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OSU-Okmulgee Students on Center Stage for Plymouth Belvedere Centennial Celebration

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Left to right: OSU-Okmulgee Chrysler Automotive Program student Matt Zimney from Owasso; John Prior, OSU-Okmulgee Chrysler Faculty; student Matt Harkness from Towner, Colorado; student Marquis Cloud from Clinton, Missouri. They helped unwrap the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere during a live television broadcast after the car was unearthed during the Tulsarama 2007 Event held Friday, June 15th in celebration of the Oklahoma Centennial.
(Okmulgee)– Okmulgee student Matt Zimney, participating in the unearthing event of the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere was a moment he and his classmates will remember forever.  “To have our pictures on the Internet and in the newspapers – I’ll be so proud 50 years from now when I’ll be able to show the pictures to my kids and say ‘I was there when they unearthed the Belvedere in Tulsa in 2007.’”

The Chrysler Automotive Program students and instructor involved in “Tulsarama 2007” said they owe a big thanks to the event committee for making it possible for them to be part of such an historic moment.  Student Matt Harkness had a wonderful time helping out.  “It was a great opportunity to take part of -- whether the car was perfect or ugly, it was fun to be there.”

The students and their instructor played a highly visible role in the much publicized Oklahoma Centennial occasion recently – the unearthing of a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried 50 years ago in downtown Tulsa.  It may be the one centennial event that attracted worldwide interest.  It was attended by more than 7,000 spectators and news media from the U.S. and numerous foreign countries including England, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand and Brazil.  

Students Matt Zimney from Owasso, Matt Harkness from Towner, Colorado, Marquis Cloud from Clinton, Missouri and Chrysler Program instructor John Prior from Morris were on stage at the Tulsa Convention Center for the televised portion of the event, which was broadcast live Friday evening by Tulsa’s KOTV and covered by national networks including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC.  

The OSU-Okmulgee students were invited to be a part of the event by Joe Cappy, a retired executive who worked for Chrysler and was one of the organizers of the event.  “I knew that getting the car ready for the broadcast would be a hands-on opportunity, so I thought immediately of OSU-Okmulgee, which has a great automotive school with student technicians who would be extremely helpful to us.”

Prior says that if the car had been in good condition, they were prepared to take a few steps to get it started.  

Student Matt Harkness said they prepared for the event by getting tetanus shots and rubber gloves.  “We discussed various scenarios in our classes in the Chrysler Automotive Service Program, and we tried to prepare for anything.”

Once unearthed, the Belvedere was found to be covered with rust after water had seeped into the concrete vault over the years.  Student Marquis Cloud says they didn’t expect to start the car but they felt they could still help.  “We went there with the attitude that we were there to be of service – to do whatever we were asked.”  

Prior said event organizers asked the students to roll back the cover of the car when it was unveiled for the live TV broadcast.  Cloud said, “It was exciting to know the whole crowd and television audience were anxiously watching to see what was underneath that cover – every inch of the car -- as soon as we pulled the cover off.”  

The students also polished a chrome bumper and uncovered the carburetor, which was a “mass of dusty, powdered aluminum,” according to Harkness.

The students also had the opportunity to meet Boyd Coddington, a hot rod builder and host of TLC’s television series, “American Hot Rod,” of which they have been fans for years. Coddington and his crew and wife attended the event hoping to assist with getting the car running.  The students all agreed Coddington and his crew were very nice to work with and they were proud to get the men’s autographs on their OSU-Okmulgee shirts.

Steve Doede, OSU-Okmulgee Automotive Division Chair, says the students who participated in the event gained three important things from the experience which will enhance their education.  “It was a great opportunity for our students to be involved in ‘history-in-the-making’ -- to play an important part in a major community event and to see what it’s like to be on a live television broadcast.  They also now have a better understanding of how important the automobile industry is to the culture of our country.”  

As for the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere, the students and instructor all agree they hope it gets donated to the Tulsa Historical Society to be kept on display for everyone to see and appreciate.

Oklahoma State University - Okmulgee is known for its hands-on technical education, world-class equipment and active partnerships with industry.  Degree programs are developed according to emerging educational and labor market needs.  Seventeen programs of study lead to Associate in Applied Science degrees, three programs of study lead to Associate in Science transfer degrees, and three programs lead to Bachelor of Technology degrees - Information Assurance and Forensics, Instrumentation Engineering Technology and Civil Engineering Technology.  Through frequent advisory board meetings, corporate partners make significant contributions to curriculum, faculty improvement, equipment acquisition, internship experiences for students and employment opportunities for graduates.  OSU-Okmulgee also promotes economic development among small Oklahoma firms by providing training and assistance with technology deployment, financing, bidding and purchasing procedures.

For more information call 918.293.4678 or 1.800.722.4471. Information also is available online at
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