This year, we are honoring seven outstanding metro woman as our Women of Influence, for their career accomplishments as well as community service.
Rep. Merleyn Bell
Occupation: State Representative for House District 45
Community Service: Board Member, Thunderbird Clubhouse
Brief Bio: Merleyn Bell is a fifth-generation Oklahoman and a lifelong Norman resident. In November 2018, she was elected to represent House District 45 in east Norman, becoming the first woman of color ever elected to represent her hometown. Prior to serving in the house, Bell was the art director for OU's award-winning literary publication, World Literature Today. Along with her husband, Corey (an RN at Norman Regional), and young son Matthew, Bell enjoys playing video games to unwind after busy days at the state Capitol and cuddling up with the family's two Boston terriers.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: I can personally attest to the validity of this quote from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor: "Give freely of yourself always to your family, your friends, your community, and your country. The world will pay you back many times over." I've never offered my time, talents or treasure to our community without receiving much more in return.
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: Getting elected to represent 38,000 of my neighbors in the State House is pretty high up there. But the greatest achievement of my lifetime by far was becoming a mom. It's something I never thought I would do, and I never would have got elected without learning the lessons that parenthood has taught me.
Occupation: Executive director, Bridges of Norman. Bridges’ mission is empowering high school student in family crisis to pursue education without obstacles.
Community service/involvement: Serving second term on the Norman Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; past chair of the Norman Citizen’s Advisory Board to the Norman chief of police; and member of Sooner Rotary, the Norman North Baseball Booster Club (Go, T-Wolves!), and LifeChurch.
Brief bio: Stacy grew up the daughter of a football coach, which means she moved about every four years. However, it was Norman she chose to call her hometown. After earning a bachelor of arts degree from OU, Stacy began an almost 20-year career with the YMCA. In November of 2016, she was named executive director at Bridges. Stacy is married to Shannon Bruce.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: Recently, we found a handwritten note from my Mimi Barr. It quoted Henry Van Dyke: “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Time is what I have, and time is what I’m able to give. I got into the nonprofit industry while attending classes at OU. I learned quickly that “It’s not about what you have but about what you give. …Being active in my community is important to me because I believe that is where productivity happens, relationships are built, and real change can happen.”
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: My greatest personal accomplishment is becoming a mother to Maddie and Landon. My greatest professional accomplishment is being a small part of helping teens in family crisis graduate from high school when they didn’t think it possible.
Current occupation: Master Police Officer, Norman Police Department
Community service/Involvement: I am a Master Police Officer. I get to respond to calls of service and help those in need. I love to stay busy at work, and I take every call as if it were one of my family members. We as officers don’t get called when citizens are having good days—we get called when they need help. We as officers wear many different hats when responding to calls for service.
Brief bio: I am a single mom of four busy active kids. I love my job and love serving the community and the town in which I grew up. Before starting the Police Academy (26-week training), I worked at the YMCA, where I taught aerobics and personal trained. I also coached baseball and always had (still have) a house full of kids.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: Stay positive and don’t let bumps in the road slow you down. You can’t always control what happens in life, but you can control your way of thinking and how you respond. Don’t dwell on the negative and bad—look for the good and positives. Sometimes the bumps in life teach us things, maybe what to do or not to do. Keep moving forward!
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: I know it sounds cliché, but I am very proud of my kids, family and friends—they are my “WHY”: why I get up, why I push myself, why I do what I do! It takes a village, and without them, I have nothing—life and time is precious; cherish your loved ones and your time because you are never promised tomorrow.
* Please read Lifestyle Letter to learn about this remarkable Woman of Influence’s courageous battle with breast cancer.
Dr. Robi Craig
Current occupation: Orthodontist, full-time practice of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics for children and adults at Craig and Streight Orthodontics
Community service/involvement: Providing scholarships for braces to children in our community who otherwise might not receive orthodontic care (the program previously was Smile 4 a Lifetime and now it is through our practice at CSO); Craig and Streight Orthodontics provides monetary donations to the schools of South OKC, Moore and Norman and others in the surrounding communities for their various fundraising events; and CSO contributes to a wide range of community charitable organizations, including United Way, Mary Abbott House, CCFI, Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Brief bio: I attended the OU College of Dentistry, and then LSU, for orthodontic residency. I have been practicing the specialty of orthodontics for 20 years and have lived in Norman for over 30 years. I have been married to the love of my life, Bob Craig, for 30 years (this coming December), and we have three teenage children. We enjoy watching our children’s sporting events and spending time at the lake.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: "Giving is not just about making a donation, it is about making a difference.” -Kathy Calvin, president and CEO, United Nations Foundation. I am passionate about helping others. Giving someone the gift of a smile may change their life forever.
