Dennis Shockley graduated from Ponca Military Academy (PMA) in 1965. Shockley has served as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency OHFA) since 1997. He has fond memories of Ponca City and keeps a statuette of the Pioneer Woman on his desk at work.
He came to PMA from Joplin, Mo. Many of the boys at PMA were from the areas of Oklahoma City, Dallas and Wichita.
"My father was the sales manager for Pepsi Cola in Oklahoma City the entire time I was at PMA. I was a rambunctious kid, a middling student, but not a disciplinary problem. I actually wanted to attend PMA, which probably makes me somewhat unusual. So at the age of 15, I entered PMA as a sophomore and stayed three years," Shockley said.
"I liked PMA because of the structure and because I flourished as a student, making National Honor Roll every semester I was there. I was an asthmatic, so I didn't play sports, but I won a letter jacket as the track manager for Benjamin Koop, track coach and my math teacher."
Like other cadets Dennis was on the crack drill team. Some of his closest friends and roommates were, Robert Roggendorff, Mike Kenworthy, Rusty Reynolds, Doug McGarrugh, Dale Cash and Paul Hill.
Dennis says, "PMA shaped me as a man far more than I realized until many years later. My wife still doesn't completely understand why I'm compelled to make the bed every morning. I enjoy the PMA reunions because we former cadets shared a unique experience. I learn something about myself at every one."
Other teachers and staff Dennis remembers include: William Cox, superintendent; Major Baker, commandant; Major Cubbage, principal and math; Major George Moore, English; Capt. Byron Moore, history and government; Capt. Moorehead, science; Capt. Jim Self; Mrs. O'Malley, bookkeeping and librarian; Mrs. Myrtle Cameron, food manager.
Dennis recalls that cadets could go to town on Wednesday afternoon, Sunday morning church, Sunday afternoon, and their choice of Saturday afternoon or evening. He says, "There was no school on Wednesday afternoon. We had school Saturday morning instead. If you were the rank of Sergeant or above and not in discipline, you could go to town both times on Saturday. You could wear your letter jacket Saturday evening only. The town boys called us 'bellhops.'"
Ponca City Second Home
Ponca City was my second home. My best memories are hanging out at the Pioneer Grill, the Poncan Theatre and a snooker hall downtown. We received $2.50 allowance each week that our families deposited with the bursar. When I was out of money or didn't feel like going to town, I enjoyed walking to the Lake Ponca Park at the spillway. I spent many Sunday afternoons there. I also remember the Quo Vadis Motel, the Spudnut Shop, and Dewey's Pizza.
The American Legion Home School was near the academy, but the girls there were forbidden to date us — some did anyway. I guess it was the uniform. I dated a girl there briefly until she got in trouble for it. I still like to go to Pauline's to eat, when I'm in town. I've attended all the reunions to date: 1983, 1988, 1991, 1996, 2006-2009.
Flagpole Discipline at the academy entailed running around the flagpole, afternoon marches on town days, morning exercise, and "The Board of Education." Dennis said, "We had a cadet go AWOL every now and then, and it was not pleasant for him when he returned. Our barracks was run by Captain Honeyman, who was quite a taskmaster.
"There was even a schedule for the food each week. Saturday and Wednesday mornings it was pancakes, Sunday morning-coffee cake. One evening was ham, beans, and cornbread, another evening was beef stew, but the schedule was repeated over and over. I thought the food was decent and I always had plenty to eat."
After graduating from PMA, his father took the same job with Pepsi in Shreveport, La., and Dennis entered Louisiana Tech University and graduated majoring in history.
Dennis said, "I always liked history and won the history medal at PMA. Terry Bradshaw was our football quarterback while I was at Tech. I like to tell people I knew him when he had hair."
Shockley was in Air Force ROTC at Tech and wanted to join the Air Force at graduation, but I failed my physical. So, my first job was teaching the eighth grade in south Louisiana for a year. I didn't like that, so I worked for a plywood company another year."
Returns to College
Dennis returned to Joplin and attended graduate school at Pittsburg State University in nearby Kansas, graduating in 1973 in history. "From 1973-75, I was a graduate teaching assistant at Oklahoma State University. I attended Kansas State University from 1975-1978 and received my Ph.D., again in history receiving numerous academic honors and publications."
He planned to stay in academia as a career, but in 1978 he was offered a job working for the mayor of Kansas City, Kan., which he enjoyed because he liked government and politics. "I taught at several Kansas City area colleges as adjunct faculty. I had many roles at the city, but my favorite was lobbying the Kansas Legislature for the city for 10 years. In 1991, the Governor asked me to start a new Housing Division for the state. I worked for the state of Kansas for six years."
Receives OHFA Appointment
From there Shockley was appointed Executive Director of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, a position he has held since 1997.
He explains the program, "We have nine housing programs, receive no money from the legislature, and have a $600 million bond portfolio. We helped finance the Willow Creek Villas for seniors in Ponca City on Princeton Avenue, an example of some of the things we do."
Awarded a Fellowship
In 1999 Dennis received a fellowship to and completed the Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
He serves on several Boards and Commissions. Last year he was reelected to a fifth term on the Board of the National Council of State Housing Agencies. He is a member of Leadership Oklahoma Class XV.
Shockley has been married to his wife Janet for 25 years, come next May. They have one son Mark, a senior at Texas Tech University.
The couple live in Edmond and he is active in the Oklahoma City Rotary Club and has served on the Edmond Parks Board for ten years. As an official Oklahoma Centennial project, Shockley co-authored "How We Lived: a Pictorial History of Oklahomans and the Places They Have Called Home," which was an Oklahoma Book Award finalist in 2009.
DENNIS SHOCKLEY, executive director of the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, is a graduate of Ponca Military Academy