheila Johnson, OSU’s dean of libraries and Clerico Family Chair for Library Excellence. “She has been especially exemplary and inspirational in positively shaping the future of our university through philanthropy and engagement with our library, along with many other academic and athletic facilities and programs on multiple OSU campuses.”
ORANGE PASSIONS:Student Impact
Anne Morris Greenwood’s influence is evident across campus. Her portrait hangs in the Edmon Low Library’s Anne Morris Greenwood Reading Room. Her name appears alongside her husband’s on the Michael and Anne Greenwood Tennis Center, considered one of the top collegiate facilities in the country. And the Michael and Anne Greenwood School of Music, which is under construction, will also bear her name. Anne is a visible and vocal supporter of many OSU events and groups.
She was the inaugural chair of Women for OSU and has also served in leadership and volunteer capacities for Friends of the OSU Library, OSU Friends of Music, OSU Athletics Council, College of Human Sciences Freshman Reading Program, OSU Performing Arts Advisory Council and the Provost’s External Advisory Council. She is also a major sponsor of the OSU Student Foundation and the Cowboy Marching Band, which, in addition to financial support, she has provided thousands of snacks over the past decade. She is a member of the OSU Foundation Loyal and True Society, OSU Baseline Club, OSU Diamond Club, OSU Wresting Club and OSU POSSE. She is also a proud member of Tri Delta sorority and serves as treasurer of its Housing Corporation.
Anne and Michael have endowed three scholarships: the Anne Morris Greenwood — Carnegie Wildcats Endowed Scholarship, the Anne Greenwood OSU Marching Band Endowed Scholarship and the Michael L. Greenwood — Tulsa Will Rogers Ropers Endowed Scholarship. They are the lead donors of the Michael and Anne Greenwood School of Music, Patron donors for The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University and major donors for the new Spears School of Business building and the OSU Center for Early Childhood Development Endowment. The Greenwoods are sponsor donors for the Distinguished Chef Series, The H. Louise & H.E. “Ed” Cobb Speaker Series and the OSU Alumni Association Homecoming Endowment.
Anne, a native of Carnegie, Oklahoma, studied accounting at Oklahoma State University for three years before graduating from The University of Tulsa in 1979. During her time at OSU, she was the Collegiate FFA Queen, Drummond Residence Hall Officer and was on the Dean’s Honor Roll. After a career in corporate accounting with several Fortune 500 companies including American Electric Power, Central and South West, McDonnell Douglas and the Williams Companies, she retired to focus on philanthropic endeavors.
Anne was inducted into the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Spears School of Business Hall of Fame in 2015. The Greenwoods reside in Stillwater and are lifetime members of the OSU Alumni Association.
Linda Cline’s life has taken many unexpected turns, but it always seems to work out for the best. Along the way, she enjoys opportunities to share her blessings with others.
She met her future husband, Charlie, on a blind date in 1954, when Linda was in high school and Charlie was a junior-college cadet at Claremore’s Oklahoma Military Academy. They married three years later, and remained together until Charlie passed in 2012. They also raised two children and had plenty of professional success.
The couple joined Charlie’s brother, Neil, to establish and run Cherokee Lines trucking company from 1963 until 1990. The business thrived, peaking at more than 100 trucks and even more trailers, hauling across the 48 contiguous states.
The Clines moved from Oklahoma City to Cushing in 1967. In 1985, they purchased the country acreage on which they planned to retire. That year they bought the 17 horses that established Char-Lin Ranch, now a renowned producer of registered quarter horses and Angus cattle.
Char-Lin Ranch grew to more than 2,500 cattle and 300 horses, earning more than 200 world and reserve world championships before downsizing in recent years.
Neither Cline attended OSU, but they credit much of their success to the faculty’s willingness to visit the ranch, working with and teaching them. They fell in love with the institution where their daughter, Amy, earned a journalism degree and their son, Cary, sent his two daughters.
With OSU helping Char-Lin Ranch establish such a successful beginning, the Clines immediately started helping the equine program. Along with donations, they opened their ranch to student tours and hired countless OSU students. They also allowed the Department of Animal Science to use their animals for teaching opportunities, judging team practice, clinics and contests. They even donated several world-class horses to improve the genetics of OSU’s teaching herd and endowed a professorship.
In 2014, Linda made a major gift to fund the state-of-the-art Charles and Linda Cline Equine Teaching Center. It includes a teaching barn with stalls for foaling mares, a small indoor arena, classroom, conference room, feed and tack room, a wash rack, treatment area and offices. OSU Extension Services can host workshops and learning opportunities for students, 4-H clubs and FFA chapters, as well as the general public.
Linda was recognized by OSU with two major awards in 2015. The Department of Animal Science presented her the Distinguished Service Award, and she was named a DASNR Champion.
