Thirty-two years ago, while serving Oklahoma as a U.S. senator, David L. Boren brought together a group of Oklahoma business and community leaders with the common goal of improving public education in the state.

All agreed that private investment was crucial to the success of public schools in Oklahoma. They also wanted to celebrate the successes of Oklahoma’s public school system by giving statewide public attention to outstanding students and innovative educators. The result was the formation of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, established with the mission of recognizing and encouraging academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools.

Today, the foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization supported by private contributions and led by a 180-member board of trustees composed of leaders in business, education and public service from throughout Oklahoma. To carry out its mission, the foundation focuses on:

Academic Awards Program: The foundation has provided more than $4.6 million in scholarships and cash awards since 1987 to honor outstanding graduating seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners.

Local Education Foundation Outreach Program: The foundation provides free training and resources to school foundations across the state and sponsors the Fall Forum for Oklahoma School Foundations and other training and networking events for school foundation volunteers and public school supporters.

Fellowships: Working to strengthen early American history education, the foundation administers fellowships each summer for Oklahoma fifth- and eighth-grade teachers to attend the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in Virginia. The organization also co-sponsors the annual Colonial Day at the Capitol, a day of learning that brings Colonial American history to life for fifth-graders.

Boren’s Mentoring Initiative: Inspired by David and Molly Boren’s passion for mentoring, the initiative promotes growth and establishment of quality youth mentoring programs throughout Oklahoma. The foundation works with school districts, businesses, faith groups and mentoring organizations to promote mentoring as a step toward academic success. The foundation sponsors the annual Oklahoma Mentor Day to recognize outstanding youth mentors from across the state and helps organize the Coaches Mentoring Challenge, a four-month campaign supported by Oklahoma coaches and mentoring organizations to recruit new mentors. More than 800 coaches, including Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State University and Lincoln Riley of the University of Oklahoma, endorsed the challenge in 2017, promoting the need for mentors.

Professional Development Funding for Teachers: With generous support from its partners – including major gifts from Boeing Co., Cresap Family Foundation, Devon Energy Corp., Harold C. Stuart Foundation, Temple Foundation and Jerome Westheimer Family Foundation — the foundation has awarded more than $1 million in teacher grants for professional development since 2003. These grants have helped 689 teachers attend national conferences and institutes in their chosen fields.

Since 2006, the foundation has partnered with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide grants of up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for teams of teachers for self-designed summer professional development opportunities in locations around the world. Some 852 Oklahoma educators have received Fund for Teachers grants totaling more than $3 million.

“The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence is truly one of Oklahoma’s treasures,” said foundation board president Craig Story of Oklahoma City. “For more than 30 years, the foundation has recognized and supported Oklahoma public school educators, honored its best and brightest students and — through its programs — has made a significant impact in public schools throughout the state.”

For more information on the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, visit ofe.org or call (405) 236-0006.