Class of 2022 inducted into OSU Diversity Hall of Fame
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
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The Oklahoma State University Diversity Hall of Fame recognized eight new inductees in the annual gala held in the ConocoPhillips Alumni Center on Oct. 20.
The OSU Diversity Hall of Fame was established in 2015 by the Division of Institutional Diversity as a way to recognize and honor those who have made a significant impact in the advancement of diversity and inclusion in both the university and community.
This year’s inductees are Myrna L. Bowlin, Derric S. Driver, Deb Emerson, Jesse B. Langston, Tammy Lee, Kevin E. Stephney, Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea and Jeff Webber.
“This is an immensely special group to me, both as vice president and chief diversity officer but also personally,” Dr. Jason F. Kirksey said. “The eight that we’re going to induct tonight are all people I would call friends. These eight individuals engaged in what I would say is a very bold, courageous and innovative stand back in 2015 to help transform the landscape and the environment of Oklahoma State University.”
Before introducing the 2022 class of inductees, Kirksey brought attention to OSU’s national standing as one of the most highly decorated institutions in prestigious diversity inclusion awards. This year marks the 11th year in a row that OSU has won the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, something that has been made possible by alumni and university supporters with a commitment to diversity and inclusion.
2022 Hall of Fame Inductees:
Myrna L. Bowlin received a bachelor’s degree in clinical laboratory sciences from the University of Oklahoma before going on to receive a master’s degree in business administration from OSU. At the recommendation of MBA program director Cynthia Gray, Bowlin applied for a position with ConocoPhillips. This led to a long and fulfilling career in the oil and natural gas industry that spanned more than 30 years.
Currently, Bowlin serves as a senior counsel in the legal department of ConocoPhillips. She has also been instrumental in developing a mentorship program for the legal department to further the development of its personnel and other employees.
Bowlin was unable to attend the induction ceremony.
Derric S. Driver completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science at OSU in 1989. In 1990, he accepted an offer with ExxonMobil and has spent 32 years with the company based in Houston. He currently serves as DEI lead for 3000 IT OPS global employees within ExxonMobil’s IT organization to drive awareness and progress DEI initiatives at both a global and local level.
Driver has participated in many employee resource groups and mentored personnel as a senior professional. Outside of his career at ExxonMobil, Driver has served on the board of OSU’s Diversity Development Council since its inception in 2014 and has funded three scholarship endowments to increase the level of student diversity at OSU.
“This award is not about me, it’s about the people I’ve encountered in my entire life that have helped me and propped me up to be the successful person I’ve been,” Driver said. “The key things that I've taken away from my journey are: your family plays an important part in your development, learn as much as you can from them; education is extremely important, not everyone has the same opportunity so help when you can; use your network and resources; pay it forward; don't be afraid to be a role model or speak up, you never know who you might inspire; and great things can happen if you set a goal and you have faith, sometimes speaking things into existence does happen.”
Deb Emerson graduated from the OSU College of Arts and Sciences in 1993 as a top 10 senior. She has spent the bulk of her career in energy trading, beginning at the Williams Companies in Tulsa and now working for Sonoma Clean Power in Sonoma, California.
Emerson has a track record for helping underserved youth, she interned for Legal Aid of Western Oklahoma and volunteered for the Court Appointed Special Advocates and b4students, a program for at-risk high school students. In 2009, she started a small scholarship trust that has now helped over 20 students attend and graduate from OSU.
“A college education was my way out of poverty,” Emerson said. “The biggest deterrent to college is how you can afford it. I’m thankful that I’m able to give back something, that I’m able to break the cycle of poverty and that I’m able to start a cycle of giving. And I know the students I’ve helped will continue that legacy.”
Jeff Webber is a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. Webber discovered a passion for construction at OSU and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in construction management before earning an MBA in organizational leadership from the University of Houston.
Webber held various positions within the construction industry before joining Altair, an industrial construction services company, in 2006. He is passionate about helping those willing to change the trajectory of their lives through education and established the Webber Family Bridge Endowment to provide educational access for students in STEM fields at OSU.
