Real Estate pioneer and USAO Regent Mo Anderson to be inducted into Oklahoma Hall of Fame
When Mo Anderson found out that she was going to be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame this year, she was “just in a state of shock.” Anderson, who is vice chairman of the board at Keller-Williams Realty and has served on the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Board of Regents since 2012, had no idea that anyone had nominated her. “Growing up the way I did, being in the Hall of Fame just wasn’t even on my radar,” she said.
Anderson first became associated with the university when it was still known as the Oklahoma College for Women. She studied piano on scholarship and formed bonds that would last a lifetime. “I made friends with 12 girls in my first year,” said Anderson. “We always kept in touch and I began getting them together every year for a surprise trip. I call it the Mid-Year Reunion and they have no earthly idea where they’re going. To think that we’ve hung together for more than 60 years is incredible.”
After more than a decade as a public school music teacher in Ponca City, Anderson decided to shift careers. “My husband saw how hard I worked as a teacher and encouraged me to get into the business world,” said Anderson. “He believed that I would be compensated according to how hard and efficiently I worked, so we moved to Edmond and I entered the real estate profession.”
Though some might see this move as a major change in direction, Anderson sees her background in education as a boon to her current vocation. “It was my desire that my students perform with excellence. I would not accept anything but the best from them. This experience taught me the importance of standards, and I have always maintained them in the business world,” said Anderson.
Once Anderson met Gary Keller, the founder of Keller-Williams Realty, she knew she’d met the mentor she needed to succeed as a businesswoman. “I had never had a business course, but he took me by the hand and taught me everything he knew,” said Anderson. “Working with him has been an absolute wonder.”
In the 10 years since she joined as its president and chief executive officer, Anderson has shepherded Keller-Williams growth from 35 market centers to 530 across the country. She says she was able to grow the company so rapidly simply “by having the right people on the bus with me, by making the right hires.”
Beyond sheer numbers, Anderson is most proud of the professional culture that she helped create at Keller-Williams. “I feel like my mission on earth is to show the business community that people of different faiths and ethnicities can come together to make a difference in the world.”
Combined with her drive to make a difference, Anderson’s business acumen has proved extremely useful in her work on the USAO Board of Regents. She helped President Feaver create a list of talking points that have proved useful when recruiting students or donors to the university. “I say, let’s sit down and have a cup of coffee because there’s 10 things you need to know about USAO.” Whether it’s the highly-qualified faculty or broad educational experience, the innovative team-teaching approach or the small campus environment, Anderson knows that this institution fills an unduplicated role in Oklahoma’s higher education system.
Anderson says the greatest contribution she has made as a USAO Regent is making the faculty and staff understand that there is no problem that recruiting cannot fix. Though there are continual worries over state education funding, she is very happy to see the recent increase in freshman enrollment. “I am so proud of what the faculty has done to improve the quality of education and student life at the university,” said Anderson. “Our little school needs to think outside the box, recruit students, raise money and grow as best we can. If we can ensure that everyone on campus is excited and working together, the university will thrive. If we depend on the state when they keep cutting our budget, we’re really not thinking very soundly.”
Despite the strides that USAO has made with her as a Regent, Anderson still has a great deal more to accomplish. “I am tired of our faculty and staff not getting raises,” she said at a recent meeting of the board. “I think there is a way that we can compensate them even if we don’t have the money for across the board raises.” Thanks to the generosity of Anderson and other board members, as well as her determination to see the institution continue to grow, it was recently announced that all full-time employees of USAO will receive stipends in the coming months.
In addition to her work in real estate and as a Regent, Anderson also created two nonprofit organizations, the Gregg Foundation and KW Cares. A major supporter of the Daily Living Center and Meals on Wheels, the Gregg Foundation was started in memory of Anderson’s parents, “who had lived through the Depression-era and Dust Bowl days.” Meanwhile, she founded KW Cares as a way to teach “tithing, giving, and taking care of our own at Keller-Williams. Annually, the organization raises almost $6 million for whenever an employee or their family has an accident or medical issue. “During Hurricane Katrina, KW Cares raised $5.3 million in four months and every penny went to our agents who had lost everything in that storm,” said Anderson. “We’ve helped in the latest fires in California, the floods in Virginia, the Joplin tornado, and the hurricanes that devastated Houston and Florida.” Their annual Red Day event features community projects in 32 countries to help local residents. “Every story we hear from Red Day is touching and that is all a result of the culture at our company,” said Anderson.
When reflecting on what it means to be from Oklahoma, Anderson notes that “the friendliness of the people and the way they work together is profoundly unique. In other places I don’t see the depth of the work ethic and the way that people take joy in your own success.” She believes that these are the same qualities that the next generation should develop in order to become successful adults. “Develop a foundation of faith, because that will get you through the challenges you will face. Know your values, because they will be challenged. Get an education and never stop reading!”