Executive Director, Rural and Tribal Health Policy, OSU Center for Health Sciences
TCC Degree: Business Administration
After graduating from Webster High School, Chris worked in the family business, Benge Painting Company from 1981 to 1997. Desiring a better community, he decided to run for office and was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1998, serving until 2010. Although he was married and the father of two young children, he also wanted to further his education and enrolled at Tulsa Community College.
“TCC helped me greatly with my personal growth because of the perseverance and focus required to achieve my degree as a non-traditional student,” he said. “I gained a broad amount of general knowledge that I was able to apply in my work at the state Capitol. The confidence I gained by self-improvement motivated me to seek the leadership positions I ultimately achieved.”
As Speaker of the House, Chris presided over the 52nd Oklahoma Legislature. During his six years in leadership he focused on advancing the state’s economy and providing additional resources for healthcare, education, and transportation in a bi-partisan approach working with then Governor Brad Henry. In 2013, Chris became Oklahoma Secretary of State and Secretary of Native American Affairs under then Governor Mary Fallin. Prior to joining OSU Center for Health Sciences, Chris also served as Vice President of Government Affairs with the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce.
A Best of TCC Distinguished Alumni honoree in 2005, Chris went on to earn a bachelor’s degree. He has been honored with numerous awards, including Legislative Advocate of the Year from the Oklahoma Economic Development Council; Defender of Free Enterprise from the State Chamber of Commerce; Distinguished Service Award from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education; Jim Close Humanitarian Award from the Southwest Tulsa Chamber; Natural Gas Vehicles of America Legislator of the Year; and the OSU Tulsa Icon Award.