“As I reflect on my life I will tell you I spent the first half in search of success. Now, as I am well into the second half of my life, my goal is significance," Webber said. "Significance will stand the test of time, it will be seen in how my children and future grandchildren treat people, how they respect others and how they and every person they come in contact with is better because they met them. To me, when I think about diversity, I believe that somewhere in its core resides help. We are better off when we have a diverse population of people contributing to society in a meaningful way.”
Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea holds a bachelor’s degree in news and public affairs from OSU, a master’s degree in education in guidance and counseling from Virginia State University and a Ph.D. in child development from Texas Woman’s University. She became the first female and African American president of Mott Community College in 2014 and has been a longtime advocate for collegiate student success.
Walker-Griffea has a passion for ensuring all students have access to quality, affordable and effective learning experiences. She has been recognized as an OSU Distinguished Alumna in 2019 and selected as a 2022 TWU Distinguished Alumna for her many accomplishments.
“DEI has been in my professional DNA since I began my journey right here at OSU,” Walker-Griffea said. “I now understand that it’s not just about giving money to students to ensure their success, you have to get to know them. You have to build relationships and get into their heads to understand their perspectives. What has driven me through the years has been the desire for all to have college in their future because I know that gaining a college credential is a game changer for economic success.”
Jesse B. Langston graduated from OSU in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and earned an MBA from Oklahoma City University in 2002. Langston was the first Black vice president of Oklahoma Gas & Electric, where he retired in 2015.
Langston has appeared as a guest lecturer at several universities and presented in numerous seminars. He is a board member of the Institutional Diversity Development Council at OSU and has served on the President's Advisory Board for OSU-OKC.
“Today, through Dr. Kirkey’s leadership and support of many people in this room, the number of African American undergraduate students from 2010 to 2019 has increased 21 percent,” Langston said. “This success and my own personal experience is why I serve and decide to give to Diversity and Inclusion here at OSU.
"This award recognizes that me and the other participants who are being inducted tonight have made a difference in somebody's life. That's meaningful stuff.”
Tammy Lee graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. Lee began her career as a marketing representative for John Deere in 1995 and has led the marketing efforts for the Business to Consumer space in North America. Throughout her career, Lee has developed extensive experience in marketing, product and portfolio management, field sales and the distribution channel along with a deep understanding of customer segments across Agricultural and Turf Production Systems and Lifecycle support. She is involved in OSU’s Diversity Development Council, Board of Governors and the Alumni Association Leadership Council. Lee was unable to attend the event in person but gave a virtual speech thanking the Division of Institutional Diversity for the award.
“Being a minority in agriculture and coming up in Oklahoma was not always easy,” Lee said. “Now, being able to graduate from Oklahoma State and giving back to help other minorities that want to be able to pursue a degree in agriculture has meant so much to me. So many great things have been accomplished and with the leadership we have and with the help of everyone here, I know we can do so much more.”
Kevin E. Stephney holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from OSU. He graduated in 1979 and was involved in the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Campus Crusade for Christ and the Council of Partners program. Stephney spent over 35 years in an engineering position at ExxonMobil where he served in a number of technical, corporate planning and leadership roles.
Stephney also earned a master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary where he focused on theology and organizational leadership. He has worked with several nonprofit organizations to promote multicultural leadership development. Stephney’s continued support of programs focused on retention of minority students has had an impact on the advancement of diversity and inclusion at OSU.
“I’ve been watching what’s been happening at OSU for a while and I’m so impressed by the accomplishments that have been made and the progress that continues to be made,” Stephney said. “I know that’s not by accident, that can only happen through strong, committed, purposeful leadership. I commend the commitment of the university and those who have this in the forefront of their mind and in their heart. It’s a hard thing to do because there are so many societal forces that seem to have competing views, agendas and opinions about whether we even need to have diversity and inclusion. But I believe it’s the right thing to do because it’s the human thing to do.”
Story By: Hadley DeJarnette | email@example.com