Ada native Brad Fenton, president of Fenton Motors Group, a company with 15 dealerships in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas and $400 million in annual sales, will be honored May 13 as East Central University’s Distinguished Alumnus for 2006.

The honor, the university’s highest for former students, will be bestowed on Fenton when he addresses this year’s graduates during commencement ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Kerr Activities Center.

Commencement will be held for 954 degree candidates, including 707 bachelor’s degree candidates and 247 master’s degree candidates who completed degree requirements in the fall 2005 and spring 2006 semesters and those who will complete requirements for graduation this summer.

Most bachelor’s degrees will be conferred during the 10 a.m. ceremony. Master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees in nursing, elementary education, early childhood education, special education, psychology, social work, counseling and criminal justice will be conferred during the 2 p.m. ceremony.

Fenton earned a bachelor’s degree in 1975, majoring in accounting. He grew up working in his father’s Marion Fenton Pontiac dealership in Ada and worked full time while he was a student at ECU. He ran the new car dealership and his father ran the used car operation.

Following in his father’s footsteps, however, was not his intention. He was a pre-med major for a year and wanted to be an optometrist.

“I did not like (pre-med),” he said. “After I spent a little time in it, I decided I didn’t like cutting up dead sharks, cats and rats. I discovered I was more suited to accounting.”

“The business acumen was pretty easy for me,” he added. “It’s what I have a knowledge of — it was fun.”

In 1978 Fenton and his wife, Becky, moved from Ada to McAlester after he bought his first dealership, not knowing that the prime interest rate soon would climb to 18 percent.

“I was too young and naive to know what a horrible time it was to go into business,” he said with a chuckle.

Today, Fenton owns dealerships in Ada, McAlester, Poteau, Ardmore, Oklahoma City and Stillwater in Oklahoma; and in Pampa, Waco and Dumas, Texas; and Wichita, Kan. He is in the process of buying a Hyundai dealership in Dallas.

Local and area graduates with bachelor’s degrees include:

Calvin: Amity Carter, Heather King and Lillie Wilbanks.

Clayton: Kathy Conley and Amy Jones.

Coalgate: Stacia Coats, Mary Eddings, Misty Glasco, Kimberly Miller, Scott Richard, Christie Swanick and Tiffany Wilson.

Crowder: LeeAnn Bowerman and Lisa Smith.

Hartshorne: Wesley Gragg and Treasure Timmons.

Kiowa: Kasandra Dobbs, Sandra Kennedy, Barbara Moody and Ashlee Winslett.

Krebs: Ashly Brown, Cynthia Bryant, Janet Forehand and Vicki Wagoner.

McAlester: Kristin Baldwin, David Ballard, Reina Beams, NaDenna Beauchamp, Kyle Brock, Crystal Bullard, Sherri Couch, Michael Crawford, Kevin Crawley, Katie Creech, William Davis, Bill Donoley, Brian Doyle, Laura Dryden, David Emmons, Lela Faulkenberry, Sarah Fry, Amy Hamer, Angela Harris, Nicole Heles, Zachary Hudson, Ashlee Johnson, Shannon King, Felicia Lalli, Lana Lee, Heidi Lobdell, Karlita Lott, Christen Lovelace, Amber Mackey, Kim Mansour, Shawna Martin, Shawnda McAlester, David McKaughan, Antoinette Meza, Rachel Moon, Johnathan Muller, Larry Owens, Jennifer Porter, Cristie Redding, Kyle Rust, Gary Smith, Sherry Smith, Dalena Steidley, Mayra Torres, Natalie Webber and Kari Wilcox.

Savanna: John Spiegel and Robert Yoast.

Stigler: Kevin Wilkett.

Stuart: Tera Corley, Pamela Wakefield, Jayme White and Joy Williams.

Talihina: Marcella Fergison.

Tuskahoma: Tashina Rollins.

Wardville: Emilie Hall.

Whitesboro: Trena Medlock.

Wilbuton: Julie Burnett and Ashley Wilcox.

Local and area candidates for master’s degrees include:

Alderson: Tina Gibson.

Calvin: Darcey Hart and Joanna Tuck.

Clayton: Patricia Dawson and Toni Hemphill.

Coalgate: Charles Vann.

Crowder: Judy King.

Eufaula: Kelleya Cox and Jeanette Smith.

Hartshorne: Jennifer King, Jo Maddux and Vernon Thompson.

Kiowa: Dannie Patton and Karla Weese.

Krebs: Leonard Ahanotu and Judy Peevy.

McAlester: Lacy Borengasser, Billie Bryan, Richard Cornish, Paul Cummins, Iva Dawkins, Tonya Finch, Jeanne Lenox, Leela Patterson, Bessie Sam, Sarah Sparks, Zackery Tempel, Kimberly Vincent and Kimberly Westfall.

Stigler: Brenda Lewis, Kristi Shearwood and Karen Sloan.

Stuart: Michael Lawless.

Talihina: Mark Curran and Kay Poe.

Wilburton: June Haynes and Gary Lay.

He moved his corporate headquarters a few years ago from McAlester to Oklahoma City. He has about 500 employees and a broad group of franchises, including General Motors, Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, Nissan, Honda, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep.

Fenton and his wife were married in 1973 and have four children, Nick, Lance, Micah and Tori. Lance, who is a partner in several of Fenton’s dealerships, also went to ECU and started working in Ada for his grandfather, Marion Fenton, who is an ECU graduate and still sells used cars.

Micah graduated from the University of Oklahoma last year with a degree in engineering and is working to develop a new software program for Fenton Motors that will allow a buyer to purchase a vehicle online.

Fenton’s mother, Dorotha, a former homecoming queen at ECU, is a retired principal of Glenwood Elementary School. She has assisted ECU’s education department by working with its graduates in their first year of teaching.

Fenton’s sister, Cindy Carr of McAlester, has been an accountant for the corporate office but now plans to run one of the dealerships in McAlester. His brother, Scott, is a pastor for Meadows Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

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