Dr. DaNa Carlis was welcomed back to the halls of Carver Middle School by the school band, cheerleaders, dance team, members of the student organization Men of Power, as well as his family and former Carver classmates.
"I’m still overwhelmed. It was not expected. The young people here and the faculty here at Carver, they showed up and showed out, just made me feel so good about being a Carver Wildcat and being a native Tulsan," said Dr. Carlis.
Dr. Carlis attended Carver in the late 80s and early 90s. He graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1995. He said he dreamed of attending both schools since he was four years old.
"I always associated excellence with those institutions. I really worked hard to get in the Carver; I really worked hard to get into Booker T. because that's where I wanted to be. The fact that I was able to attain that is just a dream come true," he said.
After graduating, Dr. Carlis moved to Washington D.C. to attend Howard University, where he earned his doctorate in atmospheric science.
"I fell in love with the place because it felt like Carver. It felt like Booker T. It felt like excellence, and that's all that I’ve ever wanted to be around is excellence because I need that to push me forward."
Dr. Carlis is now returning to Oklahoma to serve as the director of the National Severe Storm Laboratory for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He is the first Black man to be named a lab director for NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. He told students he may be first but won't be the last because he expects them to take his place.
"I really do hope to inspire that next generation because we need badly STEM students to go into our fields because we have so many jobs to fill, so much technology to develop, and so many severe storms to forecast. We really need that talent," he said.
Assistant Principal Joy Parnosky, who attended Carver with Dr. Carlis, presented him with an Outstanding Wildcat award for excellence. She also read a proclamation sent by Mayor G.T. Bynum designating February 17 as Dr. DaNa Carlis Day in Tulsa.
Click through the slideshow below to see photos from his visit.