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Alumni Spotlight: Betsy Skibyak-Ojanen

By Anyssa Barbosa, Panhandle State Collegian on 03/20/2017 Betsy Skibyak-Ojanen — Photo by Danae MooreBetsy Skibyak-Ojanen — Photo by Danae Moore

A highlight of Oklahoma Panhandle State’s alumni, Betsy Skibyak-Ojanen, a member of the Aggie Hall of Fame Class of 2015, left her mark forever on this campus.

A graduate of the class of 1980 from Las Cruces, N.M., Betsy came to Goodwell on athletic scholarships for volleyball, basketball and track her freshman year. Her sophomore, junior and senior years, she decided to focus only on volleyball and track. Betsy participatied in a number of track and field events such as the shot put, discus, javelin, individual spring events and sprint relays.

Her focus did not come up short as she received All-American honors in shot put for the years of 1982 and 1983. In 1984 she also received the title of an All-American Scholar. Her achievements in track were not alone. In 1982, she was selected as the Outstanding Athlete of Panhandle State. Not only was her work ethic noticeable in the sports she participated in, but also in the classroom. She balanced being a multi-sport athlete while taking 18-21 credit hours, and graduated with three degrees in just four years. She graduated cum laude with degrees in Speech, Mass Communications, and Health and Physical Education.

Betsy was active on campus, participating in the Newman Club, working for the school paper The Collegian, the radio club, and Student Senate. In 1984, she was selected as an Outstanding Woman in America. This same year proved to open up so many opportunities to Ojanen, as she traveled across seas to Germany to compete at an international track meet. She continued to stay an athlete by taking up powerlifting. Her powerlifting habits brought her 12 consecutive national championships as well as 7 international championships. Her international competitions took her back-packing all over the world.

Following graduation, she moved back to Las Cruces, where she worked for a local newspaper and then found herself moving to Arizona where her career as a firefighter for the Phoenix Fire Department began. She served as the Fire Captain/Paramedic and worked for 24 years before retiring in 2012.

Currently Betsy lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. with her husband where they enjoy skiing, tennis, backpacking and traveling together. She enjoys cooking and reading in her spare time.

Her incredibly inspiring life continues to reflect her time spent as a college athlete from Panhandle State.


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