Five outstanding Oklahoma educators will be honored along with 100 of the state’s top public high school seniors, including Byng High School senior Thaddaeus McClain, when the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence hosts its 33rd Academic Awards Banquet at 6 p.m. May 18 at the Renaissance Tulsa Convention Center, 6808 S. 107th E. Ave.

“Shoot for the Stars” is the theme for this year’s banquet, which will feature a keynote address by former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, who served on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and helped construct the International Space Station. Tulsa television news anchor Scott Thompson – an Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence trustee – will serve as the emcee for the statewide banquet honoring “the best of the best” in Oklahoma’s public schools. David L. Boren, founder and chairman of the foundation, will deliver closing remarks.

The gala event, which is attended by nearly 1,000 people, will also feature musical entertainment by the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute Orchestra. Admission is $50 per person. Reservations can be made online by May 6 at

Ken Busby, a Tulsa trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and executive director and CEO of the Route 66 Alliance, serves as banquet chair.

“The Academic Awards Banquet is such an inspiring, entertaining, and important event for public education in Oklahoma,” Busby said. “Some have described it as the ‘Academy Awards’ of public education in Oklahoma because we really roll out the red carpet to honor extraordinary teachers and students. Top that off with an address by astronaut Leland Melvin and inspiring words from David Boren, and you have a very memorable evening. I hope everyone will make reservations and plan to join us for this special celebration.”

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is a nonprofit, charitable organization founded in 1985 by then-U.S. Sen. Boren to recognize and encourage academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. Through its Academic Awards Program, the foundation has awarded more than $4.7 million in merit-based scholarships and cash awards to honor outstanding graduating seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners.

The foundation will present its 2019 Oklahoma Medal for Excellence Award in Elementary Teaching to Catherine Adams, a school counselor who teaches social-emotional learning and bullying prevention at Piedmont Elementary School; in Secondary Teaching to Michelle Churchwell, English teacher and IKE Ignition Program coordinator, Eisenhower High School, Lawton; in Elementary/Secondary Administration to Dr. Rick Cobb, superintendent, Mid-Del Public Schools; in Regional University/Community College Teaching to Dr. Wayne Lord, professor of biology and forensic science, University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond; and in Research University Teaching to Dr. Keith Strevett, David Ross Boyd Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Oklahoma, Norman.

Each medal recipient will receive a $5,000 cash award as well as a glass “Roots and Wings” sculpture, created by the late Oklahoma artist Ron Roberts and produced by Tim Brown of Edmond. With support from scholarship sponsors, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence will also present merit-based Academic All-State Scholarships of $1,000 each and medallions to 100 Academic All-State Scholars.

The 2019 Academic All-State class hails from 83 schools in 75 Oklahoma school districts. The honorees were selected from 535 in what is described by Boren as “Oklahoma’s most rigorous academic competition.” Three Oklahoma high schools are celebrating their first Academic All-Stater: Blair, Kansas and Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee.

The Academic Awards Banquet will premiere statewide on public television at 8 p.m. May 25 on OETA. Subsequent airings will be shown on OETA’s OKLA digital channel. For digital broadcast listings, visit the station’s website at

For more information on the Academic Awards Banquet, visit the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence website at or call 405-236-0006.

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