DURANT - Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Alumni Association will honor three individuals with the Distinguished Alumni Award during Homecoming festivities in September.
An awards banquet will formally honor Gail Gorski (’74), Steve Robinson (’86), and Towana Spivey (’68) at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 28, in the Visual and Performing Arts Center.
Gail Gorski was a sophomore in high school when her dad, who worked for General Electric, was transferred from Illinois to Kentucky. Instead of ruining her young life, it was the beginning of a career filled with firsts.
After one airplane trip with a friend, she started flying as a hobby at Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 1968.
She was torn between horses and planes. At six feet, Gail was too tall to be a jockey and her dad, after paying for lessons that led to her private pilot’s license, strongly suggested she consider college and her career.
The airlines required a degree in aviation. Purdue, Parks College and Southeastern were the only schools in the nation at that time (1969) offering an aviation degree. Southeastern won the race and Gorski had to sell her horses to pay for her flying.
Gorski attended Southeastern from 1970-74, with her junior year spent at the University of Louisville when she was chosen Kentucky Derby Queen. She spent most of that year traveling.
Gorski was hired in 1975 as the first female VIP pilot for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was based in Washington, D.C. The following year, she became the first FAA Flight Inspection Pilot, based in Atlanta, Georgia.
January 8, 1978, was a red-letter day as she was hired by United Airlines as its first female pilot and based in San Francisco. At that time, United was the largest airline in the free world.
Today, Gorski flies as Captain on the Boeing 747-400 to China four days a week. Her routes include Sydney, Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Seoul, London and Frankfurt.
Gorski’s degree in aviation and business led to national and international success and recognition as a groundbreaking female flyer.
Steve Robinson is a home-grown success story. Growing up in Bokchito, Oklahoma, he started working at the age of nine in his father’s grocery store.
Following his graduation from Bokchito High School in 1981, he has been on a one-way ride to the top. His experience in business started in high school when he managed his father’s grocery store and still found time to show Limousin cattle and serve as the State Vice President of the Oklahoma Future Farmers of America.
Robinson earned a double major in Accounting and Economics in 1986 and it has truly served him well. After graduating from college he moved to Maryland with $100 in his pocket and just naïve enough to think that anything was possible. He went to work for a company as an accountant but could not get the entrepreneurial bug out of his system. In 1989, he teamed up with his best friend to purchase a small residential cleaning company based in Maryland, which serviced approximately 250 customers.
In 1996, they decided to take The Cleaning Authority nationwide and started franchising. At present they have 180 franchisees in 37 U.S. states as well as Canada. The company services 76,000 households and employs 4,500 people with total top-line revenues of more $175 million dollars a year.
Today, Robinson lives in Highland, Maryland, with his wife and three daughters and is the Chief Executive Officer of The Cleaning Authority, which was recognized among the “Top 100 Fastest Growing Franchises” by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2003. In 2006, Franchise Business Review listed the company in the “Top 50 in Franchise Satisfaction.”
He has built a mail center and located it on the family farm in Bokchito. The mail center processes and mails more than 50 million pieces of direct mail per year and provides employment for 10 people within the Bokchito community.
Robinson is also the owner of Bushy Park Farms, which is nationally recognized as one of the top producers of show cattle and quarter horses in the country with ranches in Maryland, South Dakota and North Texas.
Steve and wife Jeanne have been tireless supporters of Share Our Strength, a hunger relief agency where his wife worked for 10 years. He has supported the Oklahoma State FFA with financial gifts and has returned to Oklahoma to speak at their State FFA Convention. They have also set up a foundation called “Because it’s You,” to continue their passion of helping others.
Towana Spivey was born and raised in Madill, Oklahoma. He now resides in Duncan, Oklahoma.
After graduation from Madill High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in History/Natural Science at Southeastern. His graduate studies in Anthropology (archeology) and Museum Studies were at the University of Oklahoma in 1969-71. He did additional graduate work in Conservation of Historic Properties at the University of Denver in 1975.
Spivey was on the staff of the Oklahoma Archeological Survey (OAS) at OU in 1969-72. He conducted some of the first forensic archeology in Oklahoma while working for Dr. Clyde Snow of the Federal Aviation Administration Laboratories in Oklahoma City. The project involved multiple murders near Skiatook, Oklahoma, pertaining to organized crime.
This work led to new training by the OAS for the Oklahoma State Crime Bureau in the field recovery of crime scene evidence.
Spivey has been recognized as a preeminent historian of southwest Oklahoma. He was Historic Archeologist for a joint project of OAS and the Oklahoma Historical Society that led to a fully restored South Barracks at Fort Washita Historic Site.
Spivey spent his professional career preserving and interpreting the prehistory/history of the Trans-Mississippi West with particular interest in the Oklahoma area.
He recently retired after 30 years of dedicated service to Fort Sill and the United States Army. He served as curator and director of the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum, a model for several Army Museum programs across the nation.
As a highly respected historian of Indian and military history, Spivey worked to educate the Native American people on the importance of preserving their own materials.
He was inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame in May 2012.