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: My most important role and personal accomplishment is being mom to our three wonderful teenagers, who keep me very busy. My professional accomplishment is being a first-generation college graduate, with a dental hygiene degree followed by a dental degree and specialty designation and now co-owner and orthodontist of three practices.
Current occupation: Real Estate broker and co-owner, with husband Steve, of Prime Realty Inc.
Community service/involvement: Chairwoman of Veteran's Memorial Park in Moore since its inception in 2005. Assist in the organization and promotion of each phase of the park (Phase I - The Flag Plaza, Phase II - The Memorial Bricks, Phase III - The Soldiers’ Memorial, and Phase IV - The Wall of Honor); Backpack Program (in which children receive a backpack full of kid-friendly, non-perishable and nutritious food on Friday and school holidays); and Red Andrews Toy Drive.
Brief bio: While raising babies, attended South Oklahoma City Community College (now OCCC), Rose State College, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas, and finally completed in 2008 a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Phoenix. Happily married to my business partner, Steve Griffith; collectively, we have eight adult children and 14+ grandchildren ranging in age from 5 to 20. Ancestors are Czechoslovakia immigrant farmers; Frank and Anna Janko farmed the land just south of the park on 12th Street between Eastern and Bryant in Moore. I remember when this was a dirt road and Moore had just ONE signal light, at 12th and Broadway.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: I have an optimistic compass and believe there is a way to resolve any issue that presents itself. I believe in leading by example. Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: Witnessing the growth and development of four great human beings. In my heart, they are still my young children, but my eyes see adults who are committed to respect and devotion with lives and families of their own.
Emily J. Mick, M.Ed., LPC
Current occupation: Licensed Professional Counselor and LPC Supervisor in private practice. I provide mental health counseling to children, teen and adult clients in the Norman and surrounding areas.
Community service/involvement: Board member, Little Read Wagon, a literacy nonprofit out of Norman that strives to increase literacy access to underserved areas of the community and reduce book deserts in our area; active in local animal rescue; and a volunteer/supporter of Full Circle Adult Day Center.
Brief bio: I have an M.Ed. in community counseling from OU. Prior to entering private practice, I was the clinical director of a residential treatment facility for adolescents with comorbid mental health diagnosis and behavioral disturbance. I do Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Titan Martial Arts in Norman.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, said: “Ten times a day something happens to me like this—some strengthening throb of amazement—some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” I believe we can always find something glowing and beautiful in the world and opportunities to do kind and beneficial things in life; that we can find ways to help others, ease suffering, lift burdens or provide a kind hand and heart when it is needed … simply by paying attention.
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: I am incredibly proud of the LPC candidates I have supervised over the years and the licensed professionals they have become. I am grateful to have been able to help them hone their skills as counselors and be a part of them becoming ethical and effective counselors, therefore increasing the access to beneficial mental health services to members of our community.
Rebecca Dunning Switzer
Current Occupation: President of Ground Zero Emergency Training Center (GroundZeroSavesLives.com)
Community service/involvement: Member, board of directors for the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and the Ground Zero Emergency Training Center; served on the City Care and Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum board of directors and as a state commissioner for the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department (2003-2011).
Brief Bio: After graduating from Oklahoma City University with a bachelor of science degree in history, she taught school before moving into her well-publicized coaching career. In fall 1977, she opened Metro Gymnastics and, in 1980, she was named assistant head coach of women’s gymnastics at OU. In 1984, Becky was named head coach at OU, and she remained in that position until retiring from the sport in 2001. During her tenure, she and her teams earned five Big Eight Championships, 17 Regional Championships and three National Championship appearances. Additionally, she shared her expertise on the international scene through many coaching positions, including the 1988 Olympic Games. She is co-founder (with husband and former OU and Dallas Cowboy Coach Barry Switzer) of the Ground Zero Emergency Training Center Foundation. She enjoys sky diving; gardening; gymnastics; loving all animals, especially canines; dog walking, tourism and participating in the OKC National Memorial Marathon 5k race.
Personal Philosophy on Importance of Giving Back to the Community: “When we give time to a cause that can positively impact our community, we are effectively clearing a path for others to travel toward the betterment of all.”
Greatest Lifetime Personal/Professional Accomplishment: Her greatest personal achievement is the honor of being a mother to two amazing adult children. Her greatest professional achievement was reached by setting the goal of participating in the Olympic Games. Once she achieved that goal, it taught her that dreams can come true if one is tenacious and dedicated.