Press "Enter" to skip to content

ASTEC Door-Opener Awards Gala to Honor Business and Community leaders

From left: Ann Simank, Frank Merrick and Sandy Garrett will all be honored during the ASTEC Door Opener Awards Gala on November 15 in Oklahoma City. Photos provided.
From left: Ann Simank, Frank Merrick and Sandy Garrett will all be honored during the ASTEC Door Opener Awards Gala on November 15 in Oklahoma City. Photos provided.

By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter

On Tuesday, November 15, the 4th annual Door-Opener Awards Gala dinner and silent auction will take place at 6 p.m. at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel, 1 Park Avenue in Oklahoma City. Proceeds from the event, sponsored by the ASTEC Fund, will benefit ASTEC Charter Schools.

ASTEC (Advanced Science and Technology Education Charter) founded by Lou C. Kerr, William G. Paul and ASTEC Superintendent Dr. Freda Deskin, is an inner city public school that serves a diverse student population in grades six through twelve.

The annual event recognizes outstanding individuals for their lifetime contributions of opening doors and helping others in society to maximize their potential and achieve their dreams.

Those selected to receive a Door-Opener Award this year include Sandy Garrett, Chief Executive Officer of the State Department of Education; financial planner, Dr. Jack Kimbler; Frank Merrick, President and Chairman of Foundation Management, Inc.; and Ward 6 Councilperson Amy Simank.

The Honorable Sandy Garrett was the first woman elected to serve as the Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Garrett led the implementation of Oklahoma’s landmark Education Reform Act of 1990. Since taking office in 1991 she downsized the Education Department saving taxpayers approximately $52.7 million.

One of Garrett’s most notable achievements has been the development of Oklahoma’s statewide Pre-Kindergarten programs. Garrett raised program standards that led to Oklahoma’s recognition as a model by the National Institute for Early Education Research by improving reading skills, bringing technology to the classroom and making schools safer.

“I am so thrilled and honored to receive a Door-Opener award this year,” Garrett said. “To be recognized in that way is very special. So many people have opened doors for me and I have tried to do the same. Having the proceeds of this event benefit ASTEC Charter Schools is also so special to me.”

Dr. Jack and Lila Kimbler, longtime supporters of Boys Ranch Town in Edmond, secured funding to build a Boys Ranch Town facility now named the Kimbler Cottage. The couple is also involved in the overall ministry of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children. As a financial planner, Jack Kimbler advised clients how to arrange their estate plan through charitable remainder trusts, so that a legacy of giving could be achieved after death. Dr. Kimbler received the “Building a Legacy” award for his significant contributions to planned giving in Oklahoma.

Frank Merrick is President of Ward S. Merrick, Inc., Vice President of the Merrick Foundation and managing partner of Merrick Family Real Estate. He has worked with over 100 nonprofits, private foundations, and public foundations in a consultant capacity assisting with governance, strategic planning and generational transitions. Merrick has served as vice president of trust sales for Bank of Oklahoma and as vice president of development for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

A licensed clinical social worker, Ann Simank received her master’s degree in social work from the University of Oklahoma and is recently retired as Executive Director of OKC Metro Alliance, Inc. With over twenty years experience in the field of mental health and substance abuse recovery, Simank was named “Social Worker of the Year” by the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

As Ward 6 Councilperson for over 13 years, Simank has chaired the Social Services Committee and the Neighborhood Conservation Committee. She also served as a member of the OKC Legislative Committee, the OKC Finance Committee, the Economic Development Committee, the OKC River Trust, and the Oklahoma Municipal League Legislative Committee.

This year, the ASTEC Fund Board will present Jonathan Fowler and Ken Parker with the 2016 Pathfinder Award as the next generation of civic leaders.

Growing up around his family’s automotive dealership, Fowler developed a passion for the arts, leading to his involvement in community service. A founding member and former chair of the Norman Music Festival, Fowler served as president of the Norman Arts Council, and vice chair of the Norman Public Arts Board. He serves as chair of the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History and on the steering committee for Norman’s Center City Vision, a process working on development and planning for the core Norman area.

Fowler works with organizations such as the Plaza District, H&8th, Film Row, Historic Capitol Hill, Kendall Whittier in Tulsa, and the Downtown Norman Arts District.

Ken Parker is a first-generation college graduate who received a Math/Computer Science BS from Oklahoma Christian University and a Computer Science MS from the University of Colorado Boulder. He developed software at Martin Marietta Aerospace in Denver and at JPMorgan in NYC. After returning to Oklahoma, Parker has helped co-found two technology companies, creating hundreds of jobs for Oklahoma graduates. His RiskMetrics Group was a Wall St-based financial technology company launched in 1998 and sold in 2010 for $1.5B.

His other start-up, NextThought, a Norman-based education technology company utilizes the mantra: “Change the world, have fun, make money – in that order.” The NextThought goal is to help education become more effective and accessible. Parker serves on various boards at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian University and is a member of Leadership Oklahoma Class 30.

The ASTEC Door-Opener Gala event is co-chaired by Becky and Barry Switzer.

Event sponsors include Chickasaw Nation, BancFirst, IBC Bank, Mustang Fuel, OGE Energy Corp., Quail Creek Bank, and Russ Harrison & Natalie Shirley.

Top event silent auction items donors are Picasso’s Cafe, Quail Creek Golf and Country Club, Advanced Aesthetics, and Disney World.

The Door-Opener Award takes its name from the Ralph Waldo Emerson quotation: “Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.”

Door-Opener Award Gala sponsorships are available and include an eight person table, in addition to marketing and recognition benefits.  For event details contact ASTEC Charter Schools at 405-947-6272.

ASTEC Charter Middle School and ASTEC Charter High School are located at the Shepherd Mall Business Park. With a combined enrollment of 950 students, ASTEC is planning a new campus near the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.

A 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization, ASTEC Fund, Inc. is led by a group of Oklahoma City area civic leaders including Doug Fuller, President and CEO of Quail Creek Bank, the board’s current chair.

For more information, visit

From left: Dr. Jack Kimbler, Jonathan Fowler and Ken Parker will each be honored on November 15 during the ASTEC Door Opener Awards Gala at the Skirvin Hotel. Photos provided.
From left: Dr. Jack Kimbler, Jonathan Fowler and Ken Parker will each be honored on November 15 during the ASTEC Door Opener Awards Gala at the Skirvin Hotel. Photos provided.


Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.