A 1970 graduate of Northwest Classen, Skip Bayless quickly distinguished himself as an aspiring journalist, serving as the primary sports columnist of the school newspaper his junior and senior years. Awarded the prestigious Grantland Rice Sports Journalism Scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University, he graduated cum laude in 1974 with degrees in both English and History.
Going to work immediately at The Miami Herald, Bayless cut his professional journalistic teeth on sports features for two years before accepting a position at the Los Angeles Times in 1976, earning an Eclipse Award for Outstanding Newspaper Writing the following year for his coverage of the thoroughbred Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown victory.
At age 26, Bayless was hired by The Dallas Morning News as their lead sports columnist then landed at the rival Dallas Times Herald three years later. During the next 15 years he would be named Texas Sportswriter of the Year three times, author a trio of books on the Super Bowl-winning Dallas Cowboys of the early 1990’s, host several sports talk radio programs in the Metroplex, and prove to be one of the most colorful – and controversial – sports journalists of the modern era.
Moving in 1998 to become the head sports writing columnist for the Chicago Tribune, Bayless continued to pursue national radio and television opportunities, and in 2001 became the primary guest host of the syndicated radio program, The Jim Rome Show, giving him a national audience for his unique brand of sports conversation and opinion.
ESPN hired Bayless full-time in 2004 to team with Woody Paige of The Denver Post in daily debate segments called “1st and 10” on ESPN2 and to write columns for ESPN.com. In May 2007, the show was rebranded as First Take and production moved to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
Closer to home, Bayless was selected to the Oklahoma City Wall of Fame in 2008, which recognizes those outstanding alumni of the Oklahoma City public schools. And in 2012, he was nominated for a Sports Emmy Award in the category of “Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio Analyst” for his work at ESPN.
In the summer of 2016, Bayless left ESPN and moved to Fox Sports, co-hosting a new network sports talk program titled Skip and Shannon: Undisputed along with former NFL receiver Shannon Sharp, which debuted in September of 2016 and has been in continuous production since.
John D. (Denny) Carreker
A member of the school’s Class of 1960, Denny Carreker has gone on to distinguish himself as both a remarkable businessman and prolific philanthropist.
After graduation, Carreker headed to Stillwater for college, where he enjoyed great academic success, receiving his BS and MS degrees in Industrial Engineering and Management from Oklahoma State University in 1965 and 1966. Upon graduation, he joined the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and was placed in charge of data processing for the sixth Federal Reserve District.
Like many young men of that era, Carreker served as an officer in the U.S. Army for two years then re-started his professional career in earnest by joining the Dallas consulting firm of Lifson, Wilson, Ferguson, and Winnick. While at the firm, he initiated the company’s bank consulting practice and helped grow it into prominence within the financial industry.
Continuing to blaze a trail of innovation in the banking industry, he founded J.D. Carreker and Associates in 1978, a management consulting and technology company specializing in bank operations and services. Over the next 20 years, the company would expand to serve the largest banks in the U.S. and more than 250 bank clients on five continents, focusing on payment systems, e-commerce, fraud mitigation, revenue enhancement and customer relationship management.
As both chairman and CEO, Carreker’s company went public in 1998 and completed a successful secondary in 2000 named Carreker Corporation, which in turn was acquired by CheckFree Corporation in 2007 and is now part of Fiserv. Carreker Corporation was named to Fortune Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies and was selected as number 50 on Forbes Magazine’s Best Small Companies of 2000.
The next year, Denny Carreker was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by accounting giant Ernst & Young in the e-commerce category. The leading banking journal, American Banker, named him to its list of the Top 25 Technology Consultants. Working with the largest U.S. banks, he would go on to found important industry organizations such as the Electronic Check Clearinghouse Organization (ECCHO) and the Payment Solutions Network. He is a regular author and contributor to banking industry publications and a frequent speaker and presenter at banking conferences worldwide.
In 2005, he was inducted into the College of Engineering Hall of Fame at Oklahoma State, and three years later was named as an Outstanding OSU Alumni.
Today he serves as Vice Chairman and an owner of Jet Linx Management, providing private jet services from facilities in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio. He is also CEO of Signal 88, a DFW-based Security Company, as well as Managing Partner of Promontory Insight, a camera technology and monitoring company.
