Oklahoma Military Academy Alumni Association Announces Recipients of Hall of Fame And Distinguished Alumni Awards

The Oklahoma Military Academy Alumni Association has announced the recipients of its Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni Awards for 2003.

The recipients will be honored at the annual Oklahoma Military Academy Reunion June 13-14 at Rogers State University in Claremore.

The Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni Awards represent the highest honors that can be bestowed upon an alumnus of the Oklahoma Military Academy. Currently, there are more than 1,500 active alumni of the academy.

This year, nearly 200 OMA alumni, spouses and guests will return to RSU’s “College Hill” to attend a variety of reunion activities including the Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame Ceremony on June 14.

Inducted into the OMA Hall of Fame will be William R. O’Brien of Houston, Joel Owens of Colorado Springs, Colo., Ted Wright of Oklahoma City, and Gary W. Henry, formerly of Tulsa, who will be inducted posthumously.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni are Bob Corlett of Afton, Okla., Bill Harris of Edmond, Okla., Perry “Bud” Inhofe of South Padre Island, Texas, and Norman Shaw of Chelsea, Okla.

“We are honored to present the Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni awards to these men who have brought honor to the Oklahoma Military Academy through their many years of dedicated service to their communities and country,” said Danette Boyle, vice president for development at RSU. “We are pleased to have them back on College Hill for this special reunion.”

OMA reunion events will include a golf tournament, ladies luncheon and opening reception on Friday, June 13, and a cadet memorial service and Flag Day celebration, Hall of Fame and Distinguished Alumni awards ceremony, alumni luncheon, ice cream social, musketry competition and reception, dinner and dance on Saturday, June 14, on the RSU campus in Claremore.

The public is invited to a Flag Day celebration featuring a parachute jump exhibition by the Skydive Airtight Team at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, June 14, at the flagpole in front of Preparatory Hall. The celebration will also feature the posting of the colors by the 138th Fighter Wing Honor Guard, Oklahoma Air National Guard, and a Cadet Memorial Service for the OMA Alumni Association.

OMA Hall of Fame inductees include:

Gary W. Henry

The late Gary Henry was president and CEO of Cherokee Rent-a-Car, a division of Wat Henry Inc., operated a cattle ranch in Mayes County near Adair, Okla., and had other real estate investments in Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma. He passed away in February 2002, three days following his selection to be inducted into the OMA Hall of Fame.

Henry was born in Nowata, Okla., and graduated from Central High School in Tulsa. He attended his first year of college at the Oklahoma Military Academy, where as a cadet, he enlisted in the Claremore Unit of the Oklahoma National Guard’s 45th Reconnaissance Company, 45th Infantry Division which was mobilized for federal service in Japan and Korea in the summer of 1950.

After being released from duty in 1952, he returned to Tulsa and started working for his father in the family Pontiac agency while attending the University of Tulsa. In 1956, after the death of his father, Henry was appointed as dealer operator by Chevrolet Motor Division and operated the family dealership until 1982. He also owned Gary Henry Chevrolet in Sand Springs from 1971 to 1992. He was successfully involved in real estate investments, oil production, cattle ranching, downtown Tulsa parking lots and vehicle and equipment rental and leasing companies.

He served for several years on the RSU Foundation Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees for Phillips University in Enid, Okla., and served as President of the Board of the Southside Christian Church in Tulsa. He is a past president of the Tulsa Automobile Dealers Association and a former director of the Oklahoma Automobile Dealers Association. He also was involved in organizing the reunions of the 45th Reconnaissance Company, 45th Infantry.

He is survived by his wife Carolyn, who resides in Tulsa, and four sons, Phillip, Patrick, Mike and Mark.

William R. O’Brien

William R. O’Brien graduated from OMA in 1941, when his country was getting involved in World War II, and just months later he graduated again, this time as an Aviation Cadet. Before 1944 ended, O’Brien had flown 77 missions, logged 300 hours in the air, shot down six enemy aircraft and destroyed at least two others.  While doing this he earned four Distinguished Flying crosses, eight Air Medals and the French Croix de Guerre.

