Donald Lee Wickens

1934-2013Wickens oval

Donald Lee Wickens, 78, of Edmond, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, and friend went home to be with the Lord on April 9, 2013. He was born in Oklahoma City on August 11, 1934 to Idora Belle (Totsy) and Claude Preston Wickens. He and his identical twin brother Ronald grew up in Oklahoma City and graduated from Classen High School. He attended Oklahoma A&M where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Architectural Engineering and was a member of Chi Epsilon and Sigma Tau engineering honor fraternities.

After graduation, Don married Sylvia Ann Knopp on August 25, 1957 and they had two daughters, Julie and Donna. Don served active duty in the U.S. Air Force as a Second Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, and then as a Captain in the U.S.Air Force Reserves. In 1960 he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal. After leaving the Air Force he returned to Oklahoma State University and earned his MS in Civil Engineering. He worked as an engineer for several years before joining Benham Engineering in 1965.

Over the course of his career he managed the design of hundreds of building and bridges. He commuted to the company’s Houston office for two years and to the St. Louis office for more than eight years, never relocating his family from their Edmond home. In 1991, he became the Chairman and CEO of the Benham Companies. During his time in leadership the company grew from 300 employees to over 750. In 1997, he was inducted into the OSU College of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology Hall of Fame. He was a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers, served on the Board of Visitors for the OU College of Architecture and on the Professional Advisory Committee for the OSU School of Architecture.

When he retired, Governor Frank Keating and Mayor Kirk Humphreys declared January 14, 2000 to be Donald L. Wickens Day. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, his dogs and horses, flying a helicopter and his plane. In his youth he played the trumpet and his love of music continued throughout his life. With his wife Sylvia, he enjoyed spending time in Red River, New Mexico and traveling. As an expression of his faith, he was very active in Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and instrumental in overseeing the construction of the addition of a new sanctuary. He served on many committees and church offices and enjoyed his Bible study group and tutoring the Holy Trinity Christian School children in math.

Don is survived by his wife Sylvia with whom he shared more than 55 wonderful years of marriage; daughters Julie and husband Roy Ballou; Donna and husband Todd Lisle; grandsons Philip Mock and wife Cassie; Andrew Mock; Jackson Lisle; Connor Lisle; step grandson Justin Ballou; brother Ronald Wickens and wife Julia Ann, brother-in-law Charles Knopp, and many cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends.

Don will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved him. Formal visitation with the family will be held on Friday, April 12, 2013 from 6:00 to 8:00pm at Matthews Funeral Home, 601 S. Kelly, Edmond, Oklahoma.

A service of celebration for the life of Donald Wickens will be held at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 308 N.W. 164th Edmond, OK at 2:00pm on Saturday April 13, 2013. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Building Fund.

Comments

  1. I had the privilege and honor of working with Don Wickens at Benham for over 28 years as well as being a part of his wonderful family for 18 years. Don was the consummate professional engineer and manager. His engineering accomplishments are too numerous to mention here.

    Don loved his family and while he may have exhibited a tough business facade, I had the pleasure of seeing a softer side. For the last several years, he has tutored children at Holy Trinity Christian School. As I walked down the school hallway, it was common to hear Don teaching the kids about aeronautics, OSU football and their multiplication tables. The kids respected and loved him and he will be sadly missed by them. Don recalled in his hospital bed how he landed his helicopter at a Deer Creek school to celebrate the Principal’s dare that the kids read 10,000 books.

    How Don loved his dogs! How they loved him for the numerous table scraps they received.

    Don’s smartest accomplishment in life was to marry Sylvia. She was his constant companion. They created two bright and beautiful daughters, Julie and Donna, and brought them up in a fine Christian home. Sylvia spent many a lonely night as Don traveled near and far to expand Benham into an internationally recognized A/E firm. She never complained. Our prayers are with you Sylvia. Let your family and church family fill your emptiness during this time of sorrow.

    Don was a wonderful role model for many whose lives he touched. His grandsons, Connor, Jackson, Philip and Andrew, were blessed with great Wicken’s genes. Philip used Don’s mathematical traits to get his CPA. Andrew has followed in Don’s footsteps by getting his architectural engineering degree at OSU and Masters in Civil Engineering at Illinois. Connor and Jackson are currently pursuing their degrees at OU.

    To Julie and Donna, while this is the toughest week of your life, you can spend the rest of your lives remembering with pride how great a Dad you had while knowing that his presence will always be with you from heaven. May you continue to grow his legacy with your children and future grandchildren.

