Odilia Dank was ‘loved and admired’ – her services this weekend

State leaders have eulogized former state Rep. Odilia Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican, as one of the most effective legislators of recent decades. She is also being hailed for the personal touch she brought to politics. 

Dank died Saturday (August 17) at Oklahoma Heart Hospital after a long battle with cancer.

An Ohio native, she taught at Casady School and in the Oklahoma City Public School system. She served as District 85 state representative from 1995-2007, was a vice-chairman of the state Republican party for four years, and a Republican National Convention delegate in both 2000 and 2004. 

Her husband, David, now serves in the District 85 seat. This week, he said Gov. Mary Fallin had called to express condolences after Odilia’s passing. Fallin held the seat before Mrs. Dank, vacating it in 1994 to run for lieutenant governor. 

Odilia was the first Republican in Oklahoma history to chair a legislative committee on education. She championed school choice, charter education, government transparency and was key player among the group of state leaders who guided a right-to-work amendment to passage in September 2001. 

Gov. Fallin said Dank’s “service to our state will be missed.” The chief executive ordered that U.S. and Oklahoma flags on state property fly at half-staff from 5 p.m. Friday (August 23) until Monday (August 26) at 8 a.m. 

Former Oklahoma Secretary of State Glenn Coffee – the first Republican Senate President Pro Temp in state history, remembered Mrs. Dank with deep emotion and affection. He told CapitolBeatOK, “She was one of the first people I met in politics after I announced. Our districts overlapped. We co-hosted precinct meetings. I saw first hand how loved and admired she was by those of us she represented.”

Commissioner of Labor Mark Costello, also a Republican, told CapitolBeatOK, “Rep. Odilia Dank advanced good public policy, irrespective of personal or political gain. Her service is an exemplar for all elected officials.”

Former Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett, a Democrat, worked closely with Dank in development of charter schools. She told CapitolBeatOK: 
“Odilia was competent and caring, a magical combination. She listened to everyone but had her own good vision of education, which she pushed consistently.”

Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, commented, “Odilia Dank was known to all of us as a force to be reckoned with as well as a greatly beloved member of the state legislature and the Oklahoma community. She was a staunch advocate for education.

“Her commitment to legislative transparency led to the 24-hour rule we operate under today. It requires us to post a bill for 24 hours before we can vote on it on the House floor.

“We mourn the loss of this Oklahoma leader and our condolences go to our colleague, Rep. David Dank, and his family in this difficult time. We will keep them in our hearts and prayers.” 

While in the private sector, Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi was a pioneering founder of charter schools in the Sooner State. 

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Dr. Barresi said, “I am greatly saddened to hear of the passing of Odilia Dank. Rep. Dank was a trusted advocate for education reform during her time as a 28-year veteran educator and then during her 12 years as an Oklahoma legislator.

“As Chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Dank fought for higher academic standards so our children would be prepared for college and the workforce. One of her greatest accomplishments was championing the Oklahoma Charter School bill through the legislature. Because of her, families now have a choice when it comes to educational opportunities for their children.

“Her dedication for children and their right to a quality education was a common bond that formed the basis of our friendship. With professionalism and a quiet modesty, Rep. Dank exhibited grit and determination when advocating for education. No matter the odds, she was determined to push forward. I and many others will proudly continue that fight for the children in her honor.”

Barresi added, “Rep. Dank was a pioneer for women in politics. She was one of only three Republican women serving in the legislature when she was elected in 1994. Her leadership and bravery to do the right thing for children has contributed greatly to Oklahoma’s success and she will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

The weekend of services honoring Mrs. Dank begins Friday evening at 6:30 p.m., with Rosary recitation at Christ the King Catholic Church, 8005 Dorset Drive in Nichols Hills/Oklahoma City. The Mass of Christian Burial, also at Christ the King, is slated for Saturday (August 24) at 10 a.m., with her pastor, Rev. Rick Stansberry, presiding. 

McGuigan, editor of CapitolBeatOK, is bureau chief for the Watchdog.org network in Oklahoma City. During her legislative tenure and his years in public charter education, McGuigan worked in a coalition with Mrs. Dank to establish Oklahoma’s charters. With Chris Brewster, principal of Santa Fe South Charter High School, they helped organize early “Charter School Days” at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. You may contact McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com.