Pope Francis recently appointed Archbishop Peter Wells as the Holy See’s new Apostolic Nuncio in South Africa and Botswana.
Archbishop Wells was born in Tulsa. He completed his studies in philosophy at Saint Meinrad Seminary College in Indiana. He completed his studies in theology as a student at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained a priest on July 12, 1991, for the Diocese of Tulsa. He is believed to be the first Oklahoman to be named an archbishop.
In 1990, he obtained a baccalaureate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, later gaining a licentiate in theology at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family in Rome, in 1992.
He received a licentiate and a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1998 and 1999. At the same time he was a student at the elite Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.
After his ordination, he held the following positions: curate at Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa, special secretary to the Bishop of Tulsa and vicar for religious education in the diocese.
He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See on July 1, 1999, worked in the apostolic nunciature in Nigeria and, since 2002, at the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State. He was named Assessor at the Secretariat of State in 2009.
He has now moved to South Africa and lives in Pretoria.
His parents are parishioners at Saint Mary’s in Guthrie and besides his native English, he speaks Italian, French, German and Spanish.
Brian Byrnes joined the Thunder organization in April 2005, and developed and executed the strategic sales and marketing efforts to launch business operations in Oklahoma City in 2008. Byrnes' current responsibilities include oversight of ticket sales, retention and operations; luxury suite sales and hospitality; marketing and communications strategies such as brand management, advertising, promotions, graphic design, digital media, e-commerce and event presentation.
Capitalizing on the unique platform of being Oklahoma's first permanent major-league sports team, Byrnes continues to foster programming that extends the reach of the Thunder brand to fans throughout the region. Initiatives such as Thunder Alley and the Kia Rewards Zone make the game-day experience accessible to all Thunder fans visiting Chesapeake Energy Arena. Year-round, the Blue Alliance connects local fans in towns across Oklahoma, while the OG&E ThunderBolt brings an interactive Thunder experience to regional fairs and neighborhood celebrations.
Previously, Byrnes served as executive vice president of business operations for the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, guiding the organization through a rebranding that included a new corporate identity, logos and team uniforms. Prior to joining the Coyotes, Byrnes built nearly 10 years of experience with the NHL's Dallas Stars and MLB's Texas Rangers.
Byrnes is actively involved in the Thunder Cares Foundation, Allied Arts, Leadership Oklahoma City, the National Sports Forum and the Greater Oklahoma City Sports Consortium. A graduate of St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Byrnes and his wife Ashley reside with their three children in Edmond.
Now in his 30th year at the University of Oklahoma, Allen Hertzke is David Ross Boyd Professor of Political Science; Faculty Fellow in Religious Freedom for the Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage; and Presidential Teaching Fellow in the Honors College. He also served as founding director of OU’s Religious Studies Program. An internationally recognized expert on religion and politics, he is Associate Scholar of Georgetown University’s Religious Freedom Project and Distinguished Senior Fellow for the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He is author of Freeing God’s Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights; Representing God in Washington, which has been issued in a Chinese language translation; and co-author of Religion and Politics in America, a comprehensive text now in its fifth edition. He is editor of The Future of Religious Freedom: Global Challenges (Oxford University Press, 2012), and Religious Freedom in America: Constitutional Roots and Contemporary Challenges (University of Oklahoma Press, 2015).
Most recently, he co-edited a two volume project, Christianity and Freedom: Volume 1 Historical Perspectives and Christianity and Freedom: Volume 2 Contemporary Perspectives, just issued by Cambridge University Press. As Visiting Senior Fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in Washington DC, he directed the study, “Lobbying for the Faithful: Religious Advocacy Groups in Washington DC.” Between 2008 and 2010 he served as lead consultant for the John Templeton Foundation to develop strategic recommendations for advancing religious freedom around the globe. A winner of numerous teaching awards, Dr. Hertzke has lectured at the National Press Club, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs, Harvard University, Princeton University, Georgetown University, Notre Dame University, the University of California-Berkeley, and before numerous audiences in China. He serves on the editorial boards of the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion and The Review of Faith & International Affairs, for which he served as Guest Editor for a special edition (Fall 2012) on strategies of advocacy for global religious freedom. In 2012 he was selected by Pope Benedict XVI to the prestigious Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
Ambassador Francis Rooney is the Chairman of Rooney Holdings, Inc., a diversified international investment company based in Naples, Florida, with interests in real estate development, banking, electronics, energy and, through its subsidiary, Manhattan Construction Group, the building, civil, pipeline and specialty construction segments.
