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Business School Collects Major Gifts

Herman and LaDonna Meinders
Herman Meinders and wife, LaDonna, inspect some of the technology at OKCU’s new nursing simulation lab. Meinders donated a gift to establish business school scholarship endowments

The Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University received two substantial donations from alumni over the summer to operate programs through the fall semester and beyond. A longtime philanthropist has established the Business Leadership Fellows Program, and an Oklahoma City energy executive pledged a gift to operate one of the key components of the Economic Research and Policy Institute (ERPI).

Meinders Business Leadership Fellows Program

Herman Meinders made a multi-million-dollar commitment to fund a unique Business Leadership Fellows Program.

Commencing this fall and annually thereafter, students who are accepted to the program will receive a full-tuition scholarship for up to four years combined with co-curricular learning enrichment and leadership development opportunities. The scholarships will fund up to 18 students per year.

Meinders said he established the scholarship program to assist in the recruitment of exceptional students interested in business and leadership, and provide these students with an innovative and high-engagement learning environment.

Meinders founded American Floral Services (AFS), an international flowers-by-wire service based in Oklahoma City, in 1970. AFS began in a garage apartment and initially consisted of 137 subscriber florists. From that beginning, AFS grew to become international in scope and ranked as one of the largest floral wire services in the world. In 2000, AFS merged with Teleflora.

The business school at OKCU was named the Meinders School of Business in the 1980s, and Meinders funded the new building’s construction, which opened in 2004.

Ronnie K. Irani Center for Data Analytics 

Ronnie K. Irani, president and CEO of RKI Energy Resources, pledged a $1 million endowment to operate the Center for Data Analytics.

The center is one of three components of ERPI, which also encompasses the Center for Economic Forecasting and Policy Analysis and the Center for Native American and Urban Studies. The data center was established to provide clients with insights through customized analytic solutions that are adapted to their unique needs. Areas of focus include forecasting, spatial modeling, Monte Carlo analysis, optimization and machine learning.

“Ronnie was excited to hear about what we are doing here,” said business school Dean Steven Agee. “As a forward-thinking person, he was interested in what we could do with this. He is a champion of promoting business innovation and creativity, and he sees the importance of data analytics in that process.”

The data analytics center is directed by economics professor Jacob Dearmon. With the help of a staff of students, the center conducts research for clients in a variety of areas including businesses, governments and non-profit organizations. The students present their work to the clients once the project is complete.

Agee noted that the centers in ERPI help the business school in many different ways — generating revenue for scholarships, providing students with real-world employment and work experience, and solving problems for clients. Irani earned his MBA from OKCU in 1990. He also taught organizational behavior as an adjunct professor in the mid-’90s. He founded the oil and gas exploration company RKI Exploration & Production, sold it for more than $3 billion last year and started RKI Energy Resources.