Cleveland County Lifestyle's big 12 7

BIG 12 

There’s a lot of shaking, rattling and rolling going on across Cleveland County, and much of this momentum is being driven by women.

I recently sent out a call across Cleveland County Lifestyle’s and my personal Facebook pages, seeking nominations for “women of influence”; the response was overwhelming! This year’s nominees represent the arts, business, education, mental health care, and beyond. All are leaders in their professions, and are active in their communities as well.

The main photo shoot took place at the beautiful Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History on the OU Norman campus–where over 4 billion years of Oklahoma’s natural history are featured in thousands of artifacts and displayed in 50,000 feet of public galleries.

Here’s what our nominators had to say about our 2017 “Big 12 Women of Influence” (nominations were edited for space):

“If you want to see how much can be accomplished in just five years, look back over the work of Erinn Gavaghan as executive director of the Norman Arts Council. During her tenure, the NAC has become one of the most vibrant arts councils in the state. Second Friday, the State Arts Conference in Norman, Sister Cities Arts Exchanges, Pop-Up Art, expansion of the Grant Program for Norman organizations, and strategic alliances with other arts councils are but a few of her accomplishments. She is one of the most highly visible and highly successful Norman Arts Council executive directors in Norman’s history.” – Norman Hammon, director of development, Jazz in June, and consultant/proprietor, Hammon & Associates

“Cassie Gilman is a graduate of both Leadership Norman and Leadership Oklahoma. The 2000 OU grad served the university in the President’s Associates program before becoming the special assistant to the Secretary of Energy in the Office of the Governor of the State of Oklahoma. She returned to OU as executive director of the President’s Associates and Women’s Philanthropy Network, and she currently serves the College of Arts and Sciences as executive director of advancement. She mentors through TEEM and the Sooner Stilettos and participates in the inaugural Leadership Council at OU.” – Sharon Alexander, director of stewardship and donor relations, OU College of Arts and Sciences

“Karen Holp took a small public radio station which could only be heard in Norman, Oklahoma (in fact, not even in all of Norman), and turned it into a news source for three-quarters of the state by creating satellite stations in Oklahoma City, Woodward, Seminole and Ada. She also, quietly, developed programs to promote the arts in Norman throughout Oklahoma. Additionally, she served for 28 years on the Jazz in June Board of Directors. She recently retired as general manager of KGOU after 28 years. She is the recipient of many honors, including the Marian Opala First Amendment Award, presented in 2016 by Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc.” – Norman Hammon

“Agi Lurtz is a force of entrepreneurial nature. She has a work ethic like no other, but she always has time to stop and help others. As a catalyst for new ideas, she has built and run five successful businesses in Norman. Agi is known for starting businesses that help people live better lives and serve those in her community and across the United States. As a lifelong learner and consummate networker, Agi is forever building her talent and skills offerings, while helping those around her grow in their own right. As a woman, wife, mother and business owner, Agi leads the pack of amazing and wonder women.” – Michelle Wiginton, Global Learning/Distance and Continuing Education, Missouri University of Science and Technology

“Elaine Lyons is a staple in the South Oklahoma City area. Her commitment runs deep to serve the community is numerous ways. She has been the president/CEO of the South OKC Chamber of Commerce for 13 years and serves on many community boards, including the Earlywine YMCA, Oklahoma Foundation for Medical Quality and the Foundation for South Oklahoma City. She is an active member of Women of the South and South Rotary. You will not find another person as dedicated to the betterment of this community than Elaine.” – Liz Cromwell, program development director, South OKC Chamber of Commerce

“Janie Milum has been an integral part of the Moore Chamber of Commerce for many years.  Not only was she a city council member for nine years, she has also served as the chair for the Education Services Committee, which helped raise money for children in the backpack program for the Moore schools. She has worked hard to make Moore a better place to live by volunteering to help build two playgrounds and being a parks board member. She has been a member of the Moore Chamber of Commerce since 2005, helping where needed in the growth of the Chamber. – Moore Chamber of Commerce.

“Michelle McNear serves at the assistant superintendent of secondary education and instruction, Moore Public Schools. She has been with MPS since 1996, serving as a PE teacher, counselor, assistant principal and principal. Michelle was an integral part of the MPS Crisis Management team that dealt with the 2013 tornado, which destroyed two elementary schools as well as the loss of students. She serves on the Education Services Committees with Moore Rotary, as a board member with Moore Youth and Family, was on the board of The Sparrow Project, and was the principal at Waylond Bonds Elementary when it was awarded a National Blue Ribbon from the U.S. Department of Education. – Moore Chamber of Commerce.

“Chris Olsen, a dedicated nursing and grievance manager at the Central Oklahoma Community Mental Health Center for many years, takes the time to get to know her patients as individuals and does her best to help remove the cloak of stigma with which they often see themselves. She takes the time to learn their personal likes and dislikes, hobbies and families, as well as the traumas they have faced. She is known for spending her off time ensuring everyone has the medications they need and that they are familiar with their treatment plan. She often works beyond the scope of her job description to help each client face his or her mental illness head-on rather than in fear and silence.” – Lindsey Davies, freelance writer and photographer

“Krystyn Richardson is a business owner of a thriving advertising agency, the president of the board for Norman Addiction Information and Counseling Center, committee chair for United Way’s Capital Campaign End of Year Show, City of Norman Oversight Committee for Tax Increment Financing, a Junior League member, Norman Business Association member, and mother of two children. Her countless contributions to nonprofits in Norman are staggering, as her company contributes time, manpower and money to more than 15 entities in Cleveland County. She is a 2016 graduate of the Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Norman program.” – John Richardson, owner/executive, Government Acquisitions, Bold Multimedia

“Cindy Simon Rosenthal is the epitome of a successful leader, mentor and role model. She provided effective leadership to the City of Norman as mayor for three consecutive terms. Under her leadership, the city expanded its public outreach and education activities. Her success at balancing opposing interests to build support for projects with broad community benefits is truly remarkable. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of Dr. Rosenthal’s greatness is her relentless dedication to encouraging and training future leaders. In particular, the N.E.W. Leadership Program is an outstanding program which will create a lasting legacy of effective leaders.” – Cynthia Rogers, OU professor of economics

“Summer Wesley, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a dedicated community advocate, spent many years as a social worker and graduated law school from OU. Summer is a member of the Pawnee and Muscogee Nation bar associations; is a founding board member of Live Indigenous OK, a group that addresses policy and social justice issues in Indigenous communities; and is a core member of Matriarch, a nonprofit program that focuses on empowering Native women. She is the most recent recipient of Norman’s Human Rights Award for her years of leadership and service.” – Live Indigenous OK

“Brenda Wheelock, director of communications and development, Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, joined the foundation staff in 2002. An OU journalism graduate, she has been a reporter for United Press International and The Oklahoman. Brenda has been a longtime leader of the Cleveland County CROP Walk to Stop Hunger and is a service team leader for Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma. A former board member and volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Norman, she has received the Norman United Way Volunteer of the Year Award for Service to Youth and Education.” – Anne Harp, OU Foundation