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ADA – A lifetime of struggles, setbacks, victories and stalemates are nothing new for State Sen. Susan Paddack.

She’s battle-tested and analytical, intelligent and savvy and she was moved to tears May 2 when recalling she is the first in her family to be college educated.

“You’ll have to pardon me if I become a little emotional,” the five-term political leader said choking back tears, “but I was the first person in my family to receive a college education.”

That education, hard work, dedication and self-sacrifice was honored by East Central University with its highest award of service, Distinguished Alumna, as a capacity crowd broke into enthusiastic applause at Paddack’s genuine love for education at the annual ECU Evening of Honors and Recognition Banquet in ECU Foundation Hall of the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center.

Paddack continued to say, “I have been blessed to receive other awards in the past and some were amazing, but none has touched my heart more than this.”

Educational opportunities and the ability of education to change lives and futures are at the core of Paddack’s passion for continual learning and growing. Paddack has been a champion for higher education and education in general.

Paddack is the daughter of a telephone lineman and stay-at-home mom who had little post-secondary education in which she described as mind-blowing.

“It really speaks to the power of education to change lives and futures and my family represents that,” said Paddack, addressing her family who sat in the front. “My husband (Gary) was a farm boy who I put through medical school. Our kids graduated from Ada High and went on to college and medical school themselves. Three doctors and a senator – that’s the power that education has to change lives.”

Higher education opens a vast array of opportunities in not only obtaining a valuable career, but prolonging a lifetime of continual learning, according to Paddack.

“I have been blessed beyond belief that I have been given opportunities to use my education and to continue to learn through the work I’ve done,” she said. “I loved my time here at ECU in the education department. Great professors like Jack Paschall, Ben Harper, Nedra Sears, Ralph Sharp and more, all served to challenge me then to do my best. I came back after graduation and had the privilege to be adjunct faculty and that too was a wonderful learning experience for me. I am so grateful for my time at ECU.”

Three other Distinguished Alumni were honored – William C. Thrash (posthumous), Becky Gallup Payton and Bill G. Lance.

Paddack, who serves District 13 in Oklahoma, had the opportunity to deliver the keynote address at the 2013 fall commencement ceremony in December. Payton and Lance will deliver speeches at ECU’s commencement exercises on Saturday, May 10. Payton will be the keynote speaker at the 10 a.m. ceremony while Lance will speak at the 2 p.m. ceremony.


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