University of Oklahoma President David and First Lady Molly Shi Boren will be recognized as the 2018 Red Earth Ambassadors of the Year during a Gala Event scheduled Tuesday, May 15 at the Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Norman. The Red Earth Ambassador of the Year award was founded in 1991 by Red Earth board members Louise Painter and David G. Campbell to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions in presenting a positive image of America Indians.
“Molly and David Boren have dedicated years of public service to the state of Oklahoma, and for the past 20 years have served the University of Oklahoma as its 13th President and First Lady,” said Teri Stanek, president of the Red Earth Board of Directors. “Their contributions to Native culture in both government service and in academics have been significant. We are thrilled to recognize them as or 2018 Red Earth Ambassadors of the Year.”
Politics and serving the public have always been and instrumental part of David Boren’s life. After serving in the Oklahoma House, he was elected Oklahoma’s youngest Governor in 1974 at age 33. As Governor, he established the Oklahoma Arts Institute and the Scholarship Leadership Endowment Program. After his election to the US Senate in 1978, he served the state and nation until 1994 - all the while championing quality education. When US Senator David Boren stepped down from his position in Washington DC to assume the role of President at the University of Oklahoma he likes to say he brought with him his trusted advisor Molly. He attributes Molly as being “the real strength of my presidency.”
Molly Shi Boren, a member of the Choctaw Nation, has a list of accomplishments that are equally impressive. After teaching English at Byng High School she acquired an MA in English from OU, an earned a Juris Doctorate degree from the OU School of Law whereupon she opened a law practice in her beloved city of Ada.
She was the first woman to serve on the board of trustees of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and the first woman elected to the Directors of Ada’s Chamber of Commerce. She also served as Special District Judge for Pontotoc County.
Upon David Boren’s appointment as president of the University of Oklahoma, Molly began a long-standing devotion to transforming the landscaping and building restorations on the campuses at Norman, Tulsa an Oklahoma. As the first person to have served as both First Lady of Oklahoma and First Lady of the University of Oklahoma, Molly often incorporated Native art into many of her beautification projects.
Through their partnership, Native issues have been front and center at the University. When President Boren arrived at OU in 1994, he and Molly began a campaign to expand the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art’s collections. Under his administration the multimillion-dollar James T. Bialac Native American Art Collection, consisting of over 4,000 works representing indigenous cultures across North America, was acquired. The collection features the artwork of many major Native artists such as Fritz Scholder, Richard “Dick” West, Allan Houser and Jerome Tiger.
His support for Indigenous Peoples Day and the expansion of Native American programs on campus were met with praise, and the OU College of Law instituted a Master of Legal Studies focusing on the law of Indigenous peoples. The College of Journalism is home to the National Native American Journalists Association and four Native languages are taught on campus. While under his leadership, the Native enrollment at the University increased significantly.
The University of Oklahoma Press has long been a leader in the publication of topics in native history, literature and culture and the university subsidizes The Jacobsen House to help preserve it and its historic and contemporary collections.
Red Earth Ambassador of the Year recipients have come from all areas of accomplishments – including artists and sports stars, actors and journalists, community and government leaders. Previous recipients have included NASA Astronaut John Herrington Commander, USN (retired), motion picture actor Kevin Costner, news magnate Ted Turner, Olympian Billy Mills, poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize winning author N. Scott Momaday, Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Yvonne Kauger, Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby, business and civic leader Neal McCaleb and Comanche Code Talker Charles Chibitty.
Honorary Gala Chairmen of the Red Earth Gala are former Oklahoma First Lady Cathy Keating and Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby. Vickie Norick, Chairman of the Red Earth Board of Directors is event chairman, and 2007 Miss America Lauren Nelson and Dino Lalli, hosts of television’s DISCOVER OKLAHOMA, will emcee the evening.
Patron Tables to the cocktail attire event are $2500 and individual tickets are $150. For reservations visit www.redearth.org or call (405) 427-5228.
For nearly 40 years the 501 (c) 3 non-profit Red Earth, Inc has been recognized as the region’s premier organization for advancing the understanding and continuation of Native American traditional and contemporary culture and arts. The Red Earth Art Center, open weekdays at 6 Santa Fe Plaza in downtown Oklahoma City, hosts a diverse and changing schedule of art exhibitions and is custodian of a permanent collection of fine art, pottery, basketry, textiles and beadwork.