Our Mission and History

Our Mission and History

In 1985, while serving Oklahoma as a U.S. senator, our founder David L. Boren brought together a group of Oklahoma business and community leaders with the common goal of improving public education in the state. All agreed that private investment was crucial to the success of public schools. The result was the establishment of a statewide, nonprofit organization, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, with the mission of recognizing and encouraging academic excellence in Oklahoma’s public schools. The foundation is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization supported solely by private contributions from donors like you.

Academic Awards Program – Launched in 1987

Through our flagship Academic Awards Program, the foundation presents $125,000 annually to honor outstanding public high school seniors as Academic All-Staters and exceptional educators as Medal for Excellence winners. The televised Academic Awards Banquet is the state’s most prestigious academic celebration saluting leading public school students and educators.

Oklahoma School Foundations Network (formerly Local Education Foundation Outreach) – Launched in 1989

Helping strengthen grassroots support for public schools, our Oklahoma School Foundations Network provides free training, resources and networking opportunities for new and established school foundations. The program has been instrumental in helping build one of the nation’s largest networks of education foundations, with more than 200 established to date. Together, these citizen nonprofits have raised millions of dollars to support academic excellence and have encouraged community involvement in their local schools.

Early American History Education Programs – Launched in 1993

We partner with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to bring American history to life and help develop tomorrow’s citizens. Our foundation awards fellowships for fifth- and eighth-grade Oklahoma teachers to attend the renowned Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute in Virginia. During the weeklong institute, teachers are immersed in 18th-century life through hands-on activities and reenactments of historic events. We also co-sponsor Colonial Day at the State Capitol, an exciting hands-on history education day for students, and promote the development of Colonial Day events statewide.

Teacher Professional Development – Launched 2003

Inspired by the success of the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute, the foundation began offering grants in 2003 for Oklahoma teachers to attend national conferences in their chosen fields. Today, we partner with the national Fund for Teachers and the Tulsa Community Foundation to provide career-transforming Fund for Teachers grants for self-designed summer professional development opportunities around the world. In 2019-20, the foundation launched the Teachers of English Learners Project, utilizing an online learning platform to support classroom teachers at schools with a high enrollment of English Learners. The Teachers of English Learners platform is now available to teachers statewide through the State Department of Education.

Boren Mentoring Initiative – Launched in 2006

Recognizing the proven impact of mentoring on student success, the foundation established its statewide Boren Mentoring Initiative in 2006. The initiative promotes the growth and development of quality youth mentoring programs statewide, providing free on-call support and resources for those seeking to start or strengthen their mentoring program. In 2022, we began awarding start-up grants for new and developing mentoring organizations and opportunity grants to support strategic needs of K-12 mentoring programs. 

Foundation Builders: Founding Trustees Share Landmark Moments in 35-Year History

It all began with great teachers.

David Boren, the visionary founder of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, says the seeds of inspiration for the foundation were planted in his childhood by remarkable teachers – first-grade teacher Ruth Robinson, high school English teacher Margaret Casey, debate coach H.B. Mitchell. “I got to attend good public schools with great teachers,” Boren said. “I attribute any success I’ve had to that good public education and feel strongly that all young people should be provided with the same opportunities I had.”

Boren recalls when he was governor attending a State Teacher of the Year ceremony, in which the remarkable honoree received little fanfare and was awarded a department store gift card and small plaque. “Surely we can do better in the way we honor our great public school teachers,” he thought…

"I do not need to tell you that many days it feels like the whole world is against teachers and education. It is a blessing to be able to tell my colleagues and to remind myself that the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its donors not only have our backs, but value what we do and are willing to invest financially to prove it. Thank you so much for all you do for Oklahoma teachers, not just sending us places and providing amazing learning experiences, but for making us FEEL valued and respected!"

View a conversation of a panel of Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence founding trustees (above) as they reflect on the origins of the foundation and the inspiring impact it has had on the education community over the last thirty-five years.