Eastern’s Sapphire Ball scholarship fundraiser returns April 9 after pandemic changes past two years

Wednesday, 02 March 2022 13:07

Eastern’s Sapphire Ball scholarship fundraiser returns April 9 after pandemic changes past two years Featured

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WILBURTON, OK – Eastern Oklahoma State College will host its 12th Sapphire Ball scholarship fundraiser on Saturday, April 9 after having to cancel and modify the event during the past two years of the pandemic. The annual black-tie event honors supporters of the college while raising funds for student scholarships.

In addition to the annual awards presentations for outstanding alumni, community supporters and employees, the event features dinner, a live auction, and other fundraising activities. The evening will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. in the Tourtellotte Student Center Ballroom in Wilburton.

Eastern President Dr. Janet Wansick said the college had to cancel the Sapphire Ball in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and host a scaled-down event in 2021 for only the honorees and their family members. This resulted in significantly reduced fundraising efforts and fewer scholarship awards to students.

“The Sapphire Ball is Eastern’s largest scholarship fundraising event of the year and the pandemic resulted in about a 57 percent decrease in funds raised for the Sapphire Scholarship over the past two years,” Wansick said. “We are excited to welcome our guests back to campus for a fun evening celebrating our honorees and raising funds for students who want to improve their lives through higher education. Scholarships are a lifeline for many students and we appreciate our generous donors who help provide a means for them to achieve their goals.”

Wansick said 100 percent of the Sapphire Ball proceeds benefit the Sapphire Scholarship Fund.

Four individuals and one organization that have been instrumental to the success of the college will be honored during the event.

thumbnail Betty Wharton

Betty Wharton

Betty Wharton of Broken Bow (Class of 1973) and Marvin Faulkenberry Jr. of McAlester (Class of 1980) will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award, presented annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the college.

Wharton is a nurse, adjunct instructor and director of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma’s Healthy Aging Program. A graduate of Broken Bow High School, Wharton earned her associate and bachelor’s degrees as part of the inaugural nursing classes at Eastern and East Central University. She also earned a master’s degree in clinical nursing from the University of Oklahoma. Throughout her career, Wharton has been served on numerous boards and taskforces to improve health care and health education on a multistate level. She developed and implemented an aeromedical transport service for southeast Oklahoma when air ambulances were a relatively new concept. She also served on the initial taskforce to establish telemedicine in Oklahoma, as well as the initial design of the now SoonerCare program. Wharton developed Institutional Review Boards for human research protection for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation. She is a current adjunct nursing instructor at Eastern, where she was once a full-time instructor and director of the Nursing program. On the national level, Wharton serves as a National Council Licensure Examination Specialist for registered nurse and licensed practical nurse reviews throughout the United States. She also tutors and precepts nursing students from various nursing programs to enhance the nursing workforce nationwide.

thumbnail Marvin Faulkenberry

Marvin Faulkenberry Jr.

Faulkenberry is a retired educator and coach. After graduating from Crowder High School, Faulkenberry earned an associate degree of health, physical education and recreation from Eastern and a bachelor’s degree in English from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Faulkenberry spent the majority of his 37-year education career at Hartshorne Public Schools before retiring in 2020. During his career, he taught English, journalism, photography, yearbook, speech and drama. He also coached football, basketball, softball and track. Faulkenberry was twice selected as the Hartshorne Education Association Teacher of the Year by his peers, and was also twice voted the Charles N. Curliss Teacher of the Year by students. His athletic teams frequently had successful seasons, particularly on the softball field with 12 state tournament appearances and two state finalist teams. In 1994, he was selected as the Large East All-State Coach. In 2005, Faulkenberry was named Coach of the Year, awarded a 400-win plaque and inducted into the Oklahoma Slow-Pitch Softball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Faulkenberry had 22 softball players selected as All-State during his coaching career.

thumbnail HWC Logo

The Health & Wellness Center (HWC) will receive the Community Spirit Award for outstanding support and service to Eastern and the local community. The Health & Wellness Center is the largest rural Community Health Center in Oklahoma and has been providing high quality healthcare to southeastern Oklahoma since 2005. HWC offers integrated medical, dental, optometry, behavioral health counseling and psychiatry, residential and outpatient substance use disorder treatment, and pharmacy services. HWC services nearly 34,000 patients annually at seven healthcare clinics in Checotah, Eufaula, Poteau, Sallisaw, Stigler, Warner and Wilburton. HWC continues to expand its services in southeast Oklahoma. The Pines of Poteau is the newest recovery facility in the HWC network, providing substance use disorder treatment for adult males, In 2021, HWC also added the oversight of 20 Adventure Head Start facilities to provide early education and care to nearly 700 children in southeast Oklahoma. HWC has partnered with Eastern to provide medical and behavioral health services to students for nearly 10 years.

thumbnail Kellye Semeski

Kellye Semeski

The President’s Excellence in Teaching Award will be presented to Kellye Semeski of McAlester. She has taught computer information systems at Eastern since 2014 and served as an adjunct instructor for the college for 10 years prior to becoming a full-time faculty member. In addition to her teaching duties, Semeski serves as the instructional designer for the college and is responsible for designing courses or curriculums and creating training materials, such as teaching manuals and student guides for all of Eastern’s online learning platforms. During her time at Eastern, Semeski has contributed to numerous committees for accreditation, student success and event planning. She has served as the Faculty Council Chair, co-chair of the Sapphire Ball planning committee, and member of the Distance Learning Committee, Homecoming Planning Committee, and the Advisory Council for Eastern’s Student Success. As co-advisor for Eastern’s Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Semeski helps organize the voter registration campaign, Toys for Tots service project, and College Completion initiative. An Eastern alumna, Semeski earned an associate of arts in secondary education in 1997. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in business and office technology and a master’s degree in technology education from East Central University. In 2016, Semeski was the recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa Horizon Award.

thumbnail Mimi Kelley

Mimi Brown Kelley

The J.C. Hunt Award for staff excellence will be presented to Mimi Brown Kelley of McAlester. Kelley has spent her entire 36-year professional career in the Financial Aid Office at Eastern. She started as a student worker in 1986, began full-time in 1988 and now serves as the Director of Financial Aid. Kelley has also taught courses in psychology and child development since 1991. Kelley has served on numerous committees during her time at Eastern, including the Advisory Council for Eastern’s Student Success, the Scholarship Committee, Financial Aid Appeals Committee, Budget Committee, and United Ministry Board. A member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Kelley has also been involved in ministry in the area for more than 10 years. An Eastern alumna, Kelley earned an associate degree in in business administration in 1987. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in human service counseling and a master’s degree in human resources from East Central University.

Tickets for the Sapphire Ball are $60 each, and corporate and table sponsorships are also available. Visit eosc.edu/sapphireball to purchase tickets and for additional information. An online auction will also be hosted on Eastern’s Facebook page beginning on April 1.

David Deaton

Digital Editor at Oklahoma Welcome

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