USAO Alum and Former Chickasha Resident Grabs Emmy
CHICKASHA – Don Michael Jr. knows what it’s like to look out for his fellow man – and get rewarded for it. The University of Science and Arts alumnus and former Chickasha resident recently won an Emmy award for a campaign he helped create at a television station in Las Vegas.
Michael is the art director at KVBC, an NBC affiliate station, where he manages a staff of four designers who create graphics and animations for news, promotions and sales departments.
In 2006, he helped design an image campaign called “Watching Out for You.” The campaign was designed to illustrate how each of the station’s four main anchors look out for their viewers in different areas: crime, health, children and money. Michael was responsible for art direction, design and creation of animations, graphics and the overall look for the featured franchises.
“The campaign was so successful that within six months, research indicated our featured talent had risen significantly in local recognition and Las Vegas television viewers were identifying KVBC as the station ‘watching out’ for them,” Michael said. “We were then able to start phase two six months earlier than we had planned in our original timeline.”
The promotional spots found additional success when they earned Michael and two of his associates an Emmy last year for design.
Although Michael has been in Las Vegas for the past four years, he still has fond memories of Chickasha and USAO.
“I originally moved to Chickasha to attend USAO and lived on campus at Lawson Hall,” Michael said. “I fell in love with the town, settled in and ended up living there 19 years. My wife, Laura, and I met and were married in Chickasha and had our three children while living there. We bought our first home there. We were active members of Chickasha’s First Assembly of God.
“It was a very hard decision to move from Chickasha in 1999, but the opportunity to grow in my field was too good to pass up.”
Although Michael didn’t plan on being a designer, fate forced him into an interesting position that shaped the course of his life.
For 14 years, he worked at Pet, Inc. in Chickasha before the factory was closed in 1995. Michael had just graduated from USAO with a bachelor’s degree in art with an emphasis in printmaking the year before.
“While working at Pet, Inc., I got my degree at USAO with the intention of retiring early from factory work to focus on creating and showing fine art,” Michael said. “However, my plans were changed for me when Pillsbury bought out Pet, Inc. and closed the doors of the factory.”
The factory closing gave Michael a surprising push to change his professional direction.
Under the tutelage of Steve Brown, professor of art, Michael took additional tutorials focused on desktop publishing. He also took courses at Metro Tech in Oklahoma City for the same subject. After that, it was only a matter of time until he landed a new job.
“Within a year I had found a part-time job at KWTV in Oklahoma City as an early morning graphic artist,” Michael said. “And the rest is history!”
After three years at KWTV, Michael took a job as art director of a television station in Norfolk, Va. Three years later, a position opened in the west, and he became the art director at KVBC in Las Vegas. Over the past four years, Michael has won three Broadcaster Designers Association awards for his work with the station there, including a gold award for his redesign of the station’s logo.
In addition to KVBC, Michael’s graphics and animations have appeared in several other cities and states, including Wyoming and Idaho.
“Besides on-air graphics, I am also responsible for print ads for magazines, programs and newspaper, web graphics, billboard ads, vehicle logos, signage for buildings and basically anything that can hold a graphic image,” Michael said.
Michael attributes much of his success to the faculty at USAO who helped educate and train him for the surprising career turn his life took.
“I loved going to school at USAO,” he said. “The friends I made, both student and faculty, continue to remain a part of who I am. The art professors, Kent Lamar, Steve Brown, Hollis Howard and Jim Dudding, all helped to refine my talent. Kent and Hollis made it fun while showing me about drawing, painting and composition. Jim helped me to understand and love art history, and Steve fine-tuned my skills while helping me find focus.
“John Johnson helped open my eyes to the world of computers while broadening my music library. Larry Magrath brought science to life while befriending and mentoring a wandering soul. And Ingrid Shafer helped me to look at the world in an entirely different way. These are but a few of all who had an impact on me in my USAO experience.”
Today, Michael’s ties to Chickasha are strong as ever. His mother-in-law, Ellen Hape, is still a resident along with other family members and friends.
“I think often of my friends from Chickasha,” Michael said. “There’s a part of me that will always call Chickasha home no matter where I go.”