There are people in a community who can be relied on when asked to solve a community problem. When financial problems caused Phillips University to close its doors, longtime local businessman Dan Dillingham was one of the community leaders who campaigned to ensure that higher education remains a priority in Enid.
Dillingham, 87, died on Sunday. His services are still pending at the Henninger-Hinson funeral home in Enid. He was chairman of the board of directors of Dillingham Insurance.
Dillingham was born in 1934 and grew up in Enid, where he graduated from Enid Public Schools before enrolling at the University of Colorado for a BS in finance and economics. After serving two years in the tax office of the 3rd Armored Division of the Army in Frankfurt, he returned to Enid and joined his father and brother in the family insurance company Dillingham Insurance.
Although he is known for his contributions to many local projects, it was his dedication to higher education that, according to friends and colleagues, had one of the biggest impacts on Enid.
“When I think of Dan Dillingham, I think of higher education here in Enid,” said Bert Mackie. “He is the educator who has always thought about making higher education accessible here in Enid.”
He was a board member of Phillips University and the Enid Higher Education Council. He was actively involved in setting up Enid branches for Northern Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
As NOC Enid celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019, Dillingham remembered the founding of NOC Enid on the former Phillips campus.
“The president of Phillips University approached me to try to save the school and to understand the problems they were facing would be a challenge,” said Dillingham. “NOC and Northwestern were already present here in Enid and it was a natural evolution for NOC to have a bigger presence. We just wanted to make sure that students in northwest Oklahoma continued to have an affordable two-year education opportunity. “
Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources and longtime friend of Dillingham, recalled working with him on the coordinated effort to ensure that Enid continued to offer high quality college opportunities. He said he was happy to relive some of those memories with Dillingham during the anniversary event.
“We saw part of this fight all over again and I’m so glad we did,” said Hamm. “We needed someone to think outside the box, and Dan did that. We had three or four of us come in there and do whatever it took. It seemed like we were all well connected to other people who made it through. I’ve always enjoyed working with Dan. I will just really miss him. “
NOC President Dr. Cheryl Evans said she was especially grateful for Dillingham’s commitment to NOC and higher education.
“He has always worked to improve opportunities for students and the workforce in the greater Enid area,” she said.
While higher education is certainly one of Dillingham’s legacies to Enid, his sons – Chad, Peter, and Jed – say his commitment to the family and growing his business in Enid is another.
Dillingham Insurance has been part of Enid since 1927. Dan joined the company in 1958 and sons Jed and Chad also work for the company. The company serves customers in 38 states and has offices in Oklahoma City, Woodward and Kansas City.
“All three of us were blessed to have had the unique opportunity not only to have the father-son relationship, but to have him as a business mentor and a real friend,” said Chad. “He has always been a calm, truly serving leader. He would see things he believed the community needed to address, and he would work with others and help brainstorm to find the best solutions. “
Jed Dillingham said her father didn’t really have leisurely hobbies like golf. Family, business and customers were his hobbies.
“In the 38 years I’ve worked with him in business, he had his client first,” he said. “It was his mantra and it became our corporate culture. The other was family first. We have all learned how to put family first in our lives. Church, parish and state. He did that and what he lived. “
Peter Dillingham said Dan recently told his sons that he wanted them “all to lead holy lives and look after our neighbors. He’s been doing that all his life. “
“Like so many other big pillars in Enid’s past, he didn’t care who got the loan,” said Chad. “A great generation moved on with Dad and many others. Enid has lost a lot of great leadership skills, and we certainly hope that not only ourselves but others in the church will step in to fill that void. “
Dillingham has received a number of awards over the past few years. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2016.
In 2002 he was elected to the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank-Kansas City. Other awards and prizes included Citizen of the Year and Business Person of the Year award from the Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce. In 2012 he was inducted into the Enid Public School Foundation Hall of Fame and the Enid City Enid Walk of Fame. He was named Citizen of the Year by the Enid Salvation Army. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and an Endowed Chair in Economics from Northwestern Oklahoma State University.