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The recipients of East Central University's Distinguished Awards for 2009 will be honored at 6 p.m. May 2 [SATURDAY] during ECU's Centennial Evening of Honors & Recognition. Those planning to attend the dinner must make reservations by Monday [APRIL 27].

Recipients are Bill Bridgwater of Castle Rock, Colo., Distinguished Alumnus Award; members of the Fentem family, the Distinguished Family Award; Dr. William Carter of Oakman, Distinguished Former Faculty Award; and Billie Floyd of Ada, Distinguished Service Award.

The dinner will be held in the Stanley Wagner Ballroom in the Memorial Student Union. Reservations can be made by contacting Catie Caton at 580-559-5611 or catncat@ecok.eduor by registering at The cost is $15 per person or $25 per couple, payable at the door.

Distinguished Alumnus Bill Bridgwater had a 25-year career in the global information technology market sector before being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's disease at age 48.

Now 52, Bridgwater is a member of the board of directors of the National Alzheimer's Association and a nationally recognized speaker on issues relating to the disease. He serves on Colorado's Alzheimer's Task Force in an effort to forecast the impact the disease will have on that state in coming decades.

A 1978 graduate of ECU, he will not attend the dinner because of a prior commitment but plans to visit the campus next fall for Homecoming.

Bridgwater and his wife Twyla, also a 1978 ECU graduate, are consultants to the Food and Drug Administration on promising Alzheimer's imaging and pharmaceutical developments.

Before his diagnosis and retirement, he was a senior vice president, director, president and chief operating officer of four multi-billion dollar corporations. He served on the boards of several companies as well as the Telecommunications Industry Association.

Since his diagnosis Bridgwater has provided technical briefings and legislative testimony, appeared on national television and been interviewed by numerous magazines and newspapers. He currently can be seen on a public service announcement on the Fox Sports network seeking support for research through the Alzheimer's Association along with former football coaches Barry Switzer and Jimmy Johnson.

The Distinguished Family Award will go to the Fentem family which has been closely connected to ECU since 1909 when A.L. "Dad" Fentem became one of the first faculty members at East Central Normal School. Now, 100 years later, his great-great-granddaughter, Ruth Ann Fentem Copeland, will graduate from ECU in July with a master of education degree with a school counselor option.

A.L. Fentem twice was voted the most popular professor on the campus. The "East Central Story" attributes the choice of orange and black as the school's colors to Fentem. He taught math, economics and sociology and directed the first band, wrote the first school fight song and directed the chorus and quartets. He was still on the faculty when the first men's residence hall, Fentem Hall, was dedicated on June 12, 1937.

The Fentems had four sons, A.L. Jr., George, Whit and "Doc," who formed the East Central Fentem Quartet. A.L. was a member of the sub-freshman class of 1909-10 and one of the first football teams. He later was mayor of Ada.

George Fentem was a long-time school superintendent in Eureka Springs, Ark., before taking over his father's position on the faculty at East Central. Whit Fentem, a quarterback on the football team, met Robert S. Kerr in the Oklahoma National Guard and worked for Kerr's oil company from 1928 until his death in 1951.

"Doc" attended East Central's Horace Mann School. He formed a band in Canada in the 1920's that became the Royal Canadians with the Dorsey brothers. He had another big band called the "Doc Fentem Sooners."

A.L. Fentem Jr.'s son, Jack Fentem, was on the ECU football team during the 1946 season. He later was a member and served as president of the Ada School Board.

Jack Fentem's son, Brandon Fentem, graduated from ECU with a bachelor's degree in education and history in 1975 and a master of education degree in 1980. He was the first president of ECU's Campus Crusade for Christ and he assisted with Chautauqua performances at ECU in the 1990s. He was named Teacher of the Year in Lindsay in 1991 and 2009-10.

Brandon Fentem's wife, Becky Badgett Fentem, received bachelor's and master's degrees in education from ECU. Two of their daughters attended ECU for a short time.

Ruth Ann Fentem Copeland, their daughter and "Dad" Fentem's great-great- granddaughter who is receiving a master's degree this summer, completed a bachelor's degree in 2003. Her husband, Charles "Chuck" Copeland, a member of ECU's 2004 Conference Championship baseball team, also has bachelor's and master's degrees from ECU. He teaches math and coaches baseball at Byng High School.

The Distinguished Former Faculty Award honors Dr. William Carter, professor emeritus of biology and a former chair of the Biology Department. He taught at ECU from 1964 until his retirement in 1995, and as the pre-med adviser, he helped many students gain admission to medical schools and other training in the medical field.

"Numerous health professionals (medical doctors, dentists, physician associates, physical therapists) owe their success to Dr. Carter," wrote Dr. Nick Cheper, chair of ECU's Biology Department, who nominated Carter for the award. "The best testimony to Dr. Carter is a bench in the Crabtree Memorial Plaza which was donated (in his honor) by a former student."

In 1964 Carter began developing a natural history collection of specimens of butterflies and other insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals. The collection, still at ECU, was considered one of the top four in Oklahoma and its specimens have been studied by several institutions across the country.

Carter was a member of the Oklahoma Academy of Science and served as its president in 1972. He is an active member of the Oklahoma Ornithological Society. He received numerous awards while at ECU, both as a student and faculty member. He received his undergraduate degree from ECU and master's and doctoral degrees at Oklahoma State University.

Billie Floyd will receive the Distinguished Service Award. After teaching health and physical education at ECU from 1958 to 1984, she was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate. As a senator she was very instrumental in obtaining funds and recognition for the university. Since returning to Ada, she has been a major force in the community. She wrote the grant that established the Tri-County Indian Nations Community Development Corporation which serves Coal, Johnston and Pontotoc counties, and is a member of the New Horizons Sheltered Workshop Board of Directors. She was chairman for Ada's Centennial Celebration in 2001.

While at ECU she organized the first Special Olympics games in Oklahoma and developed Red Cross swimming programs. She still supervises several of ECU's resident-year teachers each semester.

Floyd is a founding member of both the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society and PAST (Preserving Area Stories in Time), and helps area residents understand the history of Ada, including ECU's role in the community.

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