Leadership Oklahoma presents awards at annual celebration

BY KEN RAYMOND as reported in the Oklahoman

From left, Clay Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma City Thunder; Mike Neal, president and chief executive officer of the Tulsa Metro Chamber; Jacque Hollar, widow of Great Expectations founder Charles Hollar; Excellence in Leadership Gala co-chairmen Paula Huck and Rick Huck; and Jim McAuley, chairman and chief executive officer of First American Bank.
 
 
 Leadership Oklahoma presented four awards on Feb. 23 to individuals and businesses "that make a meaningful difference" in our state, a news release states.
 
 More than 270 people from across the state attended the group's annual Excellence in Leadership Gala at Southern Hills Country Club.
 
 Charles Hollar of Ponca City was honored posthumously with the Leadership Oklahoma Lifetime Achievement Award for establishing the state's Great Expectations program, which helps teachers reach their maximum potential.
 
 Hollar became involved in education reform in 1991 after a successful career as a financial planner.
 
 "Building upon the instructional practices of a master teacher," the release notes, "Hollar convened a group of exemplary educators to develop a methodology of teaching to promote a classroom climate of mutual respect and civility."
 
 Now in its 20th year, Hollar's program has been used in 83 schools in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. More than 40,000 educators have received training.
 
 His daughter, Sidney Hollar, accepted the award from Linda Dzialo, chief executive officer of Great Expectations.
 
 Mike Neal, of Tulsa, received the Distinguished Graduate Award. Neal is the president and chief executive officer of the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
 
 In that role, he was honored as the 2010 Executive of the Year by the state Chamber of Commerce Executives Association and was TulsaPeople's 2011 Tulsan of the Year.
 
 "Under Neal's leadership," the release states, "the Chamber has developed One Voice, an effort to create a state and federal lobbying agenda not just for Tulsa but for the entire region, as well as Tulsa's Future II, a holistic approach to developing the regional economy.
 
 "Through Neal's efforts, the region is vibrant and is motivating young people to stay, start businesses, create jobs and strive to contribute to the area's innovations in culture, dedication and commerce."
 
 Neal, a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma's class XXI, accepted the award from Dr. Gerry Clancy, president of OUTulsa.
 
 First American Bank received the Business Leadership Award.
 
 The bank has nine locations and is based in Norman. It was honored for "promoting leadership principles and practices while implementing programs worthy of example," the release notes.
 
 The banks' "commitment to their communities, people and groups are what make them special," the release continues. "Within the last year, First American Bank has donated $141,000 to nearly 200 organizations and provided countless volunteer hours within their communities."
 
 Jim McAuley, First American's chairman and chief executive officer, received the award from Kristin Collins, president of the United Way of Norman.
 
 The Oklahoma City Thunder, the state's NBA team, was honored with the Statewide Community Award.
 
 The franchise "has reached across valued differences to develop among Oklahomans a sense of common purpose and a more profound sense of loyalty to their state," the release notes. "The founding values of character, humility and development of people are expected from management to the players."
 
 The ownership group and the employees have championed the Thunder as a team for the entire state, not just for Oklahoma City. That inclusivity means fans across Oklahoma feel as if they're part of the team, making it an area of common interest and support.
 
 Clay Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma City Thunder, accepted the award from state Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor.
 
 Gala co-chairmen were Rick and Paula Huck of Tulsa.
 
 Leadership Oklahoma, a statewide organization, has produced more than 1,280 graduates from 164 Oklahoma communities.
 
 The group's mission is "to create, inspire and support a dynamic network of leaders whose increased awareness and commitment to service will energize Oklahomans to shape Oklahoma's future."