Ambassador Rooney served on the Boards of Directors of Helmerich & Payne, Inc. (NYSE: HP) and Laredo Petroleum, Inc. (NYSE: LPI) Tulsa, Oklahoma, VETRA Energy Group, Bogota, Colombia, and Mercantil Commercebank, Coral Gables, Florida, resigning in September 2016.
Also in September 2016, he resigned from the Board of Advisors of the Panama Canal Authority, Republic of Panama, on which he was member prior to resigning in 2005 to enter government service; the Board of the Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation, and the Board of Visitors of the University of Oklahoma College of International Studies.
He was a Trustee of The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, was a member of the Council of American Ambassadors, and the Board of Directors of The Trust for the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
From 2005 through 2008, he served as the United States Ambassador to the Holy See, appointed by President George W. Bush.
From 1991 to 1999 Ambassador Rooney was a Director of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) and served as the International President of the organization from 1997-1998. He served as 2nd Vice Chair for the Board of the Naples Community Hospital, Naples, Florida.
He was a member of the Board of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy at the University of Note Dame and was granted honorary degrees from the University of Notre Dame in 2006 and the University of Dallas in 2010.
Ambassador Rooney is a graduate of Georgetown University (A.B. 1975) and Georgetown University Law Center (J.D. 1978). He is a former member of the District of Columbia and Texas Bars, holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100 Ton Masters License (Sailing Endorsement), and is a lifetime member of the NRA. He and his wife Kathleen live in Naples, Florida, and have three children, Larry, married to Porscha, Michael and Kathleen, one grandson, Beckett, and one granddaughter, Bergen.
When Joe Castiglione came to Oklahoma, he inherited one of the most storied programs in college athletics, and he set about creating a positive culture where core values, a dynamic mission and a collaborative spirit develop a world class experience for student-athletes.
Some would argue that his 18-year tenure represents the best of the best. With 13 national championships and 74 conference titles, including four in the 2015-16 academic year, during his tenure, Castiglione’s record is certainly one of great merit. Add in the record progress in the classroom for the Sooners and you get a sense of the overall excellence that Castiglione has encouraged and built.
The environment of excellence created at Oklahoma has caught the attention of the sports world. OU’s 2015-16 year was named the Best in College Sports by CBS Sports. It isn’t just the excellence in competition that attracts people. It is also the consistent nature of that excellence. OU’s performance in the Learfield Director’s Cup has been built through overall success in competition. In 2015-16, OU sent 16 of 21 sport teams to the postseason and a total of six teams, led by three national champions, finished in the top 10. That number included a runner-up NCAA finish by the men's tennis team, a Final Four trip by the men’s basketball team and a first-ever time to participate in NCAA match play for men’s golf. The 16th-place finish in the Director’s Cup was the seventh consecutive top-25 finish. It also was OU’s 16th in the top 30 in Castiglione’s 18-year tenure.
The football program became the first of six teams to finish the year in the final four of their sport when it was named to the College Football Playoff after a ninth Big 12 title. Four months later, the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams became the first in the history of the sport for both to earn national championships in the same year. And that spirit of excellence went well beyond competition.
The Sooner student-athletes had a ninth consecutive semester of a cumulative GPA at 3.00 or higher. The 3.06 GPA for the fall 2015 and spring 2016 tied the all-tine best mark for a single semester. OU produced 299 Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll honorees for the spring semester, representing student-athletes who posted at least a 3.00 GPA for the term. A total of 63 student-athletes achieved perfect 4.0 GPAs in the fall semester and 60 more did so in the spring.
