NORMAN, OKLA. — The University of Oklahoma College of Law will honor four outstanding alumni at its annual Order of the Owl Hall of Fame ceremony Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom in the Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Ave., on the OU Norman campus. The Order of the Owl recognizes OU Law graduates who demonstrate leadership and service through outstanding accomplishments in their legal careers.
This year’s Order of the Owl honorees are:
- Dwight Birdwell, 2022 United States Medal of Honor recipient
- Tricia Everest, Oklahoma secretary of public safety and advocate for abuse victims
- Glen Johnson, chancellor emeritus for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education
- Prudence Little, posthumously, founding member of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission
Emily Virgin, former Oklahoma State House of Representatives minority leader, will also be honored with the Order of the Parliamentarian. This award recognizes more recent OU Law graduates for distinguished accomplishments in the first 20 years of their legal career.
Since its inception in 2011, the Order of the Owl has inducted 33 deserving OU Law alumni.
“This year continues the law school’s tradition of honoring several of its most respected alumni, said Katheleen Guzman, dean of the OU College of Law. “Our honorees embody OU Law’s mission: to educate lawyers and leaders whose lives change ours for the better. We could not be more proud of the varied ways in which their work has had a profoundly positive impact for our state, our nation, and our profession, and we look forward to celebrating them in February 2023.”
Dwight Birdwell (’76)
Dwight W. Birdwell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, entered the U.S. Army in May 1966, earning two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star for meritorious service, two Purple Hearts, and a Good Conduct Medal. After 10 months in Korea, he was re-assigned to Vietnam, serving with the 25th Infantry Division. He received his first Silver Star for heroism on Jan. 31, 1968, when his unit raced to defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under Communist attack during the Tet Offensive. Birdwell's tank commander was seriously wounded, and he took command of the tank and placed intense fire on the enemy until his ammunition was expended. He then retrieved an M-60 machine gun from a downed helicopter and continued repulsing the enemy until the weapon was destroyed by enemy fire, wounding Birdwell. With disregard for his own safety, Birdwell ran through a hail of enemy fire to get more ammunition for his men from other damaged vehicles. Birdwell then led a group of fellow troopers to the front of the column and held the enemy back until help arrived. This Silver Star was upgraded to the Medal of Honor and awarded to Birdwell on July 5, 2022, by President Joe Biden.
His second Silver Star was earned as a result of his bravery on the night of July 4, 1968, when he again risked his life to rescue more Americans, some wounded, who were stranded in a battle zone in an enemy-occupied village. Seeing a damaged Army personnel carrier, Birdwell exposed himself to heavy enemy fire as he loaded men on his tank and evacuated them to safety. He went back into the village to rescue more Americans.
Birdwell returned home in December 1968 and attended Northeastern State University, graduating with academic distinction, and the University of Oklahoma College of Law, graduating in 1976, again with academic distinction. Birdwell was a member of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal (Supreme Court) of the Cherokee Nation from 1987–1999, serving as its chief justice from 1995–1996 and 1998–1999. He is now a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, where he carries an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell.
Tricia Everest (’03)
Tricia Everest, a native of Oklahoma City, received her bachelor of science degree from Vanderbilt University in 1993 and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 2003. Additionally, she holds an Honorary Doctorate in Humanities from Oklahoma City University.
Everest practiced law at GableGotwals, served Oklahoma as an assistant attorney general, and, currently, is the cabinet secretary of public safety for the state of Oklahoma.
Everest has served the community on a number of boards, including as chair of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, trustee of the E.L. and Thelma Gaylord Foundation, and chair of the Inasmuch Foundation’s Advisory Committee. She is the founding chair of Palomar: Oklahoma City’s Family Justice Center, which removes barriers for abuse victims to access the services they need. Everest was also the founding chair of ReMerge, which diverts mothers from prison and empowers the women to build healthy foundations for themselves and their children. Her other philanthropic endeavors include chair of Allied Arts and past-chair of YMCA – serving as the organization’s first female chair in its 128-year history.
Recognized by United Way of Central Oklahoma as the John and Berta Faye Rex Community Builder Honoree in 2019, Everest was also named Societies Philanthropist of the Year in 2012 and received the Lee Allen Smith Oklahoma Legacy Award in 2013. In 2019, she was inducted into the Oklahoma City University Meinders Hall of Honor for Business and Commerce and received the state’s highest honor in 2019 with her induction into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In 2020, Everest was named the 2020 Volunteer of the Year by the Department of Justice for her work with crime victims.
Glen Johnson (‘79)
Johnson served as the chancellor and chief executive officer for the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education from 2007–2021 and was named chancellor emeritus by the State Regents upon his retirement. As chancellor, he led a state system composed of 25 state colleges and universities, 10 constituent agencies and one university center. Independent colleges and universities coordinated with the state system and Johnson was responsible for an annual higher education budget of over $2.8 billion. In his role, Johnson also oversaw the state endowment fund, with a market value of over $931.5 million, and OneNet, which is Oklahoma’s most advanced technology network designed to provide the infrastructure to support high-speed broadband services.
