As a parent and a long-time public school teacher, First Lady Kim Henry holds education near and dear to her heart. And as a board member and spokesperson for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), she has made clear that she cares deeply about medical research. So it should come as no surprise that Henry found a way to unite these two passions in a one-of-a-kind fundraising event.
This evening, Henry – along with former First Ladies Cathy Keating, Rhonda Walters, Donna Nigh and Ann Bartlett – hosted the inaugural Oklahoma First Ladies Gala. The black-tie event took place at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club and was jointly presented by Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy Corp. and Kerr-McGee.
The first-ever event raised $300,000 for OMRF, which will be used to support graduate student scholarships at OMRF.
“The Ph.D. training program at OMRF offers our state’s brightest young minds a chance to become tomorrow’s medical scientists,” said Henry. “With this Gala, the other First Ladies and I saw the chance to help provide top-caliber Oklahoma students with this unparalleled learning opportunity.”
“The Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation is one of the nation’s premier institutions for advancement in the biomedical fields,” said Larry Nichols, chairman and chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy Corp. “Oklahoma is fulfilling its potential as a leader in biomedical research, and our support for OMRF and the state’s future scientists are fundamental as we continue to develop in this very important field.”
“Our state’s sons and daughters should not have to leave Oklahoma to get a top-notch science education,” said Aubrey McClendon, chairman and chief executive officer of Chesapeake Energy. “Oklahoma’s energy companies are proud to join our state’s First Ladies in inaugurating a tradition that will pay dividends for generations to come.”
“I commend OMRF for offering our students the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s best scientists and doctors and commend First Lady Kim Henry for establishing this effort to raise funding for graduate student scholarships,” said Luke R. Corbett, Kerr-McGee chairman and chief executive officer. “Kerr-McGee believes in supporting the communities where we operate around the world, and providing educational opportunities for our future leaders in healthcare and medicine is a great way to support our community, our nation and the world.”
Harrison and Elaine Levy served as chairs of the inaugural First Ladies Gala, which also honored Presbyterian Health Foundation President Michael Anderson, Ph.D., with the OMRF Champion of Health award. At the Gala, OMRF officials also surprised foundation President J. Donald Capra, M.D., with a new graduate student scholarship fund named in his honor. They announced that OMRF had already raised over $750,000 to endow this new fund.
In partnership with the University of Oklahoma Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, OMRF’s graduate education programs offer scholarships and mentoring for doctoral students. OMRF currently counts more than 30 Ph.D. students working toward their degrees under the mentorship of OMRF scientists. The students’ work covers a wide spectrum of research areas, from Alzheimer’s disease to the development of the immune system.
Chartered in 1946, OMRF (www.omrf.org) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute dedicated to understanding and curing human disease. Its scientists focus on such critical research areas as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, lupus and cardiovascular disease. OMRF is home to Oklahoma’s only member of the National Academy of Sciences.