Continuously active in civic and philanthropic pursuits, Carreker is chairman of Promising Youth Alliance, founded to provide a continuum of afterschool care to at-risk youth. He also serves on the regional boards of the Salvation Army, Phoenix House of Texas and Big Brothers/Big Sisters Lone Star. He and his wife Connie are past board members of the Dallas Make-a-Wish Foundation and continue to enjoy their three children and eight grandchildren.
Jerry Chris Elliot
After his graduation from Northwest Classen in 1961, Jerry Elliott was already a talented Native American young man with a brilliant mind and a promising future. Nearly 60 years later, this amazing man has made significant contributions in such diverse fields as science, entertainment, business and the arts.
After a distinguished academic career at the University of Oklahoma where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and subsequent postgraduate work, Jerry left O.U. in 1966 to work as a Flight Mission Operations Engineer at NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas during the Apollo Space Program. He would distinguish himself for his contributions to the historic Apollo 11 Moon Landing flight in 1969. Two years later, Elliott was instrumental in the rescue of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission, calculating the space-craft’s proper return trajectory that saved the lives of its astronauts and earned him the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to him by President Richard Nixon.
In 1975, Elliott was selected and assigned to NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC as Staff Program Engineer on the Apollo/Soyuz Project; the first cooperative space mission with the Soviet Union. Ten years later, Elliott would initiate and direct the preliminary design of the U.S. Space Station. Elliott would ultimately serve with NASA for 40 years, working on dozens of high level technology and space travel-related programs, including the Space Shuttle and the first successful launch of government communications satellites as national defense assets before his retirement in July of 2006.
While his professional responsibilities with NASA consumed his working hours, Elliott used his free time to polish his creative talents as a professional musician, composer and entertainer for more than 30 years.
Fully embracing his Native American heritage, Elliott is fluent on the guitar and keyboards, but specializes in the haunting sounds of the American Indian flute, performing for audiences nationally and internationally, including the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra as well as the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He’s also an accomplished songwriter, country music vocalist, and a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, better known as ASCAP.
Since the 1980’s Elliott has also been among the nation’s foremost poets and poetic authors, having published numerous poetry pieces and volumes, received dozens of major poetry awards and recited his unique poetry on festival stages, poetry symposiums and university campuses all across America. He has even been nominated as Oklahoma Poet Laureate by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Elliott has also been an advocate of Native American causes and cultural contributions throughout much of his adult life. His company, High Eagle Productions, LLC, actively promotes his music, entertainment performances and speaking engagements throughout the world. He is also a gifted humanitarian and an outspoken supporter of our planet and its people – especially the youth he encounters. He regularly engages with young people and is a frequent speaker or performer at national or international youth festivals.
And if all of these accomplishments are not enough, Elliott has recently been granted a patent by the U.S. Patent Office for a cancer-fighting therapy/apparatus he created for medical research for potential patient treatment and therapy of cancer and blood viruses, allowing a lower-cost cancer treatment to be performed from home instead of a more expensive hospital setting.
After a lifetime of achievement in science, business, entertainment and the arts, Elliott is celebrated as a brilliant scientist, space pioneer, educator, award-winning poet, musician, composer, writer, orator, producer, actor, director, playwright, humanitarian and inventor
Lynne Hardin is a 1964 graduate, a championship swimmer and a skilled tennis player during her Northwest days, lettering in both sports and becoming a certified swimming instructor. But this well-rounded student also excelled academically as well as socially, being crowned the school’s first ever Spirit Award Queen.
Early in her life Lynne moved to Marin County, California to begin working with the Military Air Transport System (MATS), flying U.S. servicemen from Travis AFB to Hickam Field in Hawaii, then on to Clark AFB in the Philippines. Her MATS flying would eventually shuttle troops to Viet Nam and Cambodia, while also transporting servicemen to Tokyo for some well-deserved R&R.
Over the course of the next 20 years, Hardin would tackle and ultimately master a variety of business, professional and personal opportunities. She spent several years serving in the investment management team for the California Teachers Union. Then, after a move to Key West, Florida in 1974, she established the Key West Tennis & SCUBA Center, serving as a swimming, SCUBA diving and high school tennis coach. A couple years later, she partnered in an international trading company, brokering ships and yachts worldwide from offices in Ft. Lauderdale, London and Cannes, France.
