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Turneys make $2 million pledge to Rainbolt College for future teachers
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Sharen Jester Turney and her husband, Charles Turney, have committed $2 million to OU’s Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education for debt forgiveness and scholarships.

A $2 million pledge by Sharen Jester Turney and her husband, Charles A. Turney, will encourage the best and brightest new teachers to choose Oklahoma classrooms.

A portion of the Turneys’ gift to the University of Oklahoma Foundation benefits the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education Debt-Free Teachers Program, which provides student loan forgiveness for each year that graduates teach in state up to four years. Consideration is given to graduates who commit to high-need subject areas like STEM, special education, and inner-city or rural schools.

"Having impactful teachers in our lives is such a great gift," Sharen Jester Turney said. "Charles and I really want to give teachers an opportunity to build their careers in Oklahoma. By helping lift the financial burden before, during and after graduation, we believe that students at Rainbolt College will be able to fulfill their desires and reach their full potential. We are thrilled to support what OU has built as a real path to excellence."

The Turney family’s commitment pushes the Debt-Free Teacher campaign over its initial goal. However, Rainbolt College Dean Gregg Garn said that the campaign will continue.

"When we set a $5 million goal for the Debt-Free Teachers Program in 2014, people laughed and said there was no way we could achieve it," he said, adding that although giving to the college has increased 20 fold during the past four years, an enormous need for student financial support still exists.

To address that reality, another portion of the Turneys’ $2 million gift will be devoted to the Sharen Jester Turney Education Endowed Scholarship, which was established in 2012 to provide need-based scholarships to education students during their college years.

"Our top priority in the Rainbolt College of Education is scholarships to support our students. The Turney gift, in so many ways, will provide the financial support that enables students who want to be future teachers to realize their dreams," Garn said.

Charles Turney, who graduated from OU in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, is the owner of an investment opportunity and new business start-up fund. Sharen Jester Turney studied business education at OU and graduated in 1986. She began her career as a buyer with Foley’s department stores and has more than 30 years of experience launching e-commerce businesses and growing world-class brands.

Turney was executive vice president for Neiman Marcus before starting the company’s e-commerce website and managing the famed Neiman Marcus "Christmas Book" as president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Direct. She became president and CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct and was named president and CEO of Victoria’s Secret, a role she filled for a decade. During that time, she helped double the business’ profits, growing Victoria’s Secret into an $8 billion enterprise.

Sharen received Rainbolt College’s highest honor, the Award of Distinction, at its annual Celebration of Education in April. She also has been inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and received the Way to WIN award for her support of homeless women and children in New York. Alongside their son, Matt, the Turneys have been active in supporting cancer research and children’s education and development. Both Charles and Sharen are members of OU’s Arthur B. Adams Society, which provides a network of supporters for students in Price College.

In addition, Sharen has served on multiple boards, including The Wharton School’s J. H Baker Retailing Initiative and the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, for which she serves as chair.