A total of 10 teams recorded perfect 1,000 single-year Academic Progress Rate scores for 2014-15 and all OU Athletics programs finished above the NCAA minimum for the sixth consecutive year. Of OU's 19 teams, 15 achieved APRs equal to or above the national average,with four teams — women's golf, women's gymnastics, women's tennis and men's tennis — posting perfect multiyear APR scores. OU's most recent graduation success rate of 84 percent is a school record and exceeds the NCAA national average.
Individually, Sooner student-athletes received several of the most prestigious awards available. Football player Ty Darlington became OU's first winner of the prestigious William V. Campbell Trophy, awarded to college football's absolute best scholar-athlete, and was named a CoSIDA First Team Academic All-American for the second year in a row. Other CoSIDA Academic All-Americans included Paige Parker from softball, Brandon Doughty from cross country/track and field and Marissa Beene from rowing. Men's basketball player C.J. Cole was presented with the NCAA's Elite 90 Award for achieving the highest GPA (3.97 in chemical biosciences) among student-athletes participating at this year's Final Four. Buddy Hield, the consensus Player of the Year in men’s basketball, was named the Big 12’s Male Sportsperson of the Year.
Eric Striker became the first OU student to receive the Otis Sullivant Award for perceptivity for the manner in which he opened new dialogue on campus following a racially insensitive incident and how he has helped the entire university community during the healing process. Jenny Carmichael, from the Sooner track and field team, became the first Sooner student-athlete to be named to the Homecoming Court and to be named Outstanding Senior Woman.
A place where competitive dreams come true and academic excellence are the expectations, not the exceptions, has been created at OU by Castiglione with the full support of OU President David L. Boren and OU’s Board of Regents.
The 11th and second longest serving director of athletics at OU, Castiglione arrived on the Sooner campus in summer of 1998 and what he found was nothing like what we see today. He made a number of changes, and, in the process, created a team of administrators, coaches and support staff who pursue and achieve lofty goals under the banner of ethical integrity.
The true measure of achievement for Castiglione and, by extension, the department’s coaches and staff, is demonstrated in the success of the student-athletes in relation to the department’s mission statement “Inspiring champions today … Preparing leaders for tomorrow.” Castiglione believes that excellence on the field of competition should correlate with the outstanding results from the classroom. The results off the field for the Sooners were very pleasing for Castiglione and by extension all the people who helped make it happen.
Since arriving at OU, Castiglione has insisted that daily and long-term decisions be made in a financially responsible manner. The department has closed the books in the black in each of the last 18 years, making it one of the very few Division I programs which remain totally self-sustaining. His understanding of how the department fits into the University’s academic mission led to a decision to increase the direct support provided by the department on an annual basis. The most recent demonstration of that commitment led to a partnership with President Boren’s office that eliminated the admission fee at OU’s internationally known Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Through direct and indirect support, OU Athletics provides more than $9 million annually to OU’s academics budget.
Facility improvement and construction of athletics facilities has been carried out at a record pace and Castiglione takes pride in the fact that those improvements have been paid for with private money. Currently, the Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium is undergoing a massive renovation that will include filling in the bowl and creating new seating options for Sooner fans. Other improvements are planned throughout the historic facility in the Stadium Master Plan that includes multiple phases. A $7 million dollar improvement to the men’s and women’s basketball facilities at Lloyd Noble Center has been approved. Both of these projects follow the completion of the $75 million Headington Hall, which provides housing for the general student population as well as student-athletes. The state-of-the-art building opened in August 2013 and makes OU the leader in providing an engaging community living option for OU students.
Castiglione is quick to give full credit to the student-athletes and coaches, the staff, OU President Boren, the OU Board of Regents, the donors and the fans for the success experienced during his tenure. It was that commitment to a team approach emphasis that was one of the many qualities that that the search committee recognized when they recommended Castiglione to university administration in April of 1998 after an outstanding administrative career at Missouri.
In recognition of the many achievements of his OU tenure, Castiglione was named National Athletic Director of the Year in May 2009 by the Sports Business Journal. He was a finalist for the same award in 2016. The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame named him the 2013 recipient of the John L. Toner Award, presented annually by the NFF to an athletic director who has demonstrated superior administrative abilities and shown outstanding dedication to college athletics and particularly college football. In April 2014, Castilgione received the Abe Lemons/Paul Hansen Award for Sports Excellence from Oklahoma City University.
