Gary Busey was only one credit away from graduation when his music drove him from Oklahoma State University to California, yet he never forgot the impact that OSU left on him. Busey accepted a football scholarship from Kansas State College of Pittsburg, now known as Pittsburg State University, but transferred to OSU after a knee injury. In Stillwater, he studied theatre under Vivia Locke, who set him on a new path. Locke was the legendary head of the Department of Theatre, and the 600-seat Vivia Locke Theatre inside the Seretean Center for the Performing Arts still bears her name more than three decades after she died.

“My teacher, Vivia Nail Locke, was instrumental in giving me the platform to stand on to do the motion picture business with power,” he said.

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Larry Mullins is passionate about helping people. That’s guided his career as a clinical psychologist, professor and researcher. The Vaughn Vennerberg II Chair of Psychology, Regents Professor and inaugural director of the Center for Pediatric Psychology at Oklahoma State University focuses his research on chronic health conditions in children.

His mission is to find best practices for dealing with many conditions, from such high-profile illnesses as cancer to lesser-known chronic health conditions. Consequently, he has become one of the nation’s leading scholars on disorders of sexual development. That’s why the National Institutes of Health recently awarded Mullins and his collaborators $2.9 million to fund the second half of a 10-year study on families of children born with a DSD.

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Sarah Winburn of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, earned a prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, which is awarded to 1,000 of the most brilliant minority students across America each year. The Gates Foundation-funded program covers all expenses, from tuition to room and board. Winburn utilized the scholarship to attend New York University, choosing to return to the city where she was born and raised, before tragedy brought her back to Oklahoma.

Her brother, Jerry, was a year older than Winburn. He had been a student at Oklahoma State University for two short weeks before a fatal car accident. The proud member of the U.S. Army died at 19.

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Z. Randall Stroope received the Eminent Faculty Award, “the highest honor given to a faculty member who has made sustained contributions to scholarly creative activity, instruction and service, bringing honor and recognition to the university,” during the University Awards Convocation on Dec. 4.

Stroope is the Greenwood School of Music’s director of choral and vocal studies, and holds the Doug and Nickie Burns Endowed Chair in Music. He has previously received the Regents Distinguished Research Award and the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Mentor Award, as well being voted Outstanding Faculty Member of the College by the Greek Councils at OSU.

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Josie Akosa grew up more than 6,000 miles from Oklahoma State University in the West African nation of Ghana. Her father—a civil engineer—and her mother—the head of the equivalent of a community college—pushed their five children to aim high, which is how Akosa wound up in OSU’s Department of Statistics as a Ph.D. candidate.

“My dad always said, ‘I know I can give you money to do whatever you want, but I would rather invest in your education,’” said Akosa, who graduated Dec. 14. “I think he has done that pretty well.”

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Jason Wallace was in kindergarten when he won his first art contest. Since then, his artistic journey has led him through a variety of majors, media and careers, leading to his current position as a graphic designer at the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We moved around a lot when I was a child, so I don’t feel like I’m from any one place,” Wallace said. “Art and photography stayed with me through every move. When I was a child, my mother sent me and my brothers to keep my father, a high school teacher, company in the high school darkroom. At seven years old, I watched a photo come to life on a blank page. That’s magic, and it stuck with me forever.”

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Shanley Wells-Rau, a non-traditional student in the Oklahoma State University master of fine arts poetry program, applied to graduate school after a 20-year corporate career.

“This is the degree I have always wanted,” she said. “When I was younger, I could not figure out a pathway to poetry. It did not fit with a viable career plan.” 

Wells-Rau has always been a poet, and writing has been an integral part of her life.

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For students who struggle in math, it doesn’t matter which of the 27 public institutions governed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education they attend. With the help of a team of mathematicians from Oklahoma State University, all of the colleges are working together to improve student success in entry-level math courses, and the pilot results have been astounding.

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