USAO News Bureau

USAO Adds Two to Hall of Fame, Honors Young Alum

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

CHICKASHA – What do an international business leader, an urban renewal expert and a prizefighter have in common? Each has earned high honors from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Three graduates were honored Nov. 4 at USAO as part of the annual Alumni Homecoming activities. During an afternoon awards banquet, USAO named 1956 Oklahoma College for Women (OCW) alums Ann Marie Hooper Harrison and Betty Remy Burns into its Hall of Fame. In addition, Oisin Fagan, class of 2003, received a Young Alumni Award.

Betty Burns was nominated for the Hall of Fame due to her involvement in Cincinnati’s urban housing revival over the past 40 years. Originally from Ft. Cobb, Burns received training in piano and music theory from OCW. When she married in 1960, she joined her husband in Cincinnati and began revitalizing homes in their neighborhood in the late 1960s.

What began as a restoration plan for a house or two became a neighborhood-wide effort that eventually resulted in Cincinnati’s premiere historic district, East Walnut Hills. Today, the East Walnut Hills Historic District has grown to include more than 160 homes built between 1890-1925, populated mostly by young professional families.

In the early 1980s, the Burnses became proactive in a collaborative effort between the Community council and the City of Cincinnati to develop a Neighborhood Redevelopment Plan. The plan culminated in 1992 with the city’s largest community plan to date.

“Although it has been an unconventional path,” Burns said, “the journey itself was, is and shall continue to be rewarding.”

When Ann Marie Hooper Harrison graduated from OCW in 1956, she had no idea she’d find herself overseas, much less the CEO and chair of a major international business. Following her marriage to William Harrison, the couple moved to Cairo, Egypt when William accepted a senior position with the Ford Foundation in 1966.

Although they were in new territory as foreigners in the Middle East, Harrison said Egypt had an unexpected affect on them.

“I didn’t plan on falling instantly in love with Egypt,” Harrison said.

In 1973, the Harrisons made a career- and life-changing decision. They founded International Business Associates Group, Ltd. (IBA), their first entry into the world of business in the Middle East. The company offers consulting services to foreign companies looking to establish in Egypt.

Ten years later, Harrison took the reigns as managing editor of IBA Media, the publishing side of IBA responsible for Egypt Today, which is considered the Middle East’s oldest and most respected current affairs magazine. Now nearly 30 years old, the magazine has spun off multiple publications including Business Today Egypt, the region’s largest business and economy title, and Horus, the in-flight magazine of EgyptAir and the largest circulation magazine in the Middle East.

Harrison was promoted to publisher of the media division in 1995, following the death of her husband. She also became Chairman and CEO of IBA, which then included the Egyptian franchises of Western Union and FedEx. IBA was the first company to introduce private, transparent, non-bank money transfer services to Egypt and North Africa. Today, IBA has nearly 70 offices across Egypt, employing more than 350 Egyptian staff members.

Professional boxer and elementary school teacher Oisin Fagan received the USAO Young Alumni Award. The 2002 physical education graduate was named the Light-Welterweight Champion of Ireland this summer.

Fagan played varsity soccer from 1998 through 2002. Fagan majored in physical education with minors in both communication and political science. In 2003, the Dublin, Ireland, native decided to give pro boxing a swing.

When deportation loomed for Fagan, Phil Cunningham, principal at Columbus Elementary School in Oklahoma City, offered Fagan a job as a physical education teacher. Fagan accepted, and within a year, he was fighting in Las Vegas.

In 2004, he was named the Lightweight Champion of Oklahoma. In 2006, he returned home for a run at his national title – and won it. This summer he was named the Light-Welterweight Champion of Ireland.

He stands at a 16-3 record, with nine knockouts.

“I should have no business fighting against lads who train full-time,” Fagan said, “but my desire to win has made it so that I have an extra incentive to show what this little Irish lad’s big Irish heart can do.”

Apparently, his Irish heart is big, indeed. The award-winning schoolteacher also is a volunteer. Since 1997, he has helped orchestrate soccer tournaments that benefit the Asthma Society of Ireland. In Oklahoma City, he’s delivered food to the poor as a Catholic Worker House volunteer since 2003.

He’s even played Santa Claus for underprivileged minority children in the metro.

“It's very important to start each day with a big smile on my face and to show love where I can to the kids who need it most,” Fagan said. “I'm not perfect and certainly no saint in my own life, but kids know when you're doing your best and they seem to appreciate a good sense of humor.”

The three honorees received memorial plaques, as well as rounds of applause from more than 200 alums who gathered for the Homecoming festivities.