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Humility Marks Couple’s Philanthropy

Ray and Pat Potts


By April Marciszewski

Ray and Pat Potts have been living generously for decades. Now they have pledged $1 million to Oklahoma City University to create the Potts Family Scholars program, build up the existing Ray Potts Endowed Scholarship, and establish the Ray and Pat Potts Oklahoma City University President’s Enrichment Fund.

“Ray and Pat’s gift will create a powerful impact at OCU,” said OCU President Kenneth Evans. “Their incredible generosity will give students access to a top-quality education and will allow OCU to expand in innovative directions. They have long set an example as pillars of the community, and this gift invites students into similar paths of service.”

The Potts Family Scholars program will provide first-generation students and those with a commitment to diversity and community engagement with front-row seats to nonprofit leadership. The Ray Potts Endowed Scholarship expands access to legal education for students who excel. The President’s Enrichment Fund will provide start-up capital to build new programs and generate sustainable partnerships.

Pat said that like OCU, the couple shares a commitment to people. “OCU, being a faith-based university, can emphasize the potential of humans,” she said. “It provides that balance of focus that’s really important to us. An education at OCU also teaches students to think deeply and critically.”

Ray said that at his age, he wants to contribute more to organizations that have made a difference in his community and in Oklahoma.

Pat and Ray met when they were each president of their respective sorority and fraternity at the University of Missouri. After they got married, Ray served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-57 and then worked for Pure Oil Co. When the company did layoffs during one of the inevitable oil and gas downturns of the time, he thought he would better secure his future with a law degree from OCU.

OCU Trustee Bill Shdeed was in a four-person law school study group with Ray.

“I studied for the bar with Ray, and I probably wouldn’t have passed without him. He was a bright student,” Shdeed said. “Ray Potts is one of the finest, most honorable and generous men I know. You don’t have to come to him — he’ll come to you. He’s a fun guy to be around. He’s a family man. He and Pat have always worked as a team.”

Ray co-founded Potts Stephenson Exploration Co. Inc. and later Potts Exploration. Two of the Potts’ three sons now run the business. The couple have four adult children: Steve, Mark, Larry and Paula.

Meanwhile, Pat, armed with a master’s degree in business administration, co-founded the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits and the Potts Family Foundation.

“Because of Ray’s financial support, we were able to start the Center for Nonprofits in 1981” to provide nonprofits with the management help they needed to think like for-profits while also raising money, managing volunteers and working with boards, Pat said.

The center has since expanded to Tulsa and grown from two employees to more than two dozen, and its nonprofit advocacy has given those organizations a seat at the table with policymakers.

Sitting side-by-side, Pat said, “I give all the credit to him.” Ray responded good-naturedly, “She’s being overly generous.”

The couple said they hope their example might inspire more alumni to give to OCU. Their law scholarship fills an important need, they said.

“A lot of people can’t afford law school, but scholarship support makes it possible for many of them to get a law degree,” Ray said.

They also felt inspired by President Evans to contribute to new programs.

“He described how education is changing,” Pat said. “We’re pleased to help OCU innovate to address training for the jobs of the future.”

The couple downplayed their contributions, acknowledging others’ achievements they have built on.

“We are fortunate,” Pat said, “to be able to build upon the work of community and state leaders with these gifts.”

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