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OU Regents' Alumni Awards to be Presented to 14 Sooners

OU Regents' Alumni Awards to be Presented to 14 Sooners

Fourteen exceptional University of Oklahoma alumni and friends will receive Regents’ Alumni Awards for their dedication and service to OU in a ceremony scheduled for Friday, May 13, on the Norman campus.

Presented by the OU Board of Regents and OU Alumni Association, the Regents’ Alumni Award honors the important roles of OU alumni and supporters to the life of the university. A committee formed by the Alumni Association selects the award recipients from nominations made by alumni, friends, and OU faculty and staff. Each year’s recipients receive a plaque and their names are engraved on a permanent plaque in Oklahoma Memorial Union.

This year’s recipients are:

  • Jake Basden of Nashville, Tennessee, Vice President of Publicity and Corporate Communications at Big Machine Label Group
  • Daniel Matthew “Dan” Boz of The Woodlands, Texas, retired from Shell Oil Co.
  • Linda Cavanaugh of Oklahoma City, television reporter and anchor at KFOR-TV
  • Jalal Farzaneh of Norman, president and owner of Home Creations
  • Mohammad Farzaneh of Norman, vice president and owner of Home Creations
  • Annie Funke of Edmond, broadway star and actress
  • Jennifer Gavia of The Woodlands, Texas, IT business solutions manager at Newfield Exploration
  • Robert Jerome Herman of Tulsa, principal orthodontist at Dr. Robert J. Herman Orthodontics
  • Deborah Kitchens of Dallas, Texas, CFO of Peregrine Group
  • Tim McLaughlin of Edmond, part owner of Square Deal Capital Inc.
  • Gary Pierson of Nichols Hills, president and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Co.
  • Vicki Robertson Rippeto of Dallas, Texas
  • Michael S. Tisdale of Norman, owner of Tisdale Insurance Agency
  • Kenneth S. Waits of Tyler, Texas, president and CEO of Mewbourne Oil Co..

The Regents’ Alumni Awards ceremony will take place at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, May 13, in Beaird Lounge, Oklahoma Memorial Union. For additional information or accommodations, please contact Jill Stephens at (405) 325-1710 or email

Basden earned his Bachelor of Arts in journalism with an emphasis in public relations from OU in 2006. He serves as Vice President of Publicity and Corporate Communications at Big Machine Label Group, the No. 1 independent record label in the world, home to some of music’s biggest stars, including Taylor Swift, Reba McEntire, Steven Tyler, Martina McBride, Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line and Maddie & Tae. In this role, Basden spearheads campaigns for Big Machine’s five imprints and creates cause marketing brand partnerships for president/CEO Scott Borchetta, who served as a mentor on American Idol in the final two seasons.

Since graduation, he has remained involved with and invested in OU, taking the initiative to recruit students for internships at Big Machine. He also mentors OU public relations students and offers an “OU connection” to those interested in relocating to Nashville after graduation.  

During his time at OU, Basden was named “Big Man on Campus” and a national “Top 5” public relations student by PR Week magazine for his development of an integrated consumer public relations campaign for Royal Caribbean cruises. He was a member of the President’s Leadership Class, Crimson Club, Public Relations Student Society of America and Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity.

Basden also has been honored by his peers. In 2008, he was named “Young PR Professional of the Year” at the annual PR Week Awards event in New York City, a night often deemed as the “Oscars of the PR Industry.” In 2011, he was presented the JayMac Distinguished Alumni Award by the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. He recently led the media relations campaign for the critically acclaimed documentary, “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me,” which received four Grammy Awards and an Academy Award nomination.

Boz has distinguished himself as one of OU’s strongest advocates. As chairman of the OU President’s Associates, he is instrumental in the cultivation of new Associates members and furthering the growth of the program. He and his wife, Danni Boz, are generous supporters of the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, where they have established an Endowed Education Scholarship Fund to help undergraduate and/or graduate students majoring in elementary education. Boz has spent countless hours and personal resources supporting the academic mission of the University by recruiting students in the greater Houston area and serving on numerous boards and committees.