He joined the 357th Fighter Group at its inception. This group employed the first 8th Air Force P-51 Mustangs in action in Europe. The fighter group, called by the Germans “The Yoxford Boys,” stood target area support for bombers of the 8th Air Force during the first successful daylight bombing of Berlin, Germany. This particular mission has been written of as one of the most fierce air battles of World War II. The president issued a citation to this group for their success in destroying 20 German airplanes without loss to themselves. O’Brien lead a squadron and participated in the victories accomplished on this mission in Berlin. A large percentage of the missions O’Brien flew were conducted in inclement weather conditions, truly testing his capability and courage. He was officially credited with five and one-half enemy aircraft destroyed and two probably destroyed.

O’Brien joined the Oklahoma National Guard in 1938.  His military service ended in 1957 when he retired from the Air Force. He received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degrees in Geology with from the University of Tulsa and the University of Houston, respectively. He is a member of the American Fighter Aces Association, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, and the 357th Fighter Group Association.

He and his wife Sue have been married for 57 years, raised four children, all of whom reside in Houston.

Joel Owens

Joel Owens, is a 1940 Oklahoma Military Academy graduate, and served as a World War II Aviation Ace.

Owens joined the National Guard while at OMA, and after graduation became an Aviation Cadet and served his country as a Reserve Officer and Enlisted Officer in the Regular Air Force until 1972 when he retired as a Lt. Colonel.  Owens’ highest enlisted rank was Chief Master Sergeant.  His total service was over 33 years.

This young man from Big Heart, Okla., at the outbreak of WW II was flying with the First Pursuit Group, 27th Fighter Squadron, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and soon after was participating in Operation Bolero, the first Trans-Atlantic flight of fighter aircraft.

Owens flew the first fighter-escorted United States Army Air Force bombing raids over Europe. He also participated in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa, and the longest fighter mission recorded up to that time – eight hours and forty-five minutes (England to Algeria).

Owens was the first pilot of the 27th Fighter Squadron to shoot down an enemy fighter plane, led the first long-range reconnaissance mission over Tripoli, and took part in the first fighter-escorted bombing raids on Tunisia, Sardinia, Sicily and Tripoli. He also led ground-support missions over the Normandy beaches on D-Day, the breakout at St. Lo, the assault on the Falais-Argentan gap, and the assault on the bridges at Arnhem and Nijmegen in Holland.  He is officially credited with five enemy aircraft destroyed, one probable and one damaged in 147 combat missions.

In February of 1943, Owens received a Personal Commendation from General George Marshall, Chief of Staff, U. S. Army, on being named as one of the 15 leading Fighter Pilots in the European Theatre of Operations. Awards and decorations include the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Medal with 23 Oak Leaf Clusters and many others. He was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

A few of his commands include the 27th Fighter Squadron, Deputy Commander, 14th Fighter Group, 402nd Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group and the 9th Fighter Command.  He is a member of the American Fighter Aces Association and founder and past president of the 27th Fighter Squadron Historical Association.

Joel Owens and his wife Nora Joan, live in Colorado Springs, Colo., and have been married for 57 years, during which time they raised three sons.

Ted Wright

Ted Wright graduated from OMA High School in 1952, and then spent a year at Oklahoma A&M. Later he returned to “the hill” to attend junior college and then the University of Tulsa. Then in 1998 he graduated from Rogers State University.

It is because of the OMA Alumni Association that Ted was reunited with his long lost family. He had been orphaned as an infant along with two brothers and a sister after the death of his father. In 1984, Ted’s brother, Pat Thompson, traced Ted through his school records to OMA. Pat came to Claremore in search of more information and attended one of OMA’s reunions asking for information concerning Ted. Even though he had no luck at the reunion, his story soon hit the local papers, which lead him to his lost “baby” brother who was living in Omaha, Neb.

