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Remembering Carolyn Watson

Mar 14, 2024 | Community, Rural

Carolyn Watson was a woman of action and understood the value of blessing others with the gifts she was given. The longtime chair and CEO of Shamrock Bancshares wanted to improve the quality of life for the residents living in rural Oklahoma communities where her banks are located.

Born in Ada, Oklahoma, and a graduate of East Central University, Carolyn knew well where the needs and opportunities existed. In 1995, she established the Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation and, in 2010, the Carolyn Watson Opportunities Scholarship.

Through these permanent endowment funds at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, she has provided educational, economic and civic advancement opportunities to rural communities throughout Oklahoma.

Carolyn passed away ten years ago on March 17, 2014, at the age of 86. She leaves a meaningful legacy that will benefit future generations of rural Oklahomans. At the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, we are honored to carry on her legacy by administering the scholarships and grants of the Rural Foundation.

The Carolyn Watson Opportunities Scholarship

Founded in 2010, the Carolyn Watson Opportunities Scholarship benefits graduating seniors of rural Oklahoma high schools who demonstrate exceptional ability and excel beyond the high school environment in arts and humanities, science and engineering or community leadership.

An opportunity for students in 62 rural counties in Oklahoma, the Opportunities Scholarship now awards 12 students per year at $12,000 each, providing significant support toward their total tuition cost.

Cricket & Prairie Kaya, Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Scholarship Recipients

Nominated by a teacher or community leader, these students demonstrate exceptional accomplishments outside the classroom environment.

Each Year

Scholarship Opportunities

per student

Since Inception

Total Scholarships Awarded

Total Amount Awarded

Community & Classroom Enhancement Grants

With a grant program in place since 1995, the Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation has distributed more than $3 million to support nonprofit organizations to enhance the quality of life in rural Oklahoma communities.

The Community and Classroom Enhancement Grants focus on supporting more than 20 Oklahoma counties.

Mobile Smiles Vehicle of the Oklahoma Dental Foundation, recipient of the Carolyn Watson Community Grant

Community Grants

The Community Grant aims to enhance the quality of life in rural Oklahoma communities by providing funding for organizations offering services supporting four distinct categories.

  • Arts, Culture & History
  • Health & Safety
  • Libraries & Literacy
  • Economic Development

By The Numbers

As we looked at our ability to take our Mobile Smiles program around the state, we realized that going into rural communities – to smaller towns across Oklahoma – had to be a hallmark of what we were doing.

John Wilguess

Executive Director, Oklahoma Dental Foundation

By The Numbers

Community Grants Awarded

Community Grants Distributed

Counties Covered

Classroom Enhancement Grants

Available for pre-K through 12th-grade classrooms and school libraries, the classroom enhancement grant program supports projects focusing on the arts, literacy, STEM and history.

Our rural teachers are brimming with creativity and passion. When provided with resources, they can offer their students experiences that broaden their horizons. Carolyn Watson’s classroom enhancement grants empower these educators to bring their innovative projects and ideas to life, thereby greatly enriching their students’ learning experience.

Leslie Woodward

Community Programs Manager, Oklahoma City Community Foundation

Students engage in a building project, funded by a Classroom Grant.

By The Numbers

By The Numbers

Classroom Grants Awarded

Classroom Grants Distributed

Counties Covered

Additionally, the Classroom Grant program has touched 106 school districts across 85 towns/cities.

Thank you, Carolyn Watson, for your tremendous contribution to rural Oklahoma. Your legacy continues to impact lives each and every day.

Want to see more? Visit the Carolyn Watson Rural Community Foundation page.