Now retired after a 37-year career with Shell Oil Co., he has served on the board of the OU Club of Houston, the University Relations and Scholarship Committee and supports the Sooner Club, the Pride of Oklahoma and the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club. As one of the most passionate supporters of OU, he is always quick to say, “Let me know if I can help.” His willingness to serve the university and to ensure its future are unparalleled.

Cavanaugh, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism in 1973 from OU, is known locally, regionally and nationally for her accomplishments as a television reporter and anchor.

A woman of many firsts, she became the first female co-anchor of the evening newscast for Oklahoma City’s KFOR-TV in the early 1980s. She was the first non-network journalist from the United States allowed in the Soviet Union under their new “glasnost,” and she became the first American journalist allowed in the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam. Cavanaugh was the first television journalist allowed to photograph ancient Indian rituals that have been closed to tribal non-members.

In addition to state and regional honors, Cavanaugh has earned more than 30 national awards for her reporting, including 13 Emmys from the Heartland Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She has received the Headliner’s Award, The Society of Professional Journalists’ Public Service Award and the George Washington Medal of Honor from the Freedom Foundation. In 2013, Cavanaugh was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame as “one of the most distinguished journalists in the history of the state.” This year, she received an Edward R. Murrow Award for her series, “The Face of the Bombing.”

A true leader and ambassador for Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication, she was named one of the College’s Outstanding Alumni in 1990. Cavanaugh has supported her alma mater in many ways, including co-host of “The Reflections in the Round” session with OU alumnus Bart Conner during the Gaylord College’s Centennial Celebration, which allowed alumni to reflect, remember and share their memories of years spent at OU. She currently serves on the Gaylord College Board of Visitors and is a member of the H.H. Herbert Society.

While at OU, she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and interned at Redbook, the Pauls Valley Democrat and KFOR.

J. Farzaneh has adopted Norman and the state of Oklahoma as his home. He came to Oklahoma from Iran along with his brother, Mohammad Farzaneh, in 1978 to study at OU. In 1981, he received his Bachelor of Science in environmental design. He went on to earn his Master of Architecture in 1984.

Following Farzaneh’s graduation in 1981, he pursued his father’s trade as a master builder and started his career as a homebuilder. Farzaneh joined forces with his brother in 1994 to form Home Creations, which has grown to be one of Oklahoma’s premier homebuilders. The Farzaneh brothers have built over 10,000 homes in 12 years.

Through the Farzaneh Family Foundation, he and his brother give back to the community, primarily focusing on education but also striving to help the community with basic human needs. The foundation recently presented what is believed to be the largest gift in the university’s history from those who came to OU as international students: a $4 million gift to the College of International Studies. The gift will support many programs, including an academic major in Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies, establishing OU as one of the premier academic institutions for Iranian and Persian Gulf studies in the United States.

While a student at OU, Farzaneh received the “Disney of Norman” scholarship and was active with the Iranian student population. He now serves as a mentor to current Iranian and international students, ensuring that they have a positive experience at OU. 

Farzaneh currently serves on the College of International Studies Board of Visitors and the College of Architecture Board of Visitors. He remains involved in the community, serving also on the board of numerous organizations throughout Oklahoma City including Mercy Hospital West, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and the Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice.

He and his brother are dedicated to promoting OU as a world-class institution while simultaneously promoting internationalization of campus that is directly aligned with President Boren’s vision.

M. Farzaneh has stated that he would not have had the opportunities to build a successful company without the knowledge he gained from the College of Architecture and his experiences in Norman. He came to Oklahoma from Iran with his older brother, Jalal Farzaneh, in 1978 to study at OU. In 1981, he received his Bachelor of Science in environmental design, and in 1984, he earned his Master of Architecture.

After earning his bachelor’s degree, he launched his homebuilding career and in 1994 he joined with his brother to form Home Creations, which has grown to be one of the fastest growing businesses in Oklahoma and recipient of multiple awards. Home Creations is now Oklahoma’s largest home builder.

