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Associates Gala will honor Thunder manager Sam Presti

Oklahoma Christian University will honor donors and local talent at the 16th Annual Associates Gala held tonight at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

Kent Allen, vice president of advancement, said the Associates Gala is a thank-you dinner for Oklahoma Christian’s donors. He said young alumni can become Oklahoma Christian associates for as little as $300 per year, which gives them two tickets to the gala. However, Allen said most Associates give at the $1,000 per year level. More than 760 Associates are expected to attend the gala.

“We also have dinner patrons who give extra donations to pay for the dinner,” Allen said. “This way all Associates donations go toward operations at Oklahoma Christian. At the gala, we show [Associates] our great, great students, and we thank them with a good meal and wonderful entertainment.”

According to Allen, the gala shows appreciation for donors and presents an opportunity to celebrate the quality of Oklahoma Christian students. He said more students will be present at this gala than ever before.

“Conner Johnson will lead the flag salute, Kayla Gomez will sing ‘America the Beautiful,’ the Steel Drum Band will perform, the Jazz Band will perform, Summer Singers will perform and members of Valentine Cabaret will perform, plus the President’s Leadership Class will be present,” Allen said. “Not to mention many more students who will be recognized for their accomplishments. It’s all about students.

The president will share a number of stories with our constituents who are in attendance, just the great accomplishments of almost all of our students, which is why everybody comes. They want to hear what’s going on at Oklahoma Christian and whether their dollars are making a difference in the lives of students.”

Allen said the Lee Allan Smith Spirit of Oklahoma Award is presented every year at the gala to individuals who have devoted themselves to the betterment of Oklahoma. According to Allen, Smith has been a good friend of Oklahoma Christian for decades, in addition to being a major Oklahoma City community leader.

“He kind of embodies the spirit of Oklahoma, which is can-do and work hard,” Allen said.

This year the award honors Sam Presti, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s general manager. Presti was recently awarded the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award by LegalShield for his significant and positive impact on Oklahoma since 2008, when the Thunder debuted.

“Presti spends much of his free time giving back to his community and currently serves on the board for the Oklahoma City National Memorial,” BusinessWire said. “He has also been honored by Oklahoma City University for his philanthropic endeavors, and runs the Forward Thinking Leadership Development Program, an initiative within the Oklahoma City Public Schools.”

LegalShield also presented Presti with a donation to help him create an “Oklahoma Standard” scholarship fund through the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation.

“The Thunder have changed the face of OKC,” Allen said. “The Thunder have jumpstarted the tremendous growth and pride that’s so prevalent in OKC today.”

According to Allen, the dinner usually brings a diverse group of donors together who all believe in Christian higher education.

“It is a good cross section of donors, from young to old, brand new donors to those that have been with us for 50 years,” Allen said. “It’s an honor for us to have this thank-you dinner, which is fully supported by donors, so it doesn’t come out of the budget.”

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