The honorees have been announced for Eastern Oklahoma State College’s 14th annual Sapphire Ball scholarship fundraiser on Saturday, April 6. The annual black-tie event honors outstanding alumni, employees and supporters of the college while raising funds for student scholarships.
The 2024 honorees include Jennifer Woods of Wilburton (1978) and Randy Holeman of Broken Bow (1979) for the Distinguished Alumnus Award; Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of McAlester, Inc. for the President’s Community Spirit Award; Philip Hawthorne of Wilburton for the President’s Excellence in Teaching Award; and Hannah Truitt of Wilburton for the J.C. Hunt Award for Staff Excellence.
Eastern President Dr. Janet Wansick said the college is proud to recognize the contributions of this year’s honorees while raising funds for deserving students. Wansick said 100 percent of the Sapphire Ball proceeds will benefit student scholarships.
“The Sapphire Ball is both a scholarship fundraiser and a celebration of our remarkable Mountaineer family,” Wansick said. “The generosity of our donors, alumni and supporters helps ensure Eastern students are not held back by financial constraints while pursuing a college degree. We are extremely grateful to those who invest in our students and the future of our communities.”
The Distinguished Alumnus Award is presented annually to alumni who have distinguished themselves professionally and through service to the college.
Woods is from Wilburton. She serves the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma as a councilwoman representing District 6. Woods is only the eighth woman to serve on the CNO Tribal Council. She has spent her life working for the betterment of her community through social work and in her role as a councilwoman.
Originally from McAlester, Holeman has worked in the forestry industry for more than 40 years, beginning in the private sector before transitioning to public roles with Oklahoma State University and the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. He has authored or co-authored numerous journal articles and is an expert in his field.
Pepsi-Cola Bottling Co. of McAlester, Inc. will receive the Community Spirit Award for outstanding support of the community. Locally owned and operated by Eastern Alumni Charles Rogers, the company was founded in 1939 and has been active in the community ever since, donating to area schools, churches and other civic groups.
Hawthorne began teaching at Eastern in the fall of 1998 as an instructor of mathematics. During his tenure as a member of Eastern’s faculty, he has served on various committees such as the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy, the Honors Committee, the Distance Learning Committee, and the Assessment Committee, and he acted as Eastern’s Institutional Research Coordinator.
Truitt is a native of Wilburton and is an Eastern alumna (2015). She has worked at Eastern since 2020 and currently serves as the director of recruitment and retention. This position allows Hannah to travel and share her love of Eastern with incoming students while also creating and building relationships with students who currently attend.
In addition to the annual awards presentations for outstanding alumni, community supporters and employees, the event will feature dinner, a live auction, and other fundraising activities. The evening will begin with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. in the Tourtellotte Student Center Ballroom in Wilburton.
Tickets for the Sapphire Ball are $60 each, and corporate and table sponsorships are also available. Visit eosc.edu/sapphireball to purchase tickets and for additional information. An online auction will also be hosted on Eastern’s Facebook page April 4-7.