Welcome back. This year’s class of eight inductees into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is quite impressive with some names I hope you may have already heard of. American Idol winner in 2005 country music giant from Checotah, Oklahoma Carrie Underwood and Shannon Miller who won seven Olympic medals in gymnastics including two gold. Eight term U.S House of Representative member Tom Cole of Moore and the first black Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Tom Colbert of Sapulpa. Restauranteur Hal Smith of Ardmore and Phil Parduhn who is the Chairman of Pelco Products in Edmond and Pelco Structural LLC in Claremore. Civil rights activist Lois Sipuel Fisher and the renowned Cherokee linguist and statesman Sequoyah are being inducted posthumously.
The last inductee is someone I have had the privilege to get to know personally. Born on May 14 1940 in Duvall, Washington, he was the second of two children. He acquired a strong work ethic from his father at an early age learning that every penny counted in his struggling family. His dad milked cows by hand and as a little boy he churned raw milk into butter to make extra money for the family. In grade school, he excelled not only in class but also in sports. Tall and wiry, in high school he played basketball, softball, soccer, baseball and even tennis, often getting home after dark and then helping his dad haul hay. The whole family always attended church on Sunday and this young boy was a solid Christian but in 1951 his life was changed at a church revival in Seattle, Washington. It was led by a young preacher named Billy Graham. The boy had always had three ambitions and the first was to become a preacher, then he wanted to be a farmer because he loved cows as his father did and lastly, he wanted to be a businessman.
Billy Graham received the boy into God’s hands on that day in Seattle’s Taft Stadium and from then on, the kid from Duvall let the Lord guide his life. Reverend Graham became known around the world for his preaching and the kid went on to work his way through college even getting the opportunity to attend graduate school overseas. He retained the same drive and ambition he had always had and with his positive attitude he made friends everywhere he went. Eventually he too made a name for himself around the world, not only as a preacher but also as a farmer, rancher, businessman and philanthropist. Work brought him to Oklahoma as a young man and because of the kindness he found here he adopted the state as his own, becoming one of its best ambassadors. With a strong desire to help other people, he built his company Express Employment Professionals, into one of the leading employment companies in the country which gave him the tools he needed to achieve his other humanitarian goals.
He bought property in New Mexico adjoining the Philmont Scout Ranch which saved an important hiking trail from being closed. He quietly became the second largest donor to the construction of the new football stadium at OSU after Boone Pickens. He also became one of the leading supporters of the Children’s Miracle Network fundraiser as well as donating generously to many other organizations not because he wanted recognition but because he wanted to help other people.
Among all his many achievements in business, he served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City. This man’s name is Bob Funk.
If you want to know more about Mr. Funk, the well-known biographers Bob Burke and Dan Gillogly have written a book about him called “Bob Funk: Doctor of Hope.”The ceremony for these eight inductees into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame will be in November and what a party that should be.
Till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……….