Esteemed Educators Selected for Hall of Fame Honor
Two Oklahoma educators whose legacies span generations have been selected for induction into the prestigious Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame. Joyce Henderson of Oklahoma City and Ray Henson of Durant will be honored at a Nov. 10 induction ceremony at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
“Our 36th class of hall of fame honorees represents the life-changing work of educators in our state’s urban and rural communities,” Sharon Lease, executive director of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, said. “They’ve made unique contributions to their communities, Oklahoma, and most importantly, the children of Oklahoma, and we’re deeply appreciative of the opportunity to recognize their incredible contributions.”
Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame President Eugene Earsom also lauded the honorees.
“Few Oklahoma educators can match the collective legacy of our honorees,” Earsom said. “Their extraordinary commitment to Oklahoma’s children and willingness to constantly pursue better opportunities for students is a model for today’s educators and those just beginning their education careers. We are so proud to welcome them in the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.”
Henderson’s 37 years as an educator were shaped by her own experiences as a Dunjee High School student, where she was taught and mentored by civil rights icon Clara Luper and traveled to Washington D.C. to witness Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver his “I Have Dream” speech. Dunjee is also where she began her career as a social studies teacher.
Henderson spent most of her education career as principal at several Oklahoma City high schools: Emerson, Classen (original), Northeast and Star Spencer. Henderson later became the first principal of the reopened Classen School of Advanced Studies, and the street in front of the school is dedicated “Honorary Joyce A. Henderson Drive” in her honor.
For the last decade of her career in Oklahoma City Public Schools, she served on the superintendent’s cabinet as the Executive Director of School and Community Services. In 2012, she stepped in to assist Douglass High School through a leadership transition.
True to Luper’s legacy, Henderson’s work in public education is only part of her own storied education legacy. She is featured in the Children of Civil Rights Documentary Film along with others who participated in the sit-in movement in Oklahoma City.
She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, Clara Luper Legacy Committee, OKC Clara Luper Plaza Committee, and the OKC Freedom Center/Clara Luper Civil Rights. She previously served as a board member for Youth Services of Oklahoma County, Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, Oklahoma City Leadership Alumni Association, the Oklahoma African American Educational Hall of Fame, Sunbeam Family Services and YWCA. Henderson is a longtime member of the NAACP; Alpha Kappa Alpha; Langston University Alumni Association; and the University of Central Oklahoma Alumni Association.
Her many honors include induction into the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation’s Wall of Fame, Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame, and Langston University Education Hall of Fame; the Women of Color Expo Educator of the Year; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Black History Award Recipient; John F. Kennedy Foundation’s Performing Arts Administrator Award; St. John CME Church’s Outstanding Black Woman Award; and the church’s Minister of Music Emeritus and pianist. Henderson obtained a bachelor’s degree from Langston University in 1968, a master’s degree from UCO in 1972 and a secondary school administration certificate from the University of Oklahoma in 1973.
“Mrs. Henderson is more than an administrator – she is a true inspiration,” said B.J. Bryant, a 2001 graduate of Classen School of Advanced Studies. “Her unwavering passion, loyalty, and gratitude have served as a guiding light for all those who have the honor of knowing her. Her daily demonstrations of these qualities motivated us as young people to strive for excellence and be the very best versions of ourselves.” She continues to give inspirational and civil rights speeches to schools, clubs and organizations.
Henson’s 53-year education career began as a science teacher in Kinta, and he later became a basketball coach and high school principal in Glenpool. In 1971, Henson took the helm at Talihina Public Schools as superintendent. For 35 years, he sought educational innovations that led to dramatic increases in student learning opportunities and achievement in Talihina, and he garnered support that led to upgraded district facilities, which now bear his name.
Henson became a state and national champion and expert on the importance of Impact Aid, which supports districts with large amounts of federal and tribal lands. He served as president of the Oklahoma Association Serving Impacted Schools (OASIS), assisting schools throughout the state with training to acquire Impact Aid in support of Oklahoma students, and continued that work for a dozen years after retiring as Talihina superintendent.. He helped create a national organization to ensure Impact Aid remained an important and stable source of funding for schools in Oklahoma and nationwide.