    Please help celebrate the life of Don Wickens this Saturday at 2pm, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 308 NW 164th St., in Edmond.

  2. Harry had SO much love and respect for Don, who he had known since the eighth grade. We credited Don for Harry’s ability to retire early and now for me to be able to, because of Don’s masterful stewardship of The Benham Companies, which so greatly increased the value of its stock. Harry also rarely made important financial decisions without first arranging to meet Don at Jimmy’s Egg to have a little discussion.

    Sylvia, you and Don were also the most kind, caring, sincere couple! You always welcomed me as a friend, and were of such tremendous solace to me and to our family during Harry’s illness and passing. Everyone can agree – such a class act!

    May your faith, family, and friends now help comfort you in this dreadful time in your life. But you are a very strong woman, and you will be all right. Time does help healing. And you will find much joy and comfort in keeping Don’s memory alive through all the thoughts and stories you are now sharing and will continue to share in the future.

    With sincerest sympathy,
    Pam Koenig

  3. It has been my privilege to have know Don and his wife Sylvia since 1975 when I joined The Benham Group in 1975 in Oklahoma City, OK. As a “young” engineer I had a lot to learn and Don was an excellent teacher.

    In 1983 Don and I along with a select group of engineers/designer opened The Benham Group office in St. Louis, MO. Even though Don spent 8-years in St. Louis he always returned home every week-end to his home and family in Edmond, OK.

    It gives me great pleasure to count Don as one of my mentors and a true friend. In addition to an outstanding engineer, Don was a people person who loved his God, family, friends. He will be missed.

    Dick Prahl

  4. I am saddened by this news and reach out to you all in Christian live and prayer. I had the privilege of working under Don for many years at Benham which I considered my second home and family. He was always mindful of those if us behind the scenes of the direct design teams. Though the pain and loss are profound at this time, stand on the promises our faithful Father has provided you that this seperation is but temporary. Don was indeed an heir to the throne through his faith. God bless you all with strength and peace and wonderful memories until you are together again!

  5. Don enjoyed pushing the boundaries of what Benham could accomplish. He truly exemplified the curiosity that makes a good engineer – he would return from manufacturing plant visits where he witnessed a process for making bread, beer, cans, etc. and share his excitement with the project team as if he’d just won the lottery!
    Don provided me with opportunities to expand my experience beyond mechanical building systems to designing manufacturing and process systems for many types of products – and learn how to reach “outside the box” for innovative design solutions.

    He was a great leader and responsible for the development of many peoples’ professional careers at Benham.

    Bob Streets

  6. Don Wicken’s was a patriarch, a warrior, a businessman, a Christian, and a consumate professional. But I choose to remember him as a “man’s man”.

    He was a welterweight in physical size but a heavyweight in everything that mattered. He led from the front and never asked for sacrifices that he was not willing to give. He always stood up for his beliefs and never, ever compromised his principles.

    I saw Don dazzle leaders of Fortune 100 firms, motivate employees at all levels, and choreograph the growth of a multi-national engineering and architectural firm. You don’t do that by being a pencil pusher, a bureucrat or a weakling. You achieve all that Don achieved by being focused, dedicated, agressive, compassionate, knowledgable and assertive.

    In short, Don was a man among men…

    That is how Don influenced me, and that is how I will always remember him…

  7. Carol and I have shared life values with Don and Sylvia over many business years.

    I would like to believe that Don benefited as much as I did from the relationship.
    We were both passionate about our work, the people we had responsibility to direct, and the success of our companies.
    Don was customer focused long before it became main stream to be studied and learned. Don was truly a man for others.
    Like many Engineers during the last quarter of the 1900’s, Don traveled a great deal, but his heart was always with Sylvia and the girls. Don will be deeply missed by his family, but I know that the strength of love and respect that they lived together will always play a role in their life’s journey

    Sylvia, thanks to you for your help and guidance to afford a champion to compete.
    Carol and I will hold you in our prayers.

  8. My deepest and sincerest condolences from Russia to Sylvia, Julia and Donna and the whole global family of relatives, friends and coworkers. I am proud to have been an employee of The Benham’s Group subsidiary in Moscow, Russia. Mr. Wickens has been an inspirational leader and the most loyal employer to us all. He never had any doubts in the Russian economy and our political differences! And such a distinguished gentleman! I will never forget the most wonderful time with Don and Sylvia in the cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Bolshoi, our personal conversations. Don had the ultimate respect to our culture and keenest interest in our mundane lives. Don will always be remembered.

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