The family was reunited and in 1985 Ted attended his first OMA Reunion. He has attended most of the reunions since, and continues to be an active member of the OMA Alumni Association and the RSU Foundation Board of Directors. He has served the RSU Foundation board as chairman for four terms.

Today, Ted Wright is president and executive director of the National Association of Pipe Fabricators. His earlier work experiences included serving as product engineer for Griffin Pipe Company, sales manager at American Pipe, owner of Western Pipe and Supply and owner of MidWest Pipe Fabricators. Ted is currently a member of the American Water Works Association and the Water Environment Association.

Ted and his wife Terry have two children and five granddaughters.

OMA Distinguished Alumni Award recipients include:

Bob Corlett

Bob Corlett graduated from the Oklahoma Military Academy in 1962. He achieved everything from being on the honor roll to corps commander, and many things in between. He was a distinguished military student, a member of the Oklahoma Honor Society, lettered in basketball and baseball, and was the outstanding cadet his last year on the hill.  After attending the University of Oklahoma, Corlett became an officer of the First State Bank of Guthrie. While there, he promoted the first credit card issued in Oklahoma, and one of the first in the U.S. In 1967 he became district sales manager of a five-state area from Virginia to Pennsylvania, representing an international manufacturer of industrial equipment. Next he advanced to regional sales manager over the eastern half of the country and Canada.  In 1972 he joined a national manufacturer of farm equipment as a national sales manager.

In 1974 Corlett got into the realty business, and also started selling bottled water.  He started Shangri-La Realty in 1978 and has sold about 1,000 re-sales since its inception.

The water business, which got underway in 1986, was the Rainbarrel Corporation, which placed purified water vending machines in stores located in seven states including Oklahoma.  His corporation got a patent on a unique label changing device that can change the UPC bar code from one price to another during the filling of water from their vending machines.  In 1992 this system earned his company the “Package of the Year” award from the National Packaging Industry magazine.

He started Corlett Enterprises in 1994 when he re-entered the home building business. He developed and built Shangri-La Place, a 14-home development bordering the fairway at Shangri-La Gold course. He also built 18 luxury homes with a marina on Monkey Island, known as Island Park. Later in 1998, he and a partner began design of a 45-unit development and marina on Monkey Island, known as Brighton Bay. His latest development, started in 2002, is a 100-unit platted subdivision with a 60-slip marina called St. Andrew’s Harbor east of the Shangri-La Airport.

Corlett is a founding trustee and first chairman of the Grand Lake Public Works Authority and presently serves on the board of the Integris Hospital Foundation. He and his wife Linda have been married for 39 years and have two daughters, four grandsons and one granddaughter.

Bill Harris

Bill B. Harris, a 1954 OMA graduate, was active on the OMA Rifle Team and later on the 4th Army Rifle Team. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in Artillery, and took his Basic Course at Ft. Sill in 1957.

While at OMA the rifle team won the William Hearst trophy in 1954, and a few years later, in 1958, was among the winners of the President’s 100 at the National Rifle Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. While serving as a Battery Commander at Ft. Chaffee, Ark., he was a member of the big bore rifle team and participated at 4th Army level competition.

As an OMA cadet he was selected as the “Best Drilled Cadet” and was the Drill Team commander for the 1953-54 school year, and as Company Commander, his A Company was selected best company at the 1954 warboard inspection. He was also a distinguished military student in 1954.

After graduation from OMA, Harris went on to Oklahoma A&M College where he served as a Cadet Major Battalion Adjutant and graduated in 1956 as a Distinguished Military Graduate and received a bachelor’s degree in geology.

In his professional career, Harris was associated with such well-known oil companies as Cities Service and Schlumberger and went from a geological trainee to field engineer and sales engineer. His 37-year career was all in Oklahoma, and he retired from Schlumberger in 1998.

