The East Central University Foundation, Inc., was organized in February of 1970 when five alumni (W. Harvey Faust, R. Burl Harris, James A. Thomas Sr., Hugh Warren, and Oscar L. Parker) filed Articles of Incorporation with the State of Oklahoma. These five, plus Dr. Stanley P. Wagner, president of ECU in 1970, contributed $2,000 each with which to begin the Foundation.
For the first twenty years, the Foundation experienced slow and steady growth. By 1990, the endowment had grown to approximately $2 million. The income from the investments was used almost exclusively to fund scholarships to incoming freshmen at ECU.
In the early 1990s, spurred on by a declining state economy due to the oil and gas “bust”, the Foundation decided to begin its first aggressive attempt to raise funds and to expand its service in a significant way to assist with the needs of the University, in addition to scholarships. The “Foundation for the Future” campaign set an ambitious base goal of $1.2 million and a challenge goal of $1.75 million. By the close of the campaign in 1996, the campaign had exceeded all expectations, raising over $3 million. More importantly, a new spirit of giving had been kindled among alumni and friends of the University.
During the 1990's, the generous gifts of donors to the Foundation assisted the University by furnishing the new Linscheid Library, refurbishing the World War I Memorial Gateway, constructing the Frank Crabtree Sr. Honor Plaza, restoring the ECU President’s Home, constructing the Sterling L. Williams Foundation and Alumni Center, providing a host of student scholarships, and funding a number of other special endeavors.
In 2009, ECU celebrated its Centennial and, as the University moved into its second century, the Foundation celebrated its 40th anniversary. The Pat O'Neal Strength and Conditioning Building, the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center, the football field turf and the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center housing the Stonecipher School of Business and ECU Foundation Hall are the latest projects finished from funds donated by individuals through the Foundation.
Mr. Oscar Parker served as the first Executive Director of the Foundation from its inception in 1970 until his retirement. Dr. Joe Parsons took over briefly before leaving to become interim President of ECU, and Dr. James A. Thomas assumed the role in 1989. These three gentlemen served ECU and the Foundation for a combined total of over 180 years.
After Dr. Thomas retired in 2005, Debbie Griffin, who had served as the Accountant for the Foundation for several years, assumed the duties of interim Director in 2006. She was named as Executive Director in 2007, resigning in February 2008 to take another position in the Ada community. Mick Cowan, who taught accounting at ECU for 26 years, was chosen as the Executive Director in March of 2008, and retired in August 2009 to re-enter the teaching field. Phyllis Danley was named to the position of Executive Director in September 2009, retiring in March 2016.
ECU Alum, Craig Kurtz was hired as Chief Executive Officer in October 2016 and served in that capacity until February 2018. President Emeritus, John R. Hargrave, assumed the position of CEO in April of 2018. Hargrave served as the eighth president of ECU from 2009-2017. He graduated with honors from ECU in 1978, majoring in speech and sociology and earned a law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1980.
ECU Alumna, Buffy Lovelis was named Vice President for the Foundation in July of 2018 and will continue to serve as Chief Operations Officer. Lovelis received her bachelor's degree in business administration from ECU in 2005 and earned a master's degree in human resources administration in 2008.
Purpose: The purposes for which this Foundation is organized are exclusively scientific, literary, charitable, educational, and artistic for the benefit of East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, its faculty, its student body, and its programs.
- From the East Central University Foundation, Inc., Bylaws, Article 1