Alum launches ballpark lighting plan

CHICKASHA -- A challenge gift of $150,000 has been granted by Colorado entrepreneur Mark Owens, who is leading a project to light up the Bill Smith Ballpark at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.

Designed to help the teams and to lengthen the academic program day, the $414,000 plan will allow for night games and special tournament hosting. Gifts to support the project can be made to the USAO Foundation. Online gifts can now be made at www.usao.edu/home/give.

“Mark Owens has stepped up to launch a worthwhile and long-needed project,” said Dr. Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement. “This is a win-win for faculty and students at USAO. We encourage other friends of the Drovers to help with this project to raise the bar and improve the fields. We just finished a privately funded storage facility in the Bill Smith Ballpark. And we look forward to seeing this completed by friends of the teams and the university.”

The Owens will return to campus over the June 24-27 weekend for the OCLA Alumni Reunion, a series of 13 events to commemorate the college’s transition from women’s college (OCW) to co-educational (OCLA). Its name changed to the University of Science and Arts in 1974.

“Mark Owens’ generous donation is very much appreciated and got us a start on the facility upgrade with the lights,” Baseball Coach Mike Ross said. ”We are greatly appreciative of everything Mark has done for us.”

Retired Coach L.J. Powell was enthusiastic about the announced gift.

“Mr. Owens has been very generous with his assets to the University of Science and Arts,” Powell said. “We feel very honored that he will share some of that with our departments … We feel that we’re privileged to be involved with him in getting those things done for our program.
We applaud the generosity of friends like Mark and Caroline Owens. Our alumni make us very proud.”

Elsewhere on the campus, the Owens Flag Plaza was dedicated in 2004, the first of 31 projects or events during USAO’s five-year centennial celebration. The plaza, a centerpiece of the historic campus, was designed and generously supported by Mark Owens, along with his wife Caroline Owens.

Mark attended the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts (now USAO) from 1968 to 1971, when Caroline graduated. As the lead donors in this project, the Owens’ names are embossed in the bronze marker erected on the flag plaza, along with donors Lonnie and Dell Jourdan of Chickasha, who helped to complete it.

Mark Owens contributed significantly to the design: three, interlocking circles that represent the “proud history and dynamic convergence of three institutions: OCW, OCLA and USAO.” Rising from the plaza are three poles bearing Old Glory, the Oklahoma Flag, and the Centennial USAO Flag. The plaza measures 90 feet across. Its surface is stained, embossed concrete.

“The flag plaza is a testimony to Mark and Caroline Owens’ affection for the college,” said USAO President John Feaver. “This gift is especially gratifying because the Owens remember OCLA as a wonderful place for living and learning, just as thousands of OCW alumnae remember it so fondly. Owens Plaza captures attention for its size, color, dynamic design and location: at the pivotal, symbolic center of the campus. Mark contributed significantly to the design. It is a fitting centerpiece and symbol for healing, an important starting point in the restoration of the historic campus.”

After OCLA, Mark and Caroline Owens founded the nutrition supplements company, Natural Balance in Castle Rock, Colo., and built it into a global company. They sold the firm in 2004.


Published: June 28, 2010