Prior to his selection as chancellor, Johnson served as president of Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant for 10 years, as director of public policy at OU and as adjunct professor of law at the OU College of Law.
From 1982–1996, Johnson served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and was speaker of the house from 1990–1996. At the time of his election as speaker, he was the youngest sitting speaker in the United States.
Johnson has been recognized both statewide and nationally as a strong, untiring advocate for funding for education, both secondary and higher education, in Oklahoma. In addition to providing leadership that was instrumental in the passage of HB 1017, Oklahoma’s landmark education reform legislation, other significant legislation authored by Johnson during his tenure in the Oklahoma House of Representatives included the quality jobs bill; the endowed chairs program; the drug-free school zone bill; the 1992 $350 million higher education bond issue, which provided funding for capital projects, including new buildings and infrastructure improvements at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities; and several pieces of uniform state laws legislation related to a durable power of attorney, management of institutional endowment funds, limited partnership and federal lien registration.
An OU honors graduate, he earned his bachelor of arts degree in political science and a Juris Doctorate from the OU College of Law. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, as well as the Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.
Johnson is a life fellow of The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation and previously served on the OU College of Law Board of Visitors. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2016. Johnson also received the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association Exceptional Leader Award honoring the outstanding higher education chancellor/system-head in the nation in July 2019, Leadership Oklahoma’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020, and The Oklahoma Academy’s Key Contributor Award in 2021.
Prudence Little (’68)
Little attended Wellesley College and was a 1968 graduate of the OU College of Law. She was one of only eight female law students and was first in her class all six semesters, achieving numerous academic honors. From 1968–1969, Little worked as an assistant attorney general under G.T. Blankenship. She then practiced for the next 41 years in the Madill, Oklahoma law firm of Little, Little and Little.
Little was recognized by judges and fellow lawyers as a brilliant attorney, brief writer, and problem solver with the highest ethical standards and professional collegiality.
Little was appointed by Gov. Henry Bellman in 1985 as a founding member and chairperson of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. She is an advocate for OU and education and served as a trustee of the OU Foundation from 1992–2004. During her three years as chairperson, Little provided strong and skillful leadership in reorganizing and reforming the foundation. She has supported the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts Board of Visitors and the Oklahoma Council on Research and Graduate Education.
Little was active in her community, serving on the Women’s Foundation of Oklahoma and nearly all community and church boards in Madill. She was also instrumental in founding the Madill Day Care Center, which gained statewide recognition for its innovative programs and standards of excellence. As a Sunday school teacher for nearly 40 years, a campfire leader, and a mother of three daughters, Little served as a role model and inspiration to many young girls to excel in education and go to law school. She has been described as having “the power and genius of an invisible spirit and silent force,” which quietly but powerfully influenced all those around her for good and lives on today.
Emily Virgin (’12)
Virgin serves as Human Rights for Kids’ policy counsel. In this role, she advocates for HRFK’s priority legislation in the states and at the federal level and assists with strategic litigation. Prior to joining HRFK, Virgin served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. She was elected to the state Legislature in 2010 and reached her term limit in 2022. During her legislative tenure, Virgin was elected by her peers to be the house minority leader. She has received prior professional awards and honors from Freedom Oklahoma, ACLU of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, the Oklahoma Bar Association and the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.
Virgin attended the University of Oklahoma for both her undergraduate degree and her law degree. She graduated magna cum laude from OU in 2009 with a degree in political science and a minor in criminology. Virgin was also selected as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She graduated with distinction from the College of Law in 2013 and was also a member of the Oklahoma Law Review.
Virgin serves her home community of Norman, Oklahoma, as a board member of Bridges of Norman, a nonprofit providing housing to high school students. She is a past board member of Thunderbird Clubhouse, an organization serving those recovering from mental illness, and the Norman Arts Council.
This year’s Order of the Owl recipients will be honored at the Order of the Owl Hall of Fame ceremony Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, in the Molly Shi Boren Ballroom in the Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Ave., on the OU Norman campus.
About the Order of the Owl Hall of Fame
The Order of the Owl has previously inducted 33 OU Law alumni: Judge Thomas R. Brett, Bill W. Burgess Jr., Judge Michael Burrage, Judge Robin J. Cauthron, Dean Emeritus Andrew M. Coats, Justice Tom J. Colbert, James T. Comfort, William T. Comfort Jr., Col. Stanley L. Evans, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher (posthumously awarded), President James L. Gallogly, Joi Gordon, John D. Groendyke, Justice Noma D. Gurich, President V. Burns Hargis, Judge Robert H. Henry, Regent Frank Keating, Susan L. Lees, Judge David B. Lewis, Governor Susana Martinez, Judy Hamilton Morse, William G. Paul, W. DeVier Pierson, J. Hugh Roff Jr., William J. Ross, James E. Sharp, Mayor Kathy Taylor, Justice Steven Taylor, Judge Ralph Thompson, Judge Lee West, Reggie Whitten, Justice Alma Bell Wilson (posthumously awarded).
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