Through the dedication and determination of the Farzaneh brothers, OU students have the opportunity to study in the areas of Iranian and Middle East Studies. The Farzaneh Family Foundation recently presented a $4 million gift to the College of International Studies, which will establish the new Center for Iranian and Persian Gulf Studies. The gift also will help fund scholarships for Iranian students and for students studying Persian language, three endowed professorships, an endowed lectureship and a prize for Iranian literature. The gift will also establish a Persian artwork fund and an endowed Persian book collection.

The Farzaneh family has provided generous support not only to OU but to Iranian studies across the state of Oklahoma. They donate more than $1 million in charitable contributions each year. Farzaneh currently serves on the College of International Studies Board of Visitors and the College of Architecture Board of Visitors. He is a board member of the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans and MAHAK Charity.

The Farzaneh brothers represent the highest values as individuals, and their character, dedication and love for the people at OU as well as the state of Oklahoma is unparalleled.

Funke was on Broadway as the understudy for Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, a role she has now played countless times, within six months of graduating from OU. Two years later, she joined the San Francisco ensemble of Wicked, covering Oscar winner Patty Duke as Madame Morrible.

Funke can currently be seen opposite Gary Sinise in her role as Mae Jarvis in the CBS television series, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders. Her other TV film credits includes LFE and the hit series The Affair.

Funke received the 2013 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actress for her performance opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in the Off-Broadway play If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet.

Funke, of Edmond, earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theatre from OU in 2007 and is a graduate of the School at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago.

She broke onto the entertainment scene in the critically acclaimed film “A Most Violent Year.” She will be seen in the upcoming film, “The Intern,” starring Anne Hathaway, and the short film “Death and Cupcakes.” 

Gavia has been an active supporter of her alma mater since earning her Bachelor of Science in computer science in 2002. Originally recruited through the National Scholars program, as an undergraduate she received the Rita H. Lottinville Prize and was inducted into the engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi.

Through her service as chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board on Diversity in the Gallogly College of Engineering, Gavia has made it a priority to serve the university and the college. As an alumna of the Multicultural Engineering Program, which is now part of the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Program, she knows firsthand the impact of the program on students, and she is dedicated to seeing it prosper.

Her leadership has played a vital role in the college’s Year of Diversity Celebration. In addition to her nine years of service on the Dean’s Advisory Board on Diversity, she also is a member of the Gallogly College Board of Visitors.

Dedicated to guiding and encouraging students through their pursuit of an engineering degree, she spends countless hours mentoring and coaching students in person and virtually. In 2010, she and her husband, David Gavia, established a scholarship to provide financial assistance to engineering students from underrepresented groups. Gavia hosts recruiting and outreach events for prospective students and regularly visits campus to speak to classes and student societies. She knows that building a strong student community is critical to students’ success. She actively encourages other alumni to connect and serve the students through mentoring, resumé critiques and financial support.

She has 14 years of professional experience in upstream oil and gas and is currently an Information Technology Manager for Newfield Exploration.

Herman is a dedicated advocate for the College of Dentistry in the Tulsa area and across the nation through his leadership in organized dentistry. While earning his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2002 and his Master of Science in Orthodontics in 2004, Herman was an exemplary student, evident through his student roles and the honors and awards he received. In the years since, he has earned a reputation as a demonstrated leader in the profession.

During his time at the OU College of Dentistry, Herman served as the OU College of Dentistry class president and student body president for the OU Health Sciences Center Student Association. He received the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Dental Honor Society scholarship, Pierre Fauchard Academy Award and the Pierre Fauchard Academy Dental Student Scholarship.

He served four years as an orthodontist in the U.S. Navy. He finished his career with the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander and Head of the Orthodontics Department at the U.S. Naval Hospital. He was recognized with multiple awards for his service, including the Navy Commendation Medal.

