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Kari Watkins, a third-generation journalist, became the Oklahoma City National Memorial’s first staff member as the Communications Director in March 1996. She was named Executive Director in 1999. Today, she oversees the operations of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum; one of Oklahoma’s most visited sites and is Race Director for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Kari oversaw the design competition of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the building of the Memorial Museum and worked with board and staff to raise $29 million dollars for construction.
In 2013, Kari recognized the future of museums was changing and the Memorial had to adapt to maintain relevance. As a result, the Memorial began the $10 million 9:03 Campaign to update and enhance the existing Museum. Through the next two years, Kari led a team of board, staff, consultants and construction teams to design and build the award-winning Museum that exists today.
As the final project for the 20th Anniversary of the bombing, the Memorial opened the Uncover-Discover Lab, an academically oriented experience geared toward middle and high school students. The Lab integrates STEM concepts with lessons learned from the bombing in a highly interactive environment that stimulates learning and connects the past with the future. Today they are planning for 2020 – 25th Anniversary.
Locally, she has been recognized with several awards including: the 2000 Women in Communications Byliner Award, the 2005 Journal Record Woman of the Year, the 2006 Stanley Draper Award for Community Excellence, the 2011 University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism Distinguished Alumni Award, 2016 Lee Allan Smith Oklahoma Legacy Award, and the 2017 John F. Kennedy Community Service Award.
Kari leads a staff that has been recognized with the highest national recognition, accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums. Under her leadership, the Memorial Museum has won numerous awards. A few noteworthy ones include: The Videographer Award of Excellence, a Gold American Alliance of Museums MUSE, the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, and multiple Addy’s, PRSA Awards, and Oklahoma Tourism RedBud Awards.
Kari serves on the board of directors for the OKC Convention and Visitors Bureau, the MAPS3 Park Sub-Committee, is on the Board of Visitors for the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism & Mass Communications, is an elder at Crossings Community Church and serves on the Casady Parents’ Organization.
She and her husband Hardy, have two children, Ford and Caroline.
Lesli Massad, a lifelong resident of Oklahoma City, is the Director of Philanthropy & Partnerships for the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Lesli delights in networking opportunities, particularly those where she can cultivate and steward relationships and connect others with programs or people with mutual interests. Her primary career objective is to create and implement comprehensive fundraising plans to ensure the continuation of the mission and programs of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. Her passion is community relations, with an emphasis on assisting individuals and corporations in creating and developing funding opportunities that allow them to reach their philanthropic goals. Additionally, she promotes public awareness of the relevance of the Memorial and Museum through personal visits, as well as presentations to civic, community, and other organizations.
Aside from Lesli’s career passions, she is dedicated to developing opportunities to connect, educate, and engage others on matters important to and affecting our community. In 2015, Lesli founded The Nexus OKC, a monthly speaker series created to offer people a unique experience where they can gather together to engage in difficult conversations. Lesli holds strongly to the belief that we can and must impact our community for good. In order to do so, she wholeheartedly believes we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones to discuss and become familiar with the needs of our community and equip ourselves with the knowledge and resources necessary to make a difference.
Lesli attended Oklahoma State University. She has two adult children, Jeff who lives in San Francisco and Katie who lives in Houston. When not spending time with family and friends, Lesli enjoys being captivated by a book, podcast or movie.