Special to The Sun
University of Central Oklahoma President Don Betz received the state’s highest honor for leadership and significant contributions to the arts with his selection as a recipient of the 2012 Governor’s Award, part of the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Governor’s Arts Awards.
UCO Professor of Art Bob Palmer also was honored with the Community Service Award in recognition for his contributions to the arts in specific Oklahoma communities in the areas of leadership and volunteerism.
Both will receive their awards from Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin at a ceremony at 4 p.m. Nov. 8 in the fourth floor Rotunda of the Oklahoma State Capitol.
“While I’m honored to be recognized by the Oklahoma Arts Council, what’s truly gratifying is to see the progress of artistic and creative endeavors in our great state by those who have embraced and advanced the programs and initiatives like the ones I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in,” Betz said.
“One of those people is Bob Palmer, who uses his murals as opportunities to not only teach the next generation of artists, but also to involve entire communities in the artistic process. I believe the rise and growth of our state is connected to our investment in arts and culture, and it’s an investment we must continue to nurture as we move forward.”
Betz has a strong record in support of the arts throughout his career. While serving as UCO’s provost, Betz created the College of Arts, Media and Design (now the College of Fine Arts and Design) in 2001, strengthening the university’s arts programs by uniting them under one college.
During that time, he also helped secure the Murrah Building art collection, now housed at Central; co-founded the UCO-based Oklahoma Center for Arts Education; was instrumental in bringing Oklahoma A+ Schools to campus, where the program has changed a growing number of schools throughout the state through arts integration; and opened the Melton Art Gallery at UCO.
While at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Betz founded the Living Literature program, the Sequoyah Institute, and the Galaxy of Stars, which brings musical entertainment from throughout the country to northeast Oklahoma.
Betz is also currently the chairman of the Creative Oklahoma board of directors, and has been an active participant and speaker at the World Creativity Forums in Belgium, Germany and Oklahoma. Additionally he has served on the boards for Oklahoma A+ Schools and the DaVinci Institute.
Palmer’s work can be seen all across Oklahoma in the form of colorful murals that capture the unique history and culture of the cities and towns where they are located.
Palmer, who teaches painting and photography at Central, often involves his students in creating these murals. He owns and serves as president of Palmer Studios, a professional mural painting business.
Palmer was selected as the featured muralist in 2007 for Oklahoma Centennial and was voted by the Oklahoma Art Education Association as the outstanding educator for that year.
Palmer has said he is most proud of his students. They are feature photographers and mural painters all across the country. Many of his students go on to earn M.F.A. degrees and become teachers and professors at colleges and universities around the country.