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OU Alumni News & Milestones

If you have an award or honor, life event or obituary to share with us, please email Bill Moakley, Director of Alumni Communications,

OU Graduate Named New Cornell President

elizabeth garrett

A graduate of the University of Oklahoma has been chosen as the first woman to lead Cornell University.

The Cornell University Board of Trustees unanimously elected Elizabeth Garrett (OU class of ’85), provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California, Cornell’s next president. Garrett will assume the presidency July 1, 2015.

Garrett served as budget and tax counsel and legislative director for University of Oklahoma President and former U.S. Senator David L. Boren.

The board’s vote followed the selection of Garrett by a Presidential Search Committee that was formed in March 2014 after current President David J. Skorton announced he would be leaving Cornell on June 30, 2015, to become the next secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Garrett will be the first woman to lead the university.

“I am honored to have been selected as the next leader of this remarkable institution,” Garrett said. “Cornell is one of the world’s truly great universities, with a stellar commitment to excellence in teaching, research, scholarship and creative activity, linked with a deep commitment to public engagement. I am excited to join the Cornell community and to work with the faculty, staff, students and alumni to write the next chapter in its illustrious history. Andrei and I also look forward to joining the vibrant Ithaca community.”

Garrett is married to Andrei Marmor, professor of philosophy and the Maurice Jones Jr. Professor of Law at USC, who will be joining the Cornell faculty as a full professor with joint appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School.

“I am proud today to welcome Beth Garrett as the next president of Cornell University,” said Robert Harrison, chairman of the board of trustees. “Beth has not only distinguished herself as an inspirational leader, thinker and scholar, but she also embodies the values and traditions that have placed Cornell at the forefront of the increasingly global field of higher education. She is going to be a great president.”

Garrett was appointed to her current position at USC in October 2010. As the university’s second-ranking officer, she oversees the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, as well as the Keck School of Medicine of USC and 16 other professional schools, in addition to the divisions of student affairs, research, libraries, information technology services, student religious life and enrollment services. She also is actively involved in the Keck Medical Center of USC, sitting on the USC Health Systems Board that oversees three hospitals and 18 clinical practices, as well as chairing the Keck Medicine Oversight Group.

She is the Frances R. and John J. Duggan Professor of Law, Political Science, Finance and Business Economics, and Public Policy, and she served previously as USC’s vice president for academic planning and budget. Garrett’s primary scholarly interests include legislative process, the design of democratic institutions, the federal budget process and tax policy. She is the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters and essays, and is co-author of the nation’s most influential casebook on legislation and statutory interpretation, now in its fifth edition. At Cornell, Garrett will be a tenured faculty member in the Law School with a joint appointment in the Department of Government in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Garrett has an exemplary record of public service. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed her to serve on the nine-member bipartisan Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. From 2009 to 2013, she served as one of five commissioners on the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s independent political oversight agency, and was a co-chair of its Subcommittee on the Political Reform Act and Internet Political Activity. Before entering academics, Garrett clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Garrett was elected a Harold Lasswell Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science and is a member of the Council of the American Law Institute. She serves on the board of trustees of Internet2, which aims to accelerate research, advance education, and improve the delivery of public services through innovative technologies.

Before joining the faculty of USC, she was a professor of law at the University of Chicago where she also served as deputy dean for academic affairs. She received her B.A. in history with special distinction from the University of Oklahoma and her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.

 “Our six-month search for Cornell’s next president has reached an exciting and historic conclusion,” said Jan Rock Zubrow, chairman of the Executive Committee of the board of trustees and of the Presidential Search Committee. “As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cornell’s founding, we are proud to add Beth to the long line of exceptional Cornell presidents. Her talents, experience and vision make her the ideal choice to lead Cornell into its next 150 years.”

Cornell University is the federal land-grant institution of New York State, a private endowed university, a member of the Ivy League, and a partner of the State University of New York.

If you have an award or honor to share with us, please email Bill Moakley, Director of Alumni Communications,

Brunsteter Honored by Pi Beta Phi


Betsy Guthrie Brunsteter has received Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women’s prestigious Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award in honor of her professional achievements. Brunsteter is a principal at the architectural firm ADG, Inc. and used her architectural expertise to help revitalize downtown Oklahoma City.

Brunsteter earned her bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1979. She earned a master’s degree in architecture from OU in 1982.

The Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg Crest Award is presented annually to distinguished alumnae of Pi Beta Phi who exhibit excellence and outstanding leadership in their career or volunteer service to their communities. The award is named for past Pi Beta Phi Grand President Carolyn Helman Lichtenberg, who was instrumental in forming Pi Beta Phi Foundation during her term from 1985 to 1991. Crucial fraternity initiatives such as leadership development programs and academic scholarships are supported through the stewardship of the Foundation.

A licensed architect for more than 30 years, Brunsteter’s experience includes healthcare and technically complex facilities. She has been responsible for projecting programming, planning, executing contract documents, specifications and construction administration. Her certifications include the American Institute of Architecture, the American College of Healthcare Architecture and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional.

Brunsteter drew on her extensive professional experience to influence the recent renaissance of the City of Oklahoma City. She served and chaired numerous City committees, including: Urban Design Commission, Downtown Design Review and Planning Commission. Her involvement in these entities helped contribute to her being selected to serve as Arts Council of Oklahoma City’s Festival of the Arts Co-chair.

Brunsteter is a past recipient of The Journal Record’s Woman of the Year nominee and 50 Who Are Making a Difference in Oklahoma. She was a member of Leadership Oklahoma Class XXIV and Leadership Oklahoma City Class XX.