As the current president of the Tulsa County Dental Society, he has initiated the process of creating a scholarship fund in the name of the society to support dental student education. He was quoted in a 2014 OU Dentistry feature article expressing his belief that “the OU College of Dentistry needs the help of all who are associated with our great profession in order to continue its role as the flag bearer of dentistry in our great state.”

His professional accolades include the 2015 Robert K. Wayne Memorial Award for dentists who have worked to advance the knowledge of dentistry and dental health though public education and public relations efforts. Other accomplishments include being named a Fellow for both the American College of Dentists and the Pierre Fauchard Academy and a council member for both the Oklahoma Dental Association Council on Dental Care and the Oklahoma Dental Association Council on Budget and Finance. In 2015 he was also named Tulsa Dentist of the Year.

Kitchens has made it a priority to serve the Michael F. Price College of Business, from which she earned a B.B.A. in accounting with highest honors in 1978. Throughout her career, she has remained a consummate professional while maintaining an easy-going sense of humility and enthusiasm.

Since 2009, Kitchens has served as the chief financial officer of Peregrine Group, a privately held company that has oil and gas, real estate and investments in limited partnerships. She also has served in roles at Hunt Petroleum Corp., Kerr-McGee Corp. and Arthur Andersen.

Kitchens and her husband, Jack Goddard, are committed to serving Price College. They are Visionary Leaders in the Arthur B. Adams Society, a network of supporters named after the first dean of the business college. In 2008, Kitchens created a scholarship for Price College graduate students. She also generously supports the Price College Multicultural Business Program. Kitchens is a member of the Price College Board of Advisors and serves on the Diversity Committee. She also is a member and past chair of the Steed School of Accounting Board of Advisors. In addition, Kitchens was the first adjunct professor to teach Price College’s graduate-level Energy Accounting course. In 2009, she was honored with the Price College Distinguished Alumni Award.

In recognition of a very generous planned/estate gift, in 2015 Deborah and Jack were inducted into the George Lynn Cross Heritage Society, which recognizes and honors donors who, through their estate plans, include a gift that will benefit the University of Oklahoma for generations to come.

McLaughlin, who has been an Athletics Sooner Club member for more than 20 years, has played an integral role in connecting alumni and generating community toward advancing the mission of the university. In addition to his generous support of OU students, McLaughlin has supported OU Athletics by hosting multiple receptions and celebrations at his home, including a gathering to welcome Coach Lon Kruger to OU in 2011 and a celebration for the 2013 NCAA National Championship softball team.

Midway through McLaughlin’s junior year at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, he made the decision to return to his Oklahoma roots and transferred to OU. In 1986, he earned his Bachelor of Business Administration.

McLaughlin’s father co-founded Advance Food Co. in Enid in 1973, and with Tim’s help, he has added transformational value to the town. Out of the roughly 50,000 people who reside in Enid, 2,000 of them are employees of now AdvancePierre Foods. 

In 2012, McLaughlin founded Fields and Futures, which serves Oklahoma City Public Schools Athletics in a mission to rebuild 44 athletic fields and provide professional development and mentoring for more than 265 coaches. Through McLaughlin’s energy and resources, 13 of the 44 athletic fields have already been re-purposed and are now in immaculate shape. Fields and Futures is helping identify and instill confidence and work ethic in many Oklahoma City students, who will one day become future students, leaders, researchers and innovators on the OU campus. In 2014, the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits awarded McLaughlin the Visionary Impact Award for his commitment to help build better communities.

McLaughlin’s positive experiences as an OU student have enabled him to serve as a change agent in many Oklahoma communities and as a brand ambassador for OU.

Pierson has left a lasting legacy to OU through his service. In addition to his career as president and chief executive officer of The Oklahoma Publishing Co., he serves as a dedicated member of the Price College Board of Visitors and chairman of the Board of Visitors for the OU College of Law.

In 1981, Pierson earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in finance. He went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from OU in 1984. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Varsity Track team, he addressed global issues as a member of Model United Nations and worked arduously to uphold the values of the university as a member of the OU Student Association. Also, a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, he was actively involved with the Interfraternity Council Supreme Court and Rush Commission.