In 1992, Lynne was recruited back to Oklahoma by nationally-recognized educator Edna Manning to serve as the first Development Officer for the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, ultimately raising more than $30 million dollars for the school and its students.
In 1994, a life-changing auto accident caused a loss of her short-term memory. While recovering, Lynne authored The Magic of Why®, a groundbreaking book and curriculum providing individuals and organizations with “a process to give them the necessary tools to break Fear and the thoughts, words and deeds that do not assist you or your future.” Lynne is now a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) who regularly conducts The Magic of Why® process-learning seminars worldwide.
Always looking for new challenges, Hardin became an advocate for the V-Day Foundation, a non-profit entity raising funds to support grassroots organizations and programs that work to stop violence against girls and women. She also became the driving force behind Oklahoma’s Breast Cancer bill. Working with state legislators and a coalition of concerned citizens, the bill passed in one legislative session and established Oklahoma’s ‘Support Breast Cancer’ license plates. Over the past 20 years, the plates have raised awareness of the disease and generated millions of dollars for statewide breast cancer screenings.
In 2004, Hardin led a Northwest Classen Alumni group to found the Friends of Northwest Classen High School Foundation as a non-profit organization created to supply additional funding to students and teachers at the school. Now in its sixteenth year, this alumni group has contributed more than two million dollars and impacted the lives and learning of thousands Northwest Classen graduates.
With the Friends of Northwest Classen group up and running, former Oklahoma City mayor and fellow Northwest grad Kirk Humphreys asked Lynne to consider running for the Oklahoma City Public School Board Chairman position. She accepted the challenge and was elected to the post in 2013, serving as Chairman of the Board for four years.
Today, this successful mother and grandmother continues to live in Oklahoma City and works with Legal Shield and ID Shield, offering voluntary employee benefits to employees as well as protecting individuals, families and businesses.
In the spring of 1956, Northwest Classen’s first-ever graduating class yielded one of its brightest and most promising graduates, Mason Williams, a musician and composer just beginning to tap into his creative brilliance. It was this creativity that appealed to and forged a life-long friendship with his classmate, Ed Ruscha, who would himself become one of the world’s most influential artists and designers.
Williams, already an accomplished guitarist, banjo player and folk song recording artist, would attend Oklahoma City University for three years, cutting his musical ‘teeth’ on the finer aspects of music theory, composition and performance before transferring to North Texas State University in Denton, Texas for a semester. A three-year stint in the U.S. Navy followed and, in 1964, Williams was ready to focus his immense creative talent on the world of entertainment.
Like many musical writer/performers, Williams was also a stand-up comedian and actor. His creative writing talents landed him a regular job writing music and comedy for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS TV that ultimately led to his winning three Emmy Awards for Comedy Writing with the program. He would also help launch the career of actor/comedian/musical entertainer Steve Martin.
With his feet now planted in the entertainment world, Williams would achieve his greatest musical acclaim with his writing, recording and performing of the blockbuster instrumental hit, “Classical Gas.” His million-selling signature recording would go on to receive three Grammy Awards in 1968. Forty years later, Classical Gas would be recognized as the all-time, Number One instrumental composition ever aired over radio and television, logging more than six million broadcast performances.
Over the next four decades, Williams would continue to write, perform and record a wide variety of musical expressions, ranging from prerecorded studio albums to live, guest performances with more than 40 major symphonic orchestras throughout the world. He would collaborate on recording projects for such diverse, Grammy-winning artists as the Kingston Trio, Mannheim Steamroller, and UK guitarist Zoe McCulloch. His music has also been featured in more than a dozen major motion picture soundtracks.
After becoming involved in environmental protests in his adopted home state of Oregon, Williams created a compilation of more than 400 songs about rivers, which he crafted into his program called “Of Time and Rivers Flowing,” combining the diverse musical styles of classical, folk, gospel, jazz, country, pop and contemporary rock into a program that Williams still performs for benefits, conferences and in concert.
Enshrined in both the Oklahoma and Oregon Music Halls of Fame, Williams returned to Northwest Classen in 2006 for a concert performance to celebrate his 50th Class Reunion.
Still actively pursuing his creative passions, Williams is revered for his unequaled talents as a musician, composer, performer, producer, comedy writer, stand-up comedian, instrumentalist and environmental activist during a career spanning more than 60 years.