OUs Largest College to Honor Outstanding Alumni

Four alumni from the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences will be recognized in February for their accomplishments.

Benton C. Clark, chief scientist for flight systems at Lockheed Mart Astronautics, N. Bird Runningwater, who has overseen the Native Lab of the Sundance Institute and Stacey Dales, who is a host and reporter on the NFL Network, will be presented the Distinguished Alumni Award. Elizabeth Ellison, CEO of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, will be recognized as the Outstanding Young Alumna.

Clark who earned his doctorate in biophysics from Columbia University in 1968, was responsible for conceiving and developing the X-ray fluorescence spectrometers used for geochemical analyses of Martian soil samples onboard the Viking landers. He was co-investigator for the development of the light flash detector and sunshade for the Particle Impact Analyzer experiment, flown successfully on the Giotto mission. Additionally, he introduced the concept of key roles for cometary particulates and formation of comet ponds as an enabling step for the abiotic (meaning physical rather than biological, or not derived from living organisms) origin of life.

Clark chairs the External Advisory Committee for the NASA Center for Research and Training in Exobiology at the University of California San Diego and Salk Institute. He has been honored with the NASA Public Service Medal, the Wright Brothers Award and the Air Force Service Medal, and he was selected Inventor of the Year for Martin Marietta Corp. and Author of the Year for Martin Marietta Astronautics.

Born of the Cheyenne and Mescalero Apache peoples, Runningwater was raised on the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico. As head of the Sundance Institute’s Native Lab, he has launched such projects such as “Four Sheets to the Wind,” “Sikumi,” “Miss Navajo,” “Shímásání” and “Drunktown’s Finest.” Runningwater also has established filmmaker labs in New Zealand and Australia, which have spawned such projects as “The Strength of Water” (New Zealand), “Samson and Delilah” (Australia), and “Bran Nue Dae” (Australia).

Before joining the Sundance Institute, Runningwater served as executive director of the Fund of the Four Directions, the private philanthropy organization of a Rockefeller family member. He served as program associate in the Ford Foundation’s Media, Arts, and Culture Program, where he built and managed domestic and global funding initiatives. Runningwater currently serves as a patron to the imagineNative Indigenous Film Festival in Toronto.

Currently based in Los Angeles, he is an OU graduate with degrees in Native American studies and journalism, and he earned his master of public affairs degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Dales earned a bachelor’s degree in communication at OU in 2002. A native of Ontario, Canada, she was a two-time Kodak All-American and four-year letter winner for the OU women’s basketball team. She was the first player in the history of the program to record 1,700 points, 600 rebounds and 700 assists. Following her collegiate career, she was the third overall pick by the Washington Mystics in the 2002 WNBA draft. She went on to play seven seasons in the WNBA and was a member of the Canadian team for the 2000 Olympics.

Dales joined the NFL Network in the fall of 2009 and was seen this season filing reports on “Around the League,” “NFL Total Access” and “NFL GameDay Morning.” Prior to the NFL Network, Dales spent seven years as an analyst and reporter for ESPN and ABC, where she covered a variety of sports including NCAA football, men and women’s basketball and the NBA. She also contributed columns and written features on NCAA women’s basketball for ESPN.com. From 2003-09, Dales also served as a NCAA women’s basketball analyst for CBS Westwood One radio, the Sooner Sports Network and CBS’ NCAA women’s basketball championship special.

Ellison is a lifelong Oklahoman who graduated from Holland Hall and OU with a bachelor of arts degree and a juris doctorate. She was the inaugural recipient of the David L. Boren Commitment to Service award and a recipient of the Bass Memorial Scholarship, awarded to students demonstrating a promising career in public service. Prior to law school, Ellison worked in Washington, D.C., as a legislative assistant for Congressman Dan Boren, handling a variety of domestic issues, including education, health care and small businesses. Ellison served her law school class as president and was chosen to deliver the commencement address for the OU College of Law’s 2009 graduation.

In 2013, Ellison was elected to serve as a member of the school board for Tulsa Technology Center, the oldest and largest technical education school in the state. She currently serves as board clerk and chairs the ad hoc strategic planning committee for Tulsa Technology Center.

Clark and Runningwater will present public lectures on Thursday, Feb. 11, and all four will be honored during the annual Kaleidoscope Evening on Friday, Feb. 12. For more information or to purchase tickets to the banquet, contact Kristi Morgan at (405) 325-2347 or kcain@ou.edu.