Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – The 2017 Dean A. McGee Awards, presented at a dinner and gala held this year in June, sustain a long-standing tradition of recognizing outstanding leaders, volunteers and others who have helped build the city area, especially downtown.
The 2017 honorees were city manager James D. Couch (Dean A. McGee Award), Leslie Batchelor (Stanley Draper Award) and Mark Beffort (Neal Horton Award).
The awards are sponsored and hosted each year by Downtown Oklahoma City, which benefits from the event, and “funds public art and other downtown improvement projects.”
The Dean A. McGee Award recognizes lifetime contributions to the downtown area, while the Stanley Draper Award is for overall community excellence. The Neal Horton Award goes to an individual or institution contributing to the renaissance of a downtown area.
McGee Award designee Jim Couch became city manager of Oklahoma City in 2000. He runs the city government on a day-to-day basis. Couch was a key player in temporary relocation of the NBA franchise, the New Orleans Hornets, to Oklahoma City after the devastating Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast region. Couch later guided the city government’s part in the relocation of the Seattle Supersonics, now the Thunder.
Couch was a key player in the water agreement benefiting the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes, the state of Oklahoma and the city.
At the gala, Couch was also credited with leadership in finding a solution to sustain the American Indian Cultural Center alongside the Oklahoma River. Couch serves as a board director for several organizations and local trusts.
Batchelor, the Draper award designeee, is considered by many “the mechanic behind the Skirvin” – that is, the blending of public and private resources that allowed for redevelopment and reopening of the historic downtown facility. She leads the Center for Economic Development Law (co-founded with her father in 2005), and has been an important local guide for the work of the Urban Land Institute Oklahoma and of Historical Preservation, Inc.
Beffort, the Horton award designee, has long played a key role in renaissance of the central business district, through personal investments and leadership. He volunteers for several local boards, including Myriad Gardens Foundation and Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc.
Past winners are a “who’s who” of key players in the development and advancement of Oklahoma City.
Winners for selected years include:
2016: Klay Kimber (McGee Award), Francy Palmer (Draper Award), Mickey Clagg (Horton Award).
2013: Carl Edwards (McGee), Chip Fudge (Draper), Roy Williams (Draper).
2012: John Michael Williams (McGee), Richard Sias (Draper), Steve Mason (Horton)
2011: Tom McDaniel (McGee), James Meade (Draper), St. Anthony Hospital (Horton
2008: Herman Meinders (McGee), Zach D. Taylor (Draper), Mike Knopp (Horton)
2005: Luke Corbett (McGee), Dan Batchelor (Draper), Meg Salyer (Horton
Additional past winners of awards at the annual event and dinner organized by Downtown Okalhoma City include Larry Nichols (in 1997), Lee Branwer (Pioneer Award), Theo “Doc” Benson (Elwin D. Hatfield award), Oklahoma Publishing Company (Phoenix Award), J.W. McLean, Stanton L. Young, James R. Tolbert III, Clayton I. Bennett, Fred Jones Hall, William O. Johnstone, Mayor Ronald J. Norick, Kenneth W. Townsend and Jackie L. Jones.
The 2017 recognition event and gala was held at the Skirvin Hotel Grand Ballroom on June 1. Leading the evening of recognition were Kari Watkins, Executive Director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and Tom McDaniel, President of American Fidelity Foundation.
The trio of awards given at the 31st annual gathering are named for three individuals whose personal tenacity and spirit played a vital role in advancement of Oklahoma’s capital city.
Dean A. McGee was a titan of the Oklahoma private sector economy. For 20 years he was chairman of one of the state’s largest oil and gas businesses. His vision included the early efforts constructing the Myriad Gardens. Stanley Draper was a long-time Oklahoma City chamber of commerce executive whom many considered one of America’s greatest “city builder” human dynamos. The award that bears his name honors a “nonprofit staff member, volunteer or non-elected government employee” whose work has long-term impact on the downtown area.
Neal Horton, whose memory is sustained with the annual award bearing his name, dreamed of revitalization for the area now known as “Bricktown,” which in his lifetime had become a decaying part of town with empty warehouses. Today the once-blighted area is filled with restaurants, shops, hotels and venues for sports.