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UCO Announces 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Four individuals pose together with medals around their necks

Oct. 9, 2023

Media Contact: Kandace Taylor, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, UCO Foundation and Alumni Engagement, or (405) 974-3553.

UCO Announces 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients 

The University of Central Oklahoma Foundation and Alumni Engagement recently celebrated the achievements of the recipients of the university’s Distinguished Alumni Award during the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet. 

The five recipients are Diana Bittle, Gary Brooks, Beatriz Mayorca, Joann McCarthy, Ph.D., and Ben Odom. 

Bittle has worked at American Fidelity for more than 20 years as the senior vice president and chief information officer. She is known for her innovative problem-solving abilities, commitment to enhancing customer service and streamlining business procedures through technology. As the state co-chair for MATH COUNTS, a middle school math contest, she is devoted to promoting STEM education.

Bittle earned a bachelor’s degree from UCO in mathematics with an emphasis in computer science in 2002.

Brooks is an experienced commercial real estate professional based in Oklahoma City. With more than 30 years of expertise as a broker, developer and business owner, Brooks founded Cornerstone Development in 2008. His team has successfully leveraged various housing and urban development financing programs to construct and acquire more than 3,000 apartment units during the past 13 years. In 2017, Brooks and his partner Charlie Nicholas purchased and transformed The First National Center, a towering $1.1 million, square-foot building constructed in 1931, into a new and exciting space in Oklahoma City.

Brooks earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Central in 1988. 

Mayorca is an accomplished artist and interior designer who experiments with a variety of art forms, such as sculptures, distinctive furniture and lighting design. Her primary interest is in producing public art that can appeal to a broad audience. Her goal is to develop one-of-a-kind pieces that stray from the conventional crafts of her homeland, Venezuela.

Mayorca earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from UCO in 2011.

McCarthy is a retired educator currently living in Florida. She formerly held the position of chair and faculty member of the Donna Nigh Department of Advanced Professional and Special Services at Central. Throughout her career, McCarthy has shown unwavering support for UCO and created multiple scholarship funds for teachers, counselors and education. In recognition of her invaluable contributions, the UCO College of Education and Professional Studies established the Dr. Joann McCarthy Inspiring Educator Award, which acknowledges outstanding alumni who have positively impacted students, colleagues, schools and communities through innovative teaching methods.

McCarthy earned a Master of Education in elementary school administration from Central in 1988.

Odom made history as the first Broncho to win the prestigious Truman Scholarship. With 39 years of legal experience, Odom is a senior partner of the Norman firm, Odom & Sparks. He has served as President of his County Bar and taught law at the University of Oklahoma, where he earned his law degree. Odom has also held leadership positions in various civic organizations and was a member of the UCO Foundation Board of Trustees and served as Chairman of the Board for the Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature Foundation. 

Odom graduated from UCO with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1981.

A committee selects the Distinguished Alumni Award recipients based on peer recommendations and notable accomplishments in one of three categories—professional impact, community service and university service. UCO Foundation and Alumni Engagement has given the awards annually since 1952, apart from 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information on the UCO Distinguished Alumni Awards, visit or contact UCO Foundation and Alumni Engagement at   


Editor's Note: Download art associated with this release at

Cutline: The University of Central Oklahoma Foundation and Alumni Engagement celebrated the achievements of five recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award. This year’s award recipients are Diana Bittle, Gary Brooks, Beatriz Mayorca, Joann McCarthy and Ben Odom. Pictured from left are Mayorca, Bittle, Odom and Brooks. Not pictured, McCarthy.