Harris served as president of the Society of Professional Well Log Analyst in 1988, is a member of the Oklahoma Geological Society, and the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

His retirement years are filled with a number of activities including being vice president of the Sooner Model “A” Club, director of the Edinburgh Homeowners Association, and the OMA Alumni Association.

He and his wife Dena have been married for 47 years, during which time they raised three children. They have seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Perry D. “Bud” Inhofe

Perry D. “Bud” Inhofe, attended OMA until 1950 and has made notable accomplishments ever since. Inhofe’s career in the insurance business began in 1952 as an insurance adjuster with the Tri-State Insurance Company. Eighteen years later he became president and CEO of the Mid-Continental Casualty Company.  He worked his way up from claims representative, underwriter, assistant vice president, vice president and executive vice president. During this time, in 1958, he earned his law degree from the University of Tulsa.

Inhofe not only served his company, he devoted time and energy to the insurance industry by serving as a director of the National Association of Independent Insurers, the world’s largest insurance trade association.  He became chairman of the board of that organization in 1983.

Other business interests included a directorship with the Fourth National Bank of Tulsa, director of the American Cellular Telephone Company and a director of Taft Broadcasting.

Inhofe is a former member, deacon and elder of the First Christian Church in Tulsa, and currently is a director and president of the Board of the Chapel by the Sea on South Padre Island.

Inhofe and his wife of 51 years, Margaret, reside on South Padre Island in Texas. The Inhofes enjoy playing competitive duplicate bridge, and Bud holds the designation of Life Master. Inhofe is also an instrument rated pilot and he and Margaret have flown their propjet all over North America. They have two daughters, four grandsons and two granddaughters.

Norman Shaw

Hard work and achievement has been an outstanding quality of Norman Shaw, from his time spent on the hill at OMA to his retirement in 1988. Today he is active serving not only as the perpetual memory of OMA, but also his hometown of Chelsea, Okla.

While an OMA cadet, Shaw was a team player and leader. He was on the drill team, college football team, student senate, captain of the wrestling team and served on the honor committee.  He attained the rank of major and was a member of both the Chevron and Saber Societies.

Right out of OMA in 1953, he became a lineman on the Frisco Railroad, spent some time with the U. S. Army engineers and later drilled for oil in his home state.  With the expertise he gained over the years Shaw started his own construction company in 1959.

Things really took off for Shaw when he joined the North American Aviation Company. For the next 26 years he worked with great companies like North American Rockwell, Rockwell International and the Boeing Company.

His first involvement was on the Hound-dog program working in quality control.  This was the air-to-ground missile program, which made it possible for B-52 bombers to hit targets while remaining at a safe distance.

Shaw remained in quality control when he became a process control and quality engineer with the Apollo program. This included work on the Saturn V launch vehicle to the moon and the Lunar Module Apollo II – the Columbia – that had its historic lift-off to the moon on July 16, 1969. The lunar module, the “Eagle”, landed on the moon eight days later.

In 1975, Shaw was once again a quality engineer, this time on the Apollo-Soyuz project. This was an important first step in the preparation for the first international rendezvous and docking procedures developed with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. He continued as a quality control engineer on all space shuttles that were built and delivered to NASA.

From 1985 until retirement in 1988, he was a quality engineer on the B-1 bomber.  The B-1 is the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force providing massive and rapid delivery of precision and non-precision weapons against any potential adversary anywhere around the globe on short notice.  More than 100 bombers were built and delivered to the United States Air Force.

Since retirement, Shaw has served on the Chelsea Town Board of Trustees and as a member of the Chelsea Municipal Authority. In 1999 he became Curator of the OMA Museum. Shaw and his wife, Joan, have been married for 47 years. They raised one child, Michael Christman. Michael and his wife Kimberly are expecting their first child. Michael has two older children, Robert and Misty Lee. Robert and his wife, Tanya, have one child, Bo. Misty Lee Gonzales and her husband, Jose, also have one child, Zoey.

For more information on the annual OMA Reunion, call (918) 343-7773.