Cline supports many non-OSU causes as well, including the Right Path Riding Academy, which provides therapeutic horseback riding for those with special needs. She also supports Special Olympics, as well as Love, I.N.C., which helps people in need and purchases Christmas presents for children. Another cause close to her heart is Shiloh Camp, a day camp for inner-city children in Oklahoma City. First United Methodist Church of Cushing also benefits from Linda’s service. Linda also established a youth scholarship through the American Quarter Horse Association.
Malinda Berry Fischer grew up in Stillwater, the same town where her namesake grandmother, Malinda Blanche Wise Diggs, had become the second woman to graduate from then-Oklahoma A&M College back in 1898. Fischer followed in her footsteps, earning a 1960 education degree from OSU. She also graduated from the Harvard-Radcliffe Program in Business Administration in 1962.
Fischer lived in Rochester, N.Y., from 1963 to 1995, serving on numerous boards including as chairman of the trust committee and on the executive committee for Chase Manhattan Bank/Rochester Division and chairman of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. She also worked as a consultant specializing in organizational management and development. In 1965, she was named one of the “Outstanding Young Women of America.” She returned to Stillwater in 1995 to head the family-owned Thomas N. Berry & Company. She recently retired from that position as well as president of Marietta Royalty Company.
She served on the OSU Foundation Board of Trustees from 1997-2007, including time as interim president and CEO (2004) and chairman of the board (2005). She also served on the Women for OSU Council from 2009-2011. Fischer has given back to her alma mater in many other ways as well. She established the Thomas E. Berry Professorship in Water Research and Management and the Wise-Diggs-Berry Endowed Arts Faculty Award for teaching excellence in the arts. She is also a life member of the OSU Alumni Association. She is currently chair of the OSU Art Advisory Council and serves on the Performing Arts Advisory Board and the Doel Reed Center for the Arts committee. Among her numerous other philanthropic efforts are serving on the boards of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and the Communities Foundation of Oklahoma.
She was recognized as an OSU Leadership Legacy in 2002 and a Distinguished Alumna in 2006. In 2012, she was inducted in the OSU Alumni Hall of Fame.
Billie (Gaskins) McKnight gives back because she can’t imagine not doing what she can to help others. That philanthropic mindset has greatly benefitted so many others throughout her life.
McKnight grew up in Davis, Oklahoma, and joined both of her parents in choosing OSU. That is where she met her future husband, Ross, during her freshman year of 1969. In 1973, she earned a business administration degree before they married and moved to Throckmorton, Texas. There they have built extremely successful careers in ranching, oil and gas, and banking. They also raised two children, Trent and Meggan, who are third-generation OSU alumni.
McKnight has dedicated countless hours to helping her neighbors in Throckmorton, which has a population of less than 850. She served in leadership roles on the school board and the Band Boosters and Parents’ Club. She founded Community Closet to provide clothing to those in need, and organized a Christmas Angels program through several churches to purchase gifts for community children.
She is a founding member of the Annie Oakley Society, an Annie’s Legacy member and on the Annie Oakley Society Leadership Team of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
She and her husband co-chaired the transformational Branding Success campaign at OSU, which surpassed $1.2 billion for students, faculty, facilities and programs.
They also established the McKnight Leader Scholars Program in 2010. It provides scholarships and unique leadership-development opportunities for 50 out-of-state students each year.
Their son, Trent, lives in Throckmorton. Their daughter, Meggan, lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband, Blake Panzino, and sons, Mac, 3, and Pierce, 1.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Nancy Payne Ellis believes that life is not about what you gather, but what you scatter that tells how you lived. Her desire to help others comes from her strong-rooted faith that to whom much is given, much is expected.
Nancy knows firsthand the financial burden that comes with completing a college degree and is passionate about giving students the opportunity to further their education.
Nancy led the campaign to renovate the football stadium and co-chaired Bringing Dreams to Life, the first comprehensive fundraising campaign for OSU.
Nancy was nominated by Shane Crawford, who says she is a true philanthropist who gives her time and resources, expecting nothing in return.
Nancy was born in Fort Smith, Ark., but has been an Oklahoman since the age of two. She cherishes her husband, four children and 17 grandchildren.
She has served on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma State University Foundation, Oklahoma City Community Foundation and the Presbyterian Health Foundation and is involved in numerous other civic organizations.
She was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2005 and the OSU Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
Sue Hackleman Taylor is a philanthropist, community leader, homemaker and loyal OSU alumna.
She earned her child development and family relations degree in 1984 from OSU after raising a family of four. She was named to both Omicron Nu and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.
In her hometown of Enid, Okla., she was director and secretary of Enid Publishing Company, which published the daily newspaper and Enid Radiophone Company, operating stations KCRC-AM and KNID-FM.
Since 1964, she and her husband, John, have supported the OSU Foundation, where both have been trustees and governors. Among their most significant gifts are establishing the College of Human Sciences’ first professorship in 1990; endowing four President’s Distinguished Scholarships; providing for the creation of Taylor’s Dining Room; and becoming Founding Partners of the Distinguished Chef Scholarship Series.
