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Hoop Dreams

When it comes to fans, the OC basketball teams have quite a following.

But until now, no one has expressed their love of the game and the university so much that they’ve given a scholarship just for the sport.

Kenny (68) and Kathy (Newell 69) Kaaiohelo recently established the Vernon and Rowena Newell Endowed Scholarship for Men’s Basketball at Oklahoma Christian.

“Thankfully, I married a man who loved my parents as much as I did,” said Kathy, explaining how she and Kenny decided to both honor her parents and support the university with the gift.

The initial pledge of $100,000 is the first of its kind for an OC sports program. It honors the Newells, who were avid fans and some of OC’s best cheerleaders.

Mr. Newell was a long-time Board of Trustees member who is remembered for his keen persuasive skills in finding donors for Oklahoma Christian in its early years.

In fact, Kathy laughs when she remembers former president Terry Johnson (64) telling how when her Dad made visits for the college, he would not leave until he had a check.

She also remembers the sacrifices of many others who believed, like her parents did, that OC was a worthy cause.

“I remember times when I was in junior high, Daddy and Phil Watson would collect envelopes from farmers and others who would save the money to pay for their kid’s classes for the semester, sacrificing because they believed so much in Christian education,” Kathy said.  

Those stories make up the legacy of those who “dug the wells that we did not dig,” (Deuteronomy 6:11) … and sit in the seats we did not buy in the Eagles’ Nest. The Newells provided funds for the chairback seats in the Payne Athletic Center.

Longtime Eagles’ fans will remember the Newells in their own seats … and can still hear Vernon “suggesting” to the refs that they get their eyes checked.

All gifts are welcome to the Vernon and Rowena Newell Endowed Scholarship, which will help student-athletes with books and other college expenses. Checks to OC should include “Newell Basketball Scholarship” in the memo line.

For the Newell descendants, their legacy includes an abiding faith in God, love for OC, and a passion for basketball. Kathy hopes this will spur others to do something similar, to honor someone important to them with an endowment (and get the tax benefit, she adds).

“It’s a way to tell the old, old story of where we have come from so we know where we are going,” she said.

By Dawn Shelton (90)

To contribute to the Newell Scholarship, send your donation to:

Oklahoma Christian University
Office of Advancement
P.O. Box 11000
Oklahoma City, OK 73136-1100