At the OU College of Law, he served as president of the international legal honor society, Phi Delta Phi and, was an editor of the Oklahoma Law Review. He also served as student chair of the Faculty Appointment Committee.

A trusted adviser and a tremendous financial supporter, he is an enthusiastic cheerleader who is always available when the university needs him. Pierson was instrumental in founding a mentoring initiative for the College of Law Board of Visitors, which allows first-year law students to learn about the ethical challenges they will face in their practice of the law.

An arduous supporter of the university, Pierson has encouraged many of his fellow alumni to join him in his support of the university, achieving gifts from the Anschutz Foundation to benefit the OU College of Law, Harold Hamm Diabetes Center and the Stephenson Cancer Center. In addition, he and his wife, Myrla Pierson, are members of the OU College of Law’s Dean’s Leadership Circle and the Price College’s Arthur B. Adams Society.

Pierson remains involved in the community, serving also on the board of numerous organizations throughout Oklahoma City.

Rippeto earned both a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1971 and a Master of Arts in 1973 from OU and a Juris Doctorate from Oklahoma City University in 1984. She is originally from Oklahoma and current resident of Dallas, Texas, and Vail, Colorado, she has made enormous strides in bringing together OU alumni nationwide. Under her guidance, alumni and friends have reconnected with the university in places such as Dallas, Oklahoma City and other cities across the United States. She has opened her home as the venue for multiple fundraising events that have benefitted the university.

After graduating, Rippeto became an unwavering supporter for OU, where she served as president of the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors. Rippeto also provided guidance to the College of Arts and Sciences and continues to serve on the Board of Visitors and mentors many OU students through the Leadership Scholars program.

She has been an avid supporter of Sooner Sports. She has made numerous contributions to the athletic program, including a major gift to Headington Hall. A President’s Associate, Rippeto is a Lifetime Alumni Association member. In addition to her support of the university, she serves several groups within her community. Rippeto is a longtime board member of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and the Baylor Heathcare System Foundation. She also serves on the board of the Bravo/Vail Summer Musical in Colorado.

As an undergraduate student, Rippeto was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, where she served as vice president. She was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest honor society for liberal arts and sciences in the United States.

Tisdale earned his Bachelor of Arts in sociology in 1974 from OU and continues to help shape the future of some of OU’s brightest students. During his time in college, Tisdale joined Alpha Phi Alpha, a fraternity in which he continues to be involved. He has lived and worked in Norman since arriving at OU and constantly dedicates his time and service to those in the community.

Tisdale has made significant contributions while serving on the executive board of the Oklahoma City/Norman chapter of the OU Black Alumni Society. Under his leadership as Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Scholarship Golf Tournament Director for the past 12 of 19 years, Tisdale has helped the chapter award 142 annual scholarships since 1997, totaling $239,800 in financial assistance.

He dedicates his time to the Norman Human Rights Commission, the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors, LINK Norman and as a member of Leadership Norman. He has been the Tournament Director of the Norman Tennis Invitational since 1981. For the past 12 years he has also served as the Norman Tennis Association President. In addition to serving on various committees and boards throughout the community, he owns and operates the Tisdale Insurance Agency.

Waits serves as a member of President Boren’s Task Force for Energy Education and Research, chairman of the Industry Board of Advisors for the Mewbourne School of Petroleum and Geological Engineering and as first chair of the Board of Visitors for the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy.

In 1983, Waits earned his Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering. Upon graduation, he joined Mewbourne Oil Co., one of the largest and most active privately owned oil and gas companies in the business. After five moves and more than 30 years of experience, he currently serves as president and chief executive officer of Mewbourne Oil.

Waits serves on numerous boards throughout the industry and his community, including membership in the Society of Petroleum Engineers, American Association of Petroleum Landmen and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. In 2010, he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from the Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy. He is an outstanding representative and supporter of OU.