She chaired the 1989 Greater University Fund, was an executive board member for Human Sciences Associates and was the first vice president of the college’s alumni organization.
OSU has honored Sue with the Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award and the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award, as well as induction into the Halls of Fame for the College of Human Sciences and the School of Hotel and Restaurant Administration.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Martha A. Burger has been with Chesapeake Energy since 1994, when she was hired as Revenue Accounting Manager. Today she is Senior Vice President – Human and Corporate Resources, where she leads human resources, administrative services, facilities, communications, security and ethics, and the company’s fitness center.
During her 17 years, Chesapeake has grown from 85 employees to more than 13,000. Her comprehensive human resources strategy is key to Chesapeake’s inclusion on FORTUNE magazine’s U.S. list of 100 Best Companies to Work For® since 2008.
Before joining Chesapeake, Martha was Vice President, Controller and Assistant Treasurer at Hadson Corporation. She has also worked as an accountant at Phoenix Resource Companies, Inc., and Arthur Anderson & Co.
She has an OSU medical technology degree along with an MBA from Oklahoma City University and a University of Central Oklahoma accounting degree.
Her extensive community service includes leadership positions with the Central Oklahoma Humane Society, FFA, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, MAPS3, Oklahoma City University, the Oklahoma State Board of Health, Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, SSM Health Care of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma and United Way of Central Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Linda and her husband, Charles, own TLC Florist & Greenhouses in Oklahoma City. They have been outstanding supporters of OSU, giving to athletics, the Alumni Association, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and OSU-Oklahoma City.
For more than 25 years, Linda has helped OSU-OKC’s horticulture program, with her support instrumental in its growth. She is on the program’s advisory board and the OSU-OKC committee for Branding Success: The Campaign for Oklahoma State University. She led efforts to secure funding for the Agriculture Resource Center, and endowed the Charles and Linda Shackelford Professorship in Floriculture. The Charles and Linda Shackelford Conservatory was named in honor of their continuing support of OSU.
The Shackelfords’ philanthropy goes beyond just OSU. They sponsored Oklahoma FFA’s 2009 Career Development Event in Floriculture. Because of their commitment to public education projects, the couple was recognized as Keep Oklahoma Beautiful’s 2008 Individual Achievement Winners.
Linda is a strong advocate of horticulture education and willingly takes on projects that promote the green industry because she loves what she does. She also loves OSU and is proud to display OSU signs in her businesses.
OSU is fortunate to have this kind leader and generous philanthropist as a friend.
During the 1930s and the Great Depression, Lola Herd Lehman and her sister, Lottie, attended Oklahoma A&M with the help of a $150 scholarship. In 1932, Lehman received a bachelor’s degree in home economics from the College of Home Economics, now known as the College of Human Environmental Sciences.
She has never forgotten the generosity shown to her at OSU.
In 1974, Lehman and her sister established the Lola Lehman and Lottie Herd Scholarship in the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the Daniel C. and Mary L. Herd Memorial Scholarship in the College of Education in honor of their parents.
During the past 35 years, Lehman’s generosity has helped hundreds of students earn a higher education degree. Lehman has also made significant contributions to the Edmon Low Library through an endowment fund.
After 37 years serving as a home extension agent in Arkansas, Lehman retired with her sisters to their hometown of Woodward, Okla. Now, at 100, Lehman says one of the things she is most proud of is her involvement with OSU and the scholarships she has provided to students.
For Marilynn Benbrook Thoma, philanthropy is not just a philosophy; it’s a way of life. Since graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in human environmental sciences in 1970, the Woodward, Okla., native has volunteered countless hours to the nonprofit organizations closest to her heart.
Professionally, Thoma enjoys a seasoned career in marketing, which began in 1974 when she assumed the position of brand manager for Quaker Oats Company shortly after earning her MBA from Stanford University. She is now proprietor for Van Duzer Vineyards in Willamette Valley, Ore., directing its communications efforts. She and her husband, Carl, reside in Chicago, Santa Fe and Napa Valley.
An avid art collector for more than 30 years, Thoma says her passion for the arts drives many of her philanthropic interests. She has been involved in the Chicago arts community for 20 years. Thoma serves in several leadership positions within notable organizations including the Chicago Humanities Festival, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, the Terra Foundation for American Art, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. In addition to her charity work in Chicago, she also serves on the board of directors for the Museums of New Mexico Foundation.
Thoma recognizes the impact of her education and has generously given back to the institutions she attended. At Oklahoma State University, she endowed the Marilynn Thoma Chair within the College of Human Environmental Sciences in 2006, and has provided lead gifts for the college’s teaching restaurant, The Ranchers Club, and the biannual Oklahoma Wine Forum.