His peers have honored him as well. In November 2012, the United States Sports Academy named him the winner of the Carl Maddox Sports Management Award. In October 2004, the Bobby Dodd Foundation named him Athletics Director of the Year. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators Hall of Fame. In June 2001, he received the General Robert R. Neyland Athletic Director Award for lifetime achievement from the All-American Football Foundation. The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) named him Central Region AD of the Year in 2000.
The department received the 2007 PRISM Award, presented by the School of Sports Management at the University of Massachusetts. OU was just the second Division I winner and all of the programs recognized by the selection panel were started under Castiglione’s leadership with the full support of university administration.
The achievement that may bring him the most pride came in May 2007 when he completed a master’s of education degree from OU. Subsequently, he became an adjunct professor in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, teaching graduate classes in Marketing, Development and Leadership in Higher Education. He serves on the College’s Board of Advocates. He was recently recognized for his distinguished service by OU’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Castiglione was instrumental in the athletics department’s major campaign, Great Expectations: The Campaign For Sooner Sports. The then largest fund-raising effort in OU athletics history included projects that impacted each of OU’s 21 sports and has become a national model for intercollegiate athletics. The campaign ended three years later with more than $125 million raised and that figure has now grown to over $500 million as funds continue to be raised for facility improvements and scholarship endowments.
Hired on April 30, 1998, Castiglione joined the Sooner family after serving as athletics director at Missouri. In his 17-year career with the Tigers, Castiglione, who was named director of athletics at Missouri on Dec. 15, 1993, was credited with rebuilding sports programs, hiring outstanding coaches, implementing an innovative master plan for facilities, inspiring record-setting increases in fund-raising and balancing the budget in each of his five years as athletics director.
A 1979 Maryland graduate, Castiglione received the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in April 2007 and he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in November 2015. His career journey began as the sports promotions director at Rice. He then worked a year as director of athletic fund-raising at Georgetown before being hired in 1981 at Missouri as director of communications and marketing. He will mark his 24th year of serving student-athletes as an Athletics Director at two different institutions in the current academic year, 2016-17.
His commitment to the success of student-athletes has gone beyond the Norman campus and he has served at the national and conference level. He served as chairman of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee for the 2015-16 academic year. He also chaired the NCAA’s Football Academic Progress Rate (APR) Working Group and completed service on the NCAA Working Group on Collegiate Model-Rules Committee. He also serves on the Gatorade Collegiate Advisory Board and the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame Board of Directors.
He served three terms as the chair of the Big 12 Board of Athletics Directors and is a past president of both the Division I-A Athletic Directors Association and NACDA. He served a four-year term on the NCAA Championship/Competition Cabinet and the NCAA Baseball Committee and is a past member of the NCAA Football Special Events Certification Committee. He has served on the NCAA Diversity Leadership Strategic Planning Committee, the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Discussion Group, the United States Olympic Committee Athlete Career and Education Strategic Working Group and the NCAA Football Issues Committee which he now serves as chairman. A former member of the Phi Delta Theta Foundation Board of Trustees, he is a highly requested speaker at annual conventions and continuing education institutes. In November 2011, his hometown recognized him by selecting him for the Broward County (Fla.) Sports Hall of Fame.
His involvement in the local community has led to service with civic clubs, churches and charities, including the United Way of Norman, recently serving his third term as OU’s campus co-chair, which resulted in the highest recorded contributions ever by faculty, staff and students to the United Way of Norman’s annual campaign. He encourages student-athletes and athletics staff to participate in those efforts as well, and in 2015-16, OU Athletics representatives logged more than 4,000 hours of community service.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Castiglione is married to the former Kristen Bartel, a 1990 graduate of the University of Missouri. They are the parents of two sons, Joseph Robert, Jr., who is a sophomore at OU, and Jonathan Edmund, who will be a sophomore in high school.
(Updated August 22, 2016)