In addition to her successful career, Brunsteter finds time to tutor and mentor local students. She coaches an Odyssey of the Mind team, a program where students apply their creativity to solve problems, and then bring those solutions to local, state and national competitions. She also works for Leadership Oklahoma City’s Youth Leadership Exchange Skills Program, teaching high school students the skills necessary to be successful in life.

Founded in 1867 at Monmouth College in Illinois, Pi Beta Phi has installed 200 collegiate chapters and more than 300 alumnae organizations worldwide. Pi Beta Phi promotes friendship, develops women of intellect and integrity, cultivates leadership potential and enriches the lives of members and their communities.

Nowakowski Named Director of the Year

Brandi Nowakowski, an Associate with The West Law Firm of Shawnee, was recently designated as the “Director of the Year” for her work with the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (YLD).  Nowakowski was recognized for her community service work on behalf of the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) and especially for her coordinating role in the statewide 2013 OBA “Day of Service” program.

She received her B.B.A. in management from the University of Oklahoma, where she graduated magna cum laude in May 2006.  She received her J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in May 2010 and was admitted to the practice of law before all Oklahoma state courts in September 2010.

In addition, Nowakowski has been elected to a two-year term as the District Eight Director for the Young Lawyers Division.

“We are proud to see that the statewide Oklahoma Bar Association has recognized the contributions of Brandi Nowakowski, both to our statewide professional organization and to communities throughout Oklahoma,” said Terry West, founder of The West Law Firm.

“Here at The West Law Firm, we consider community service an important component in the work we do as lawyers and as a firm,” West said.

Nowakowski joined The West Law Firm in September 2010 and in her practice she focuses on general civil litigation with an emphasis in personal injury, products liability law and class actions.

Nowakowski has served on the OBA Young Lawyers Division Board of Directors since January 2012.  During 2013, she served as the YLD Community Service Chairperson.

Nowakowski, her husband Chris and their two sons, Ethan and Zachary, reside in Shawnee.

Downs Named Provost at Niagra University


A graduate of the University of Oklahoma has been named provost and chief academic officer at Niagara University.

Timothy M. Downs, Ph.D., had been serving as vice president for academic affairs at Niagara since June 2011. His new position was announced by The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of the university. Downs earned his doctoral degree in organizational communications from OU. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in communication studies from California State University, Sacramento and a master’s degree in communication studies from West Virginia University.

"This new title reflects the accomplishments of Dr. Downs, and also befits the outstanding scholarship, teaching and service of our faculty that was grown and developed under the tenure of Dr. Bonnie Rose and has continued to rise to excellence under the leadership of Dr. Downs," Maher said.

As provost and chief academic officer, Downs strives to advance the university to new levels of academic excellence, expand the diversity and scope of its programs and student populations, and increase its national and international profile. He works with Niagara's president and senior leadership team to foster an outstanding educational experience that integrates liberal arts and professional studies in distinctive ways that advance the university's Catholic and Vincentian mission.

Prior to joining NU, Downs had served as dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences at Gannon University (Erie, Pa.). He has also held the positions of dean of graduate studies and research at Emporia State University (Emporia, Kan.), and assistant vice president for academic affairs at California State University, Los Angeles. 

In 2007, Downs was selected as a Summer Fellow of the Higher Education Management Institute at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College, a program designed to enable participants to make decisions for their home organizations that are grounded in theory and supported by data.

OU Graduate Named Oklahoma State University Provost


Oklahoma State University has named Dr. Gary Sandefur as Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs. He comes from the University of Wisconsin where he has served as Dean of Letters and Science and is currently Professor of Sociology. 

His appointment follows a national search and is pending approval by the OSU/A&M Board of Regents at it next regularly scheduled meeting in June. Sandefur earned his bachelor of arts in sociology from the University of Oklahoma and is a former OU assistant professor.

“We welcome Gary Sandefur back to Oklahoma as our chief academic officer,” said OSU President Burns Hargis. “He brings an outstanding record of achievement to OSU and I know the university will benefit from Dr. Sandefur’s success in faculty recruiting, retention, research, diversity, fundraising and other areas. His skills as a leader and enthusiasm will guide OSU to further success and growth.”

“I am honored to be selected to lead the academic programs and work with the excellent academic team at Oklahoma State University,” said Sandefur.  “As a native of Oklahoma, I have great respect for OSU’s land-grant heritage and the outstanding work it does through its diverse academic offerings. My wife, Kathy, and I are excited about this opportunity and look forward to joining the OSU family.”

Sandefur graduated from high school in Madill, Oklahoma, and received his BA in Sociology from the University of Oklahoma in 1974 and his Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University in 1978. He is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

He served as Dean of the College of Letters and Science at Wisconsin from 2004-2013. As Dean, Sandefur focused on a number of pressing issues facing the College. He helped raise more than $240 million to support activities in the College. He was often called on to work on campus-wide initiatives, including chairing a steering committee for the redesign of the university’s HR system.

Sandefur, who joined the University of Wisconsin faculty in 1984, held other administrative positions, including Chair of the Sociology Department, Director of American Indian Studies, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and Interim Provost in 2001. Before going to Wisconsin, he was Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Oklahoma from 1978-1984.

Sandefur has published widely on issues at the intersection of population studies and public policy. His most cited work is a book with Sara McLanahan, entitled Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, from Harvard University Press in 1994. He has written many other articles and book chapters on American Indians, racial inequality, and family issues.

Information and photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University News and Communications

No new news at this time. If you have a life event to share with us, please email Bill Moakley, Director of Alumni Communications,

No new news at this time. If you have an obituary to share with us, please email Bill Moakley, Director of Alumni Communications,