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Of Character: John R. Koons enjoys sharing knowledge of financial literacy with students through his job

John R. Koons Photo provided
 Shevaun Williams
John R. Koons Photo provided Shevaun Williams

Occupationally, John R. Koons holds the job title of community relations coordinator for OGE Energy Corp. in the Norman and Shawnee districts.

But Koons holds so much more than a title.

His parents, Rollin and Harriet Koons, believed in volunteer work. Not only did they assist at church and their son’s schools, they encouraged him to try it himself.

“The summer that I was 15, they suggested that I go to University Hospital and work as a volunteer,” said Koons, 62, of Oklahoma City. “I did that and it was the most incredible experience of my life. I learned more about people that summer and continued to volunteer as much as I could from then on.”

Koons holds to that importance of serving others instilled in him by his parents. Even his job allows him to focus on others, primarily children.

“I am overwhelmed,” Koons said. “I have to say that I am so grateful to work for a company like OG&E, who has as one of its core values to give our time and energy to better the communities where we live and work.

“The company has allowed me to do this as part of my job. I really think of my job as a ministry more than a job. It is a true blessing to me to get to impact the lives of kids.”

Honored for service

The Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence recently honored Koons with the Outstanding Mentor Award from the David and Molly Boren Mentoring Initiative for his work through Junior Achievement over the past 26 years. The award was is in recognition of Koons’ having taught more than 2,000 students, both in traditional classroom settings and through the organization’s JA in a Day program.

The Junior Achievement curriculum is set up to teach financial literacy to students in grades K-12, said Koons, who started working with the program in 1988.

“I loved the experience and have continued teaching classes sporadically over the years,” he said. “In 1997, when I became a community relations coordinator for the company, my job was to work with schools and social service agencies. Since then, I have taught classes every year. It is such a rewarding experience.”

Koons also served on the board of Junior Achievement of Oklahoma for a few years.

Junior Achievement volunteers usually go into a class once a week for six to eight weeks and teach the curriculum for that grade level, he said.

For the JA in a Day program, company volunteers take over the whole school for a day. A volunteer is in each classroom to teach the entire curriculum for that grade level in one day.

“For example, OG&E did JA in a Day at Wilson Elementary in Norman,” Koons said. “We had an OGE employee in each classroom from K to fifth and they each taught their curriculum for the grade level they were in by the end of the day. We even had the president of OGE in a second-grade classroom.”

Koons, who has worked for OG&E in various roles for 42 years, is the program’s coordinator for the company and also teaches in the classroom.

“One year, a friend of mine and his wife came up to me at a Norman Chamber banquet and said, ‘You are teaching our son in a Junior Achievement class in seventh grade,’” Koons said. “My friend said, ‘My son never tells us anything about school. He came home so excited about what you are teaching and told us all about it. We just wanted to say thanks.’”

Koons has attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral throughout his life and has volunteered in the church and Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma since he became old enough to do so.

He has been an acolyte, acolyte master, Sunday school teacher, lay reader and Eucharistic minister.

Koons has served on the vestry, been a delegate to the Diocesan Convention since 1974 and served as stewardship chairman three times. He has served as a counselor at the Diocesan camp since 1998, been a dad for New Beginnings — a retreat weekend for middle school kids — and Happening — a retreat weekend for high school kids.

In addition to church, he has served on the board of the Transition House in Norman, Norman Addiction Information and Counseling, Norman Community Foundation board, Norman Public School Foundation board, American Red Cross board, and the boards of Neighbor for Neighbor and the Guild of St. George in Oklahoma City.

He is also a volunteer for Calm Waters in Oklahoma City. In 2013, Koons co-chaired the United Way of Norman campaign drive.

“I feel that God has called me to work with children,” Koons said. “Even though I have never had any children of my own, people say that I have hundreds of children. I feel by working with children, I can give back some of the unconditional love that I had received all of my life from my wonderful parents who now rest in peace.

“I cannot measure the blessings that I have received from working with all of those kids for so many years. I am so honored when a kid is applying for a job and calls me and asks me if they can use me as a reference. What a blessing.”

I feel that God has called me to work with children. Even though I have never had any children of my own, people say that I have hundreds of children. I feel by working with children, I can give back some of the unconditional love that I had received all of my life from my wonderful parents who now rest in peace.”

John R. Koons,

Bryan Painter

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