Sociologist Jackie Burns once spent three weeks in a homeless shelter studying how the residents there were coping with their economic downfall. She spoke about how she wanted to understand “why some people have so little and have to try so hard to improve their life — and others have so much.”
Burns was one of six people inducted into the OCCC Alumni Hall of Fame on Nov. 5. She is a professor of sociology and department chair at Principia College in Elsah, Illinois, who completed her associate degree in 1984. She earned her doctorate at Texas A&M University.
She said there was one thing she had truly learned about people.
“People laugh whether they are rich or poor,” she said.
Burns told of her experience on the first day of class at OCCC, which was an aerobics course. She said she became so anxious, she couldn’t go in. Instead she drove across the street and ate ice cream.
The next time, she managed to walk inside and join the other students, never leaving until she finished her degree.
President Jerry Steward opened the ceremony. Steward remarked how happy he was to hear the success stories of people who have come through the doors of OCCC.
“That’s why we’re here tonight,” he said. “It gives us a reason to come to work. Early tomorrow morning we will be inspired by what we heard here tonight.”
Honoree Madison Schultz, a licensed professional engineer, was introduced as a groundbreaking woman engineer working in Oklahoma City. A 2005 graduate of OCCC, Schultz worked as a volunteer in the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, coordinating building supplies and determining which houses and structures could be saved.
“I work in an industry where there are very few females,” Schultz said. “It can be very difficult, but totally worth it.”
She said her most accomplished work was designing the home for baby elephants at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Another inductee, Antonio Maria Delgado, is a 1988 Graduate of OCCC’s journalism program and former editor of The Pioneer. The Latin American correspondent for the El Nuevo Herald has been deeply involved in investigative journalism since leaving Oklahoma and has written for some of the world’s largest business publications, according to the program.
Delgado gave thanks to the college for giving him “a good place to begin to learn how to learn.”
“I always thought people who could write were like magicians,” he said. “The college made me believe I too could become one of those magicians.”
He credited his journalism professors with giving him confidence in his writing.
Honoree Lisa Todd Lawson, a teacher for the Oklahoma City Public Schools, is the daughter of former OCCC President Robert P. Todd.
Lawson told the crowd of 175 she was following in her dad’s footsteps as an educator.
“I am daily, joyfully, investing in those around me with a very full heart,” she said. She teaches kindergarten at Parmelee Elementary School.
“I try to make an impact day after day, one-on-one with my students,” Lawson said.
Also honored was a professional drummer from Moore who attended OCCC from 1989 to 1990. John Humphrey has made his claim to rock-star fame since joining the internationally known, award-winning rock band Seether.
The band has performed multiple USO shows for the American military.
“Those of you who know me know I am a man of few words,” Humphrey said. “I’m used to being in front of 30,000 people behind a drum set and the singer does all the talking.”
Humphrey gave special thanks to his stepfather for paying for his college.
“OCCC is a landmark,” he said. “It reminds me of growing up on the south side.”
The family of the last honorary inductee accepted his award posthumously.
Former State Legislator and lobbyist Kenneth R Nance was recognized for his involvement with OCCC from its inception.
His son Brian Nance accepted the award for his father, who died in 2013.
“if Dad were here, he would be so humbled by this great, great honor,” Brian Nance said.He said his father taught him, “Give your word as currency. If you’re going to be a leader, people need to believe what you say.”
One of the event sponsors was the OCCC Association of Alumni and Friends. Its president, J.R. Webster, offered greetings to those who attended.
For more information about the alumni association or the Future Alumni Network, a club for current students, contact Director Randy Cassimus at firstname.lastname@example.org.