Congratulations to our 2015 Distinguished Alumni and Distinguished Service Awardees!


Gail P Lapidus, ’79 MSW, is the executive director and chief executive officer of Family and Children’s Services, a human services provider in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area. She has been with the agency for 40 years, serving as director since 1986. It has grown to a staff of more than 500, and has been recognized for its services.

Among several awards and honors, Lapidus was named a Woman of Distinction by the Tulsa Business Journal in 2011; received the ONE Award on behalf of the center from the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits in 2004; received the Pinnacle Award from the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women and the Tulsa Women’s Foundation in 2010.

Her record of service includes serving on the OU Zarrow School of Social Work Board of Visitors, the Tulsa Institute for Trauma Abuse and Neglect, the Oklahoma State University Tulsa Associates Board for Human Environmental Sciences, the Tulsa Area United Way Long Range Planning Committee, and the Tulsa County Planning and Coordinating Board for Services to Children and Youth.

Homer Paul, ’54 BA History, hails from Pauls Valley, which his great-great grandfather founded. He attended the University of Oklahoma and was a member of the Naval ROTC on campus. Following graduation, he joined the United States Marines and achieved the rank of Battalion Commander. He participated in the Navy Marine Corps landing exercise in Iwo Jima on the eleventh anniversary of the original battle and spent three days on the island.

Paul has had a distinguished banking career, having started his career at Liberty National Bank in business development, and retiring as president of Citizens Security Bank in Bixby, Oklahoma. His service to the community includes chair of the Oklahoma Finance Authorities; former president of the Oklahoma Bankers Association; Boy Scouts of America-Oklahoma City Council board member; trustee, National Fraternity Phi Gamma Delta Educational Endowment; chair of the Oklahoma Blood Institute Foundation; boar member of the Chickasaw Nations Industries; Rotarian for more than 50 years; and board member for the United States Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Oklahoma.

Brandi Coyner, ’05 BS Zoology, has been named the inaugural College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Young Alumna. Coyner is a curatorial associate in mammals and genomic resources at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. A native of Chandler, Oklahoma, Coyner grew to love mammalogy while attending the Oklahoma Biological Station as an undergraduate at the University of Oklahoma. Her undergraduate research was recognized by the Texas Society of Mammalogists and the American Society of Mammalogists. In 2010, Coyner was recognized as one of the top three doctoral students at Oklahoma State University; she received the Albert R. and Alma Shadle Award from the American Society of Mammalogists, which recognizes graduate students for their contributions, service and potential with the American Society of Mammalogists.

Coyner’s research has led to the description of four mammal species new to sciences, and she recently began writing her first book, titled “The Mammals of Argentina.” She enjoys working at the museum, filling that time with lectures to student groups, behind-the-scenes tours for guests, or explaining advanced genetic techniques to high school students.

Distinguished Service 2015

Nancy Mergler recently retired as the University of Oklahoma's Provost, after 19 years of service to the students and faculty of the university.

President Boren offered her the job in 1995, having been the director of the honors program up until that time. She became the only woman provost in the Big XII.

During her tenure as provost, she increased library resources, hired more than 80 faculty members for endowned positions and strengthened admission standards for undergraduates. She also oversaw the transformation of programs into colleges, including the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication; Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy; College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences; and the Honors College. Mergler also oversaw the creation of the Academic Integrity Council and OU's digital initiative.