James Pepper Henry was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in the Pacific Northwest, but returned every summer to Oklahoma to attend the tribal dances of the Kaw people. James Pepper Henry’s family is originally from Kaw City and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
He is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a BA degree in fine arts and minor in art history. He is also a graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute (Los Angeles) with a graduate certificate in Museum Leadership.
James is the Director and CEO of the American Indian Cultural Center and AICCM.
He is former Executive Director of Gilcrease AICCM in Tulsa, OK; former Executive Director of the Heard AICCM in Phoenix, AZ; former Director/CEO of the Anchorage AICCM in Anchorage, AK; and the former Associate Director of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of the American Indian.
James was most recently a member of the Downtown Tulsa Rotary Club, and a past member of the Downtown Anchorage, Alaska Rotary Club. He has been a member of Rotary since 2007.
James Pepper Henry is a member of the Kaw Nation Iloshka Society – a ceremonial dance society – and his hobbies include outdoor photography, painting, and hiking.
Rotarian Sponsors: Kathy Williams, John Michael Williams, Amber Sharples
Paul Warren was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and grew up an Army brat, living in South Korea as well as traveling the world and the United States.
Paul is proud that his father served in the military for 25 years, retiring as a Lt. Colonel.
He graduated from Oklahoma State University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and majoring in Marketing.
Paul got to OKC by working for TriCorps Cybersecurity and is the Vice President of Business Development.
TriCorps – an integrated Physical, Surveillance (Cameras) and Cybersecurity firm – was formed when David Ross, retired Oklahoma Highway Patrolman, and Scott Klososky, well-known and respected technology futurist, merged companies.
In past positions, he worked at Microsoft for 14 years and at Salesforce for 3 years; he has worked in software and technology for over 30 years.
Paul enjoys spending time with family – his wife Dayna (also an OSU graduate) and both of his children (who went to OU; so yes, house divided). He currently has 1 grandson and a granddaughter is due in December.
He is into anything competitive in sports, especially NBA and OKC Thunder, is active in his church, and enjoys helping companies “prosper and protect” their business.
Rotarian Sponsors: Freda Deskin, Lou Kerr, Franci Hart
Rebecca Kaye grew up in Virginia and spent her adult life in Atlanta and DC, but her parents and extended family are in Oklahoma – from the metro OKC and the Binger/Gracemont areas – so being in OKC is like a homecoming of sorts.
She earned her BA from the University of Virginia, her MPA from Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, and her Ed.S. in educational leadership from the University of West Georgia. She is currently a doctoral candidate in educational leadership and policy at the Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.
Rebecca has served Oklahoma City Public Schools as their Chief of Staff since January of 2017.
Rebecca Kaye has served as OKCPS Chief of Staff since January 2017. In that capacity, she coordinates the district’s executive team, supports the superintendent, develops strategic plans for improvement, supports improvements to board governance, and builds relationships with our community and legislative leaders. She also filled in temporarily as the acting superintendent from February to June as the board searched to fill the role permanently. She is particularly passionate about building positive adult culture within our central administration teams and school teams in support of our students.
Kaye joined OKCPS from Atlanta Public Schools, a district serving a diverse student body of over 51,000 in Georgia’s capital city. There, she served as the superintendent’s Policy & Governance Advisor. In this role, she led governmental relations strategy, policy development, system and school governance processes, school board communications, and high-level problem solving on behalf of the superintendent.
Prior to her service in urban district leadership, she began her career teaching middle school language arts and social studies in Atlanta, before embarking on her career in education policy. Her prior work experiences include the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), the Presidential Management Fellows program in the US Department of Education, and the Georgia Department of Education.
Rebecca and her husband Michael have two sons who attend their neighborhood OKCPS schools. Through getting engaged in the OKC community, she has especially enjoyed learning more about her parents’ roots in central Oklahoma.
Rotarian Sponsors: Reed Downey, Mary Melon
Erika Lucas was born, raised, and schooled in Mexico, coming here with her mom and sister when she was young but returning to Mexico. Later in life she came to visit her mom, met her husband, and stayed.
Erika is the Co-Founder of StitchCrew and in partnership with the OKC Thunder, they run an accelerator program to connect technology entrepreneurs with the resources, network, and investment they need to launch and scale businesses in Oklahoma.
Prior to StitchCrew, she worked for a Private Equity company with investments in the US and Europe and before that she was the Director of Foreign Direct Investment and Trade for the State of Oklahoma – at the OK Department of Commerce. When living in Mexico, she helped international companies establish successful operations in-country.
Erika loves traveling with her family and investing in high-growth startups. They founded StitchCrew because they strongly believe that the most pressing challenges we face as a society will not be solved by traditional mindset or policy alone, but by bold entrepreneurs.
Rotarian Sponsors: Ann Ackerman, Pat Potts, Matt McGuire
Robert Cooke was born and raised in OKC.
He graduated from John Marshall High School and then went to Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana. Afterward, he went to medical school at the University of Oklahoma and did his surgery residency at OU Health Sciences Center.
Robert practiced as a General Surgeon in OKC until his retirement at the end of last year.
He and his wife, Diane, have been traveling and trying to spend as much family time as they can with their 3 sons and their families. He is an avid golfer and has been enlightened by his short tenure in Rotary.
