Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest difference.
Few people can appreciate this more than Rhett Ables, a Rogers State University alumnus and recipient of the inaugural “RSU Rising Star Award.”
Growing up in Pryor, Ables graduated from Adair High School in 2015, after which he wanted to continue his education but needed a means by which to fund it.
“My sister had just joined the Navy, so she kind of inspired me to consider the military route. I didn’t have the same path set out for me that many people do who go to college – I didn’t have a sports scholarship or an academic scholarship, so I had to find another means to fund my education,” Ables recalled. “One day, I happened to pick up a small flyer about the GOLD Program at RSU, and looking at it – those pictures, learning about the events that they do, the camaraderie they had, I knew that I wanted to be a part of that program.”
The Guard Officer Leadership Development (GOLD) Program is a leadership program available to Oklahoma National Guard soldiers who attend Rogers State University. The academic leadership training the cadets receive is built into their college curriculum. During classes, leadership labs, physical training and field training exercises, they learn firsthand what it takes to lead others, motivate groups and conduct missions as an Army officer.
“With the help I received through the GOLD Program and from the National Guard, I was able to fund my college education, along the way going to officer candidate school in South Dakota and serving as an instructor of the (GOLD) program at RSU my senior year,” he said. “In 2020, I graduated with my degree in criminal justice (justice administration) and was recruited to go to work for Amazon.”
Ables helped launch the Amazon plant in Owasso, helping to staff more than 5,000 employees within six months and progressing up through the ranks from senior HR assistant to HR business partner to regional HR business partner.
While at Amazon, Ables drew from the leadership training he received in the GOLD Program and brokered a partnership between the company and Rogers State University, through which Amazon employees could receive free tuition to attend RSU. He also started a support group called “Warriors@Amazon” to benefit veterans, military spouses and children, as well as lead a very successful Toys for Tots campaign.
He also hosted several events to aid veterans, including a veteran’s suicide awareness dinner, held in Broken Arrow and attended by Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt.
Ables’s leadership has garnered recognition from his peers and superiors, earning him the Purple Heart Foundation Leadership Award for his contributions to RSU’s GOLD Program. He also received the Global Change Maker Award for his leadership of the veterans support group at Amazon, leading the group to raise more than 4,000 toys for Toys for Tots as well as arrange transportation for them. He was also nominated as an honorary cadet for the RSU OMA Alumni Reunion in 2020.
After his stint at Amazon, Ables worked for Walmart in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, serving as director of human resource and recruiting operations in their supply chain business. Today, he serves as the chief human resources officer at Quintessa Marketing in Oklahoma City, where he continues to lead and to inspire.
“(At Quintessa) We created a program for new mothers getting back into to the workforce, assisting them with the costs of childcare,” he said, “and partnered with a program called ReMerge to help women who have been incarcerated to get back into the workforce.”
Ables’s professional, personal and other successes have earned him the distinction of being the first winner of the RSU Rising Star Award, something for which he says he feels profoundly humbled.
“I was shocked when I heard that I was selected (for this award),” he said. “My career hasn’t been around for long, and I know there are many other great individuals who are equally deserving of it, many of whom I graduated with. I’m honored in that this reflects how the Oklahoma Military Academy, and the GOLD Program helped me, helped me succeed and to achieve and exceed my goals.
“I can honestly say my achievements are based upon the foundation I received in the (GOLD) program and at Rogers State University,” he said, “and it all started when I saw that small pamphlet.”
Ables and his wife, Jacalyn, whom he met at RSU and who also was in the GOLD Program, live in Oklahoma City with their two dogs.
Ables and his fellow award recipients will be recognized April 29 at the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner. Other honorees include Dr. Andrea Hunt and Bill Spears, who have been named winners of the RSU Distinguished Hillcat Award and the RSU Hill Legacy Award, respectively.
The award recipients were selected based on their personal achievements and service; statewide, regional, and/or national distinction; and bringing honor to themselves and Rogers State University.
Tickets for the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Dinner may be purchased at www.rsu.edu/alumni/alumni-awards/#tickets. Individual tickets for the dinner are $50, while various sponsorship levels are also available.
For more information about the RSU’s GOLD Program, visit www.rsu.edu/gold.