With a combined 66 years of service in the Oklahoma Legislature, Sen. Charles Ford and Sen. Penny Williams have devoted much of their lives working to strengthen public education in Oklahoma.
Senators Ford and Williams, both of Tulsa, will be this year’s recipients of the Constitution Award at Rogers State University. They will receive the award at a ceremony and luncheon on Sept. 20 on the RSU campus in Claremore.
“We are proud and honored to present Senators Ford and Williams with this distinguished award,” said RSU President Joe Wiley. “As lifelong public servants, both Senators Ford and Williams have diligently guarded the principles of the U.S. Constitution and have provided tireless leadership to increase educational opportunities available to the people of Oklahoma.”
Each fall since 1987, RSU has presented the Constitution Award to an Oklahoman who has demonstrated a strong commitment to the principles of the Constitution through his or her life’s work.
Ford, a native Tulsan, attended Oklahoma A&M College, now known as Oklahoma State University. Since 1958, he has owned and operated the Charles R. Ford Co., a real estate investment company in Tulsa.
He was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1966 and served for 14 years. In 1981, he was elected to the Oklahoma Senate and retired at the end of the last session. He held numerous leadership positions during his 38 years in the Legislature. He is the second lawmaker to hold the position of Minority Leader in both houses. He is second in total legislative experience since statehood – one half of his lifetime. He has been author of many key legislative proposals, including the “Make My Day Law,” which allows citizens to protect their lives and property.
He co-authored legislation creating Tulsa Junior College in 1968 and the University of Oklahoma Medical School in Tulsa in the early 1970s. In 1977, he authored a bill allowing for concurrent enrollment of high school students in college. And in 1980, he authored legislation to create the University Center at Tulsa.
In 1998, Ford continued his support of higher education as the author of Senate Bill 1426, which created a branch of OSU in Tulsa. That legislation also established a branch of Northeastern State University in Broken Arrow and gave RSU a new mission to seek accreditation as a four-year university.
During the Reagan administration, he was appointed as a member of the Southwest Regional Committee of the National Park Service. He also served on the National Petroleum Council during the administration of the first President Bush.h.
He was named Outstanding Legislator by the National Republican Legislator’s Association in 1988 and received a National Leadership Award from the National Council of State Legislatures in 1992.
He was the author and creator of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission and continues to serve on the commission. He also founded the Oklahoma State Senate Historical Preservation Fund, Inc., and has raised over $1 million to install historical artwork at the State Capitol.
Williams was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1980, where she served until 1988. She was elected to the Oklahoma Senate in 1988 and retired at the end of the last session. She authored the historic education reform legislation, House Bill 1017, which overhauled the state’s K-12 education programs and provided increased funding to schools. She also authored 12 other major pieces of approved legislation to improve the state’s K-12 public schools.
In the realm of higher education, she authored legislation creating Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grants (OTAG) for public and private college students, the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) and the Oklahoma Council for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).
In the past legislative session, she was Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Vice-Chairman of the Human Resources Committee, and served on the Appropriations Committee, Government Operations and Agency Oversight Committee, and the Transportation Rules Committee.
She has served on the board of directors for a variety of organizations including the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, Oklahoma Academy for State Goals, and the Simon Estes Educational Foundation.
She attended the University of Tulsa, the University of Teheran and Sarah Lawrence College.
Past recipients of the RSU Constitution Award are Lyle Boren, Fred Daugherty, Ross Swimmer, Carl Albert, William J. Holloway, Jr., Jenkin Lloyd Jones, Henry Bellmon, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, Patience Latting, Marian P. Opala, David Boren, Hannah Diggs Atkins, William J. Crowe, Jr., James O. Ellison, Alex Adwan, Thomas R. Brett and G. T. Blankenship.
The Constitution Award luncheon and ceremony are sponsored by the Bank of Commerce. Tickets are $20 per person. To purchase tickets or get more information, call the RSU development office at (918) 343-7773.