His Rotary Sponsors are: Ron Perry, Rick Vermillion, and Jim Jennings
Polly Anderson is a Floridian and a graduate of the University of South Florida (Go Bulls!). However, her first PBS station was at the University of Florida, so she also considers herself a Florida Gator.
Polly was recruited to OETA after a national search to fill the Executive Director position. OETA is the television network for PBS for the state of Oklahoma and she has worked for PBS stations for a little over twenty years, with this being the fourth organization where she has been the CEO.
Polly began her public broadcasting career at the University of Florida in a mid-management position, and fell in love with public broadcasting; both programming and the people who enjoy and are touched by the programming. She then accepted a position as Vice President of the state network in Alabama where she was in charge of all fundraising and communications. Her goal though, was to run a station and she got that opportunity when she was recruited for the position of President and CEO of the PBS (TV) and NPR (radio) station in Waco, Texas. She then was recruited to run the PBS TV station in Albuquerque, NM and then accepted the offer to run the PBS station in Orlando, Florida where she could be close to her elderly parents.
After three years there, she took some time off to spend time with her elderly mother, and then was recruited last fall to come to Oklahoma and run OETA. She began her tenure at OETA last December and is so proud to be running the number one, most-watched PBS station in the country.
Polly enjoys music, the arts, museums, reading, exercise, walking and yoga, cooking, and learning about food from other cultures.
Rotarian Sponsors: Mary Melon, Ted Streuli, and Glen Johnson
Sara Jane Smallwood Cocke was born and raised in Clayton, OK; the heart of the Choctaw Nation. She is honored to serve her Nation every day. She has helped to grow the Government Relations Department to serve all parts (over 100 departments) of the Choctaw Nation in relationship building at the federal, state, and local government levels.
She was a graduate and valedictorian of Clayton High School in Clayton, OK. She received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Communications and American Indian Studies at OSU and was named an Outstanding Senior as one of the university’s top graduates. In 2007, she was chosen as a Scholar by the Morris K. Udall and the Stewart L. Udall Foundation and as a Fellow by the Public Policy and International Affairs Program, where she was part of the Princeton University summer fellowship. And she received a Master of Public Affairs with emphasis in local governance from Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs and was invited back to campus in Spring of 2018 to serve as the program’s first-ever Alum in Residence to talk about public service in Indian Country.
Sara Jane recently entered her 7th year working for the Choctaw Nation, and is now the Director of Government Relations and Promise Zone Coordinator for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. In this role, she serves as the liaison on behalf of the Choctaw Nation for state policy matters in Oklahoma, and opened an Oklahoma City office in fall of 2017. She also leads and directs the nationwide Promise Zone designation for the Choctaw Nation – the very first tribal designee – and has worked with hundreds of partners in southeastern Oklahoma to leverage more than $500 million in federal investment and technical assistance to the southeastern region of Oklahoma since 2014. She also directed and organized the visit of President Barack Obama to the Choctaw Nation in 2015; this historic event was the first-ever visit by a sitting President of the United States to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
Sara Jane and her husband, Adam, are newlyweds and make their home in Norman where they are active in St. Joseph Catholic Church. They love to travel as well as visit their families in the beautiful mountains of southeastern Oklahoma.
Rotarian Sponsors: Anne Roberts, Lou Kohlman, and Clayton Taylor
Allen Gradnigo originally moved here in the fourth grade and graduated as a co-valedictorian from Moore High School. He is returning to Oklahoma via Grand Rapids, Michigan, after serving more than 22 years of active duty Air Force.
He apparently likes being in school, because he has a Bachelor in Science in Computer Science from McMurry University in Abilene, Texas; his MBA from Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama; an MA in International Relations from OU; an MA in Security Studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California; and is projected to defend his doctoral dissertation after damages from Hurricane Florence for his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership from Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.
Allen leads a team of 18 information technology professions located in Bangalore, India, for Cisco Systems. They deliver an annual subscription service called Technical Knowledge Library (TKL), which provides engineers and others with 24/7 access to Cisco Press books and direct access to industry experts. And if not enough, he also teaches Success Central as an adjunct at UCO.
Allen is married to Jennifer and has three children. His son is a junior, studying Applied Exercise Science at OSU; his daughter is a sophomore at Edmond Santa Fe; and his youngest is a second grader at Cross Timbers Elementary. Over the years, he has lived or worked in 19 states and 8 countries and during his spare time, he completed 6 full marathons and an Olympic distance triathlon. During the summer, he played short stop and left field for St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Edmond and is passionate about cultural intelligence and student retention in higher education
Rotarian Sponsor: Ted Streuli, Dave Rhea, and Herb Gilkey
Ron Kelly is originally from Illinois, and after stops in Indiana and Texas, came to Oklahoma City to serve as the President and CEO of Epworth Villa Retirement Community. Ron has worked in various senior living executive roles for faith-based, non-profits since 1994.
He is a graduate of Illinois State University in Accounting.
Ron and his wife have 5 children and recently became empty nesters. Family and church fill their time outside of work, and he personally enjoys golf, music, and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Rotarian Sponsors: Laura Garrett, David Battles, and Ron Perry
Thanks to Rotarian Devery Youngblood for the bios of these 5 new Rotarians!