Through his education career, Henson has been recognized for his success and dedication to students. His honors include induction into the Eastern Oklahoma State College Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004 and receiving the University of Oklahoma Career Educator Award in 2004. He also served as president of the National Board of North Central Association, the Talihina Chamber of Commerce, Talihina Lions Club, Talihina Housing Authority, and served on the boards of the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools, National Indian Impact Aid Association, and the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activity Association. Henson also led and served on councils related to adult education and bilingual education with special attention to Native American students.
Henson received the Associate of Science from Eastern in 1964, the Bachelor of Science from Northeastern Oklahoma State University in 1966, the Master of Science in School Administration from Tulsa University in 1970 and his professional certificate in superintendent studies from the University of Oklahoma in 1972.
“No one could better represent Oklahoma in the Educators Hall of Fame,” said Perry Willis, the retired executive director of the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools. “After 50-plus years of serving schools and making a positive impact on each one, he also impacted communities in which he served. Becoming involved in local organizations such as the chamber of commerce and Lions Club showed his total commitment to not only the school but the community.”
For more information and ticket information, contact Lease at 405.692.3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb. 24, 2023
STATEMENT FROM OKLAHOMA EDUCATORS HALL OF FAME
For nearly 40 years, the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame has celebrated those who have dedicated their lives to Oklahoma’s children and their futures. We honor their expertise, commitment, sacrifice, leadership, and service every year. We will continue to do so.
Since the non-profit organization’s incorporation in 1984, OEHF has partnered with the Oklahoma State Department of Education to honor and recognize these individuals who collectively represent the best of a noble profession.
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters recently ordered the removal of the portraits of Hall of Fame inductees from a corridor of the state Education Department. We read through the media that he referred derisively to the inductees as “union bosses” and “bureaucrats.” He made this change without notice to the Hall of Fame, which retains ownership of the portraits. The inductees or the persons who nominate them pay for the portraits, and the Hall of Fame has them framed professionally for display.
We have reached out to Superintendent Walters and the state Education Department for conversation. We respect his commitment to parents and students. Every educator knows that education is most effective when it is a partnership between schools, educators, families, students and the community.
We are hopeful a dialogue will result in Mr. Walters’ reconsidering his decision, and that he will place the portraits on display at a location in the Oliver Hodge Building (named for an inductee) that is accessible and visible to the public and honorees’ families, that will protect the craftsmanship of the portraits, and that will dignify the honorees’ individual and collective service to Oklahoma.
We firmly believe it’s possible to honor and recognize parents, students and esteemed educators who spent their professional lives working with and for young Oklahomans.
Over the years of selecting honorees, OEHF selection committees have engaged in vigorous debate over nominees. The beauty of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame is that it’s never been about political leanings but rather how nominees have advanced education and served Oklahoma.
Collectively, Hall of Fame honorees have served tens of thousands of Oklahoma students in pre-K-12, career technology, and higher education. They have broken racial barriers, shattered glass ceilings, challenged the status quo, changed hearts, and filled many, many young minds with the confidence they needed to pursue their hopes and dreams. Many of their names are found in Oklahoma history books and on buildings throughout the state.
Many inductees are no longer with us, but their colleagues, former students and families hold their loved one’s Hall of Fame induction as a cherished memory and evidence of an enduring legacy. That legacy and history are part of us as a state and as an education community.
The Hall of Fame inductees earned this recognition over decades of service. The very least we can do is honor them in a manner befitting their leadership, service, and legacy.
For additional information, contact OEHF President Eugene Earsom or Executive Director Sharon Lease.
Hall of Fame Announces 2022 Inductees
A trio of Oklahoma educators whose dedication to public education has benefited generations of Oklahoma children have been selected for induction into the prestigious Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.
Weldon Davis, H.J. Green, and David Pennington will be honored at a Nov. 4 induction ceremony at Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.
“Our 35th class of hall of fame honorees served the state in so many different ways but always focused on ensuring the success of Oklahoma students,” Sharon Lease, executive director of the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame, said. “They are the type of educators we should all aspire to be, and we’re thrilled to recognize their incredible contributions.”
Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame President Eugene Earsom also lauded the honorees.
