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2/17/2011

Price College scholarship fund honors the memory and legacy of Mel Penn

Sullivant Award

Behind many of the University of Oklahoma’s named scholarships are individuals and families who have made a difference in the lives of OU students. 

Such is the case with the Mel Penn MBA Scholarship Fund, which was established with gifts from many of Penn’s former students who wanted to honor him and his commitment to them.   As Price College’s longtime corporate relations executive and director of the Student Support Center, Penn mentored, counseled and encouraged MBA students, helping them develop into successful professionals. 

Penn’s former students also sought to encourage and support him as he waged a battle with cancer.  On Feb. 15, he lost his brave fight.  It’s a testament of his former students’ great respect and affection for him that $150,000 already has been committed for his named endowed scholarship.  When fundraising is completed, the endowment will provide an annual leadership scholarship of $10,000 to assist talented MBA student leaders. 

An OU alumnus, Penn earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration in 1972 and 1976, respectively.  He returned to OU in 1997 after a successful 25-year career in business – much of it with Kerr-McGee Corp., where he served in several leadership capacities both in the United States and Australia -- when he was tapped to become the first director of Price College’s newly created Student Support Center.   Penn also served as chairman of the Price College Alumni Association and for years mentored OU Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band drum majors, using experience gained during his student days as a member and drum major of the Pride.

In spring 2010, Penn was honored with the Otis Sullivant Award for Perceptivity at OU.  The $20,000 award, funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, is presented to an OU faculty or staff member who exhibits “keen perceptivity.” The agreement establishing the prize also states that a person “who manifests intuitiveness, instant comprehension, empathy, is observant and interprets from experience” should be selected.  The benefit to society and the broader community, which comes from the insight of the recipient, also is considered. 

“We should transfer wealth from our personal experiences,” Penn said after receiving the award. “And that’s seldom driven via e-mail or text message. It’s delivered by spending time with young people and insisting they make the final decision.”

Penn’s family has suggested that donations in his memory be directed to the Mel Penn MBA Scholarship Fund at the University of Oklahoma Foundation Inc.  For additional information about making a gift to the Mel Penn MBA Scholarship, please contact Lynann Sterk at lsterk@ou.edu or (405) 325-4139.

(Pictured: Betsy and Mel Penn stand with OU President David L. Boren as Mel receives the Otis Sullivant Award for Perceptivity.)

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