HomeAwardsNonprofit Leadership Excellence (Large): Michael Myers

Nonprofit Leadership Excellence (Large): Michael Myers

Michael Myers

Former Chief Financial Officer, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum

Current Oklahoma Children’s Theater Executive Director

Michael Myers has never fancied himself a cowboy.

In fact, Myers grew up working class in the Oklahoma City metro as a self-described “artsy, theater kid who loved choir.” And despite being a valedictorian, his high school counselor told him to have a back-up plan, “just in case college isn’t in the works for you.”

In a long, life-theme of proving people wrong, Myers instead paid for college as he went, working two to three jobs at a time to make his way through. Upon graduation, he wanted to work in the nonprofit realm, with the ultimate goal of serving as an executive director. After a stint at the Oklahoma Zoological Society, he landed at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. For the choir kid, he wasn’t sure the boots would fit. So until he knew, he started by connecting with people.

“There are a lot of aspects that are part of the Western story that the public doesn’t perceive, but I still didn’t know how I’d fit in at first,” he said. “But I knew I needed to find a way to connect with people and get them invested. And the only way to do that is to invest in them too. It’s really important to me to understand people as people and to put yourself in
their shoes and see where they are coming from.”

That people-first outlook got noticed. Beginning in development, he quickly rose through the ranks to serve as The Cowboy’s Chief Financial Officer, and he has worked now at the museum for more than 12 years.

“When I got here, we had not made budget in 12 years,” he said. “In the first 12-18 months, we started reaching budget goal. And now, I’m the longest tenured person in this position. We’ve seen a lot of change here during my time. It’s been a great opportunity to do what I enjoy, and we’ve really built a bridge in the community of people like me that didn’t understand that The Cowboy had something for them as well.”

And now after more than a decade building and balancing The Cowboy, last month he became the new executive director of Oklahoma Children’s Theater. The “artsy, theater kid” found his home.

Still, his work at The Cowboy lives on.

“My time at The Cowboy ended up being more than I ever thought it could be,” he said. “I had to defeat my own perceptions of self-doubt: I’m not a cowboy and I don’t look like what people think of when they hear about cowboys. But in the end, those things empowered me and helped me find my place and helped me get over my thoughts that I didn’t belong.

“I have loved watching the blossoming of people and getting to watch them grow as people and professionals. I am incredibly proud of what we have been able to do here. I started out from a place initially of ‘Where will I fit?’ to finding a place where I belong.”

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