“It is heartwarming and appropriate to honor these three whose devotion to the teaching profession has been so admirable and accomplished,” Earsom said. “This year’s inductees collectively have more than a century of dedication to achieving a first-class quality education for every student in Oklahoma.” Davis’ education career began small, teaching elementary and junior high students in Barnsdall. Returning to his hometown of Lawton, he spent two decades as a teacher, counselor and adjunct professor. During his time in Lawton, Davis grew into a formidable public education advocate, while rising to president of the Lawton Association of Classroom Teachers.
He left Lawton schools for the halls of the state Capitol as the first multi-year Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) president. During his six years as OEA president, Davis traveled statewide to fight for public education. He provided advocacy opportunities to teachers, recruited and campaigned for pro-public education legislative candidates, and deftly navigated Capitol politics to help secure new state revenue for schools and better retirement benefits for teachers.
Davis’ career came full circle when he returned to the schoolhouse, closing out a distinguished education career with 16 years at Oklahoma City Public Schools, including the last six as principal at Northwest Classen High School. Even in retirement, Davis remains a fierce public education advocate through leadership positions with the Oklahoma Retired Educators Association.
“The breadth of Weldon’s career and educational influence is staggering,” Kenya Kraft and Joe Wynn wrote in Davis’ nomination. “He has impacted countless lives ... and has consistently been recognized as a trusted voice for education in our state.”
Pennington’s four-decade career in Oklahoma education likewise had rural roots that eventually carried him to the national stage. After teaching and coaching in Kansas and Bristow, Pennington began his career as an administrator with building and central office positions in Bristow. He began the first of two superintendencies in Blackwell in 1995, and, in 2004, he accepted the position of Ponca City Public Schools superintendent where he served for 13 years. His leadership in Ponca City was marked by progressive initiatives to modernize the educational experience for students and for staff professional development. Pennington was deeply involved in a number of civic endeavors and his peers selected him to serve in statewide leadership roles with the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators (OASA). His time with the OASA also led to service opportunities at the national level, where he served for more than a decade with the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), including as AASA president in 2014-2015. Pennington was named OASA District 4 Superintendent of the Year four times and was honored with OASA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. AASA also recognized Pennington for distinguished service in 2017. Since his retirement from Ponca City in 2017, he has continued to serve as executive director of the United Suburban Schools Association.
In nominating Pennington for the Hall of Fame honor, Guthrie Public Schools Superintendent Mike Simpson reflected on Pennington’s impact and the respect he has within the education community.
“I have personally witnessed his service to students of Oklahoma in the districts he served,” Simpson said. “His mentorship has built countless other educational leaders, impacting instruction in Oklahoma for generations.”
From start to finish, change has been a hallmark of Green’s career path. While he hails from tiny Wakita, Oklahoma, the story of his education career has an urban foundation that led to a lifetime of work focused on high school reform. Green’s early career in Tulsa Public Schools aligned with desegregation efforts, and his leadership as Booker T. Washington High School’s principal helped establish the school’s cutting-edge specialized curriculum as part of a voluntary integration plan at the all-Black school. During his eight years as the school’s principal, he was named one of the 60 most effective high school principals by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and was eventually inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
Green’s experience as a football player at Oklahoma State University and as a high school coach served him well when he served for three years as executive director of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association. However, his focus wasn’t just athletics. Green helped establish a statewide academic bowl and, under his leadership, OSSAA began awarding academic state championships for athletic teams. After years serving as an administrator in California, Green returned to Oklahoma in 2008 to serve as Tulsa’s deputy superintendent and turnaround officer under former superintendent Keith Ballard.
Green is also well known for a three-decade-long career as a high school and collegiate football and basketball referee. He has served on boards for several nonprofits in Oklahoma and California, including the Oklahoma Educational Memorial Trust Foundation, the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame (charter board member) and the National College Football Hall of Fame.
“It’s impossible to articulate the enormous impact of his work or the influence that he’s made on the lives of students and educators – not to mention Oklahoma history,” Kyle Dahlem wrote in nominating Green. “While other parts of the state and nation struggled to change the culture of schools, Tulsa put an integration plan in place and worked the plan all under the aegis of H.J. Green.”