ENID, Okla. — There are people in a community who can be counted on to step up when called upon to solve a community problem. When financial problems caused Phillips University to close its doors, longtime local businessman Dan Dillingham was one community leader who worked to make sure higher education remained a priority in Enid.
Dillingham, 87, died Sunday. His services are pending at Henninger-Hinson Funeral Home in Enid. He was chairman of the board of Dillingham Insurance.
Dillingham was born in 1934 and raised in Enid, where he graduated from Enid Public Schools before enrolling and earning a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and economics from the University of Colorado. After serving two years in the Army’s 3rd Armored Division Finance Office in Frankfurt, Germany, he returned home to Enid and joined his father and brother in the family insurance business, Dillingham Insurance.
While known for his contributions on many local projects, it was his commitment to higher education that friends and colleagues say made 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’s the education guy that always thought about making higher education accessible here in Enid.”
He served on the board of Phillips University and Enid Higher Education Council. He played an active role in the establishment of Enid branch campuses for Northern Oklahoma College and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
When NOC Enid celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019, Dillingham was on hand to reminisce about establishing NOC Enid on the former Phillips campus.
“I was approached by the president of Phillips University to try and save the school, and understanding the issues they were facing, that was going to be a challenge,” Dillingham said. “NOC and Northwestern already had a presence here in Enid, and it wound up being a natural progression for NOC to bring a larger presence. We just wanted to make sure that Northwestern Oklahoma students continued to have an affordable two-year education opportunity.”
Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources and a longtime friend of Dillingham, remembered working with him on the coordinated effort to make sure Enid continued to have quality higher education opportunities. He said he was glad he got to relive some of those memories with Dillingham during the anniversary event.
“We relived some of that struggle, and I’m so glad we did,” Hamm said. “We needed somebody that thought outside of the box, and Dan did that. We had three or four of us that got in there and did whatever it took. It seemed like all of us were well connected to other people who got it done. I always enjoyed working with Dan. I’m just really going to miss him.”
NOC President Dr. Cheryl Evans said she is especially grateful for Dillingham’s commitment to NOC and higher education.
“He always was working 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 family and to growing his business in Enid is another.
Dillingham Insurance has been a part of Enid since 1927. Dan joined the business in 1958, and sons Jed and Chad also work for the business. The company serves clients in 38 states and has offices in Oklahoma City, Woodward and Kansas City.
“We’ve all three of us been blessed to have had a unique opportunity to not only have the father-son relationship, but have him as a business mentor and truly a friend as well,” Chad said. “He’s always been a quiet, truly servant leader. He would see things he felt like the community needed to address, and he would jump in with others and help brainstorm to come up with the best solutions.”
Jed Dillingham said their dad didn’t really have leisurely hobbies, like golf. Family, business and customers were his hobbies.
“In the 38 years I worked in the business with him, he had his client first,” he said. “It was his mantra, and it became our company culture. The other thing was family first. We’ve all learned how to put family first in our lives, too. Church, community and state. That’s what he did and what he lived.”
Peter Dillingham said Dan recently told his sons that he wanted them to “all live holy lives and take care of our neighbors. That’s what he did his entire life.”
“Like so many other great pillars of Enid’s past, he didn’t care who got the credit,” Chad said. “With Dad and many others, a great generation has moved on. Enid’s lost a lot of great leadership, and we certainly hope that not only ourselves, but others in the community, will step in to fill that void.”
Dillingham received a number of accolades in recent years. He was named to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2016.
In 2002, he was elected to the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank-Kansas City. Other honors and awards included being named Citizen of the Year and Business Person of the Year by Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce. He was a 2012 inductee in the Enid Public School Foundation’s Hall of Fame and the Enid Walk of Fame by the city of Enid. He was named Citizen of the Year by Enid Salvation Army. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and an Endowed Chair in Business by Northwestern Oklahoma State University.