Volunteer Spotlight: Willis Allen



We love our volunteers and appreciate the valuable role they play in the operations of The Church Studio.  We could not be more excited to introduce you to one of our very first volunteers, Willis Allen.  If you have attended one of our Studio Tours, you have probably met or visited Willis.  Willis shines as a Docent when he leads a private or group tour.  Learn more about Willis below and you’ll understand why we are lucky to have him on our volunteer team. 

I was born and raised in Tulsa and have lived here most of my life, only leaving to serve in the Army and work in my first job in Muskogee.  I attended Thomas Edison High School and the University of Tulsa where I earned a BSBA in Business Management.  I served for 30-plus years as a Managing Partner for Gilbreath’s, LLC where I served as a management consultant, trainer, coach, speaker, and facilitator. I also taught Leadership for the Department for Executive and Professional Development at The University of Tulsa. I have recently retired from both positions and fill my time with home improvements, yard care, training a new puppy, and volunteer activities.  

I like sports, American Indian Art, and reading. I am an active alumnus of The University of Tulsa and Sigma Chi Fraternity.  I raise funds for the Sigma Chi Donald E. Walker Leadership Scholarship Fund, and the University of Tulsa Sigma Chi Bell Scholarship Fund, raising over $500,000 in total. These Scholarships are given annually to a member of the Sigma Chi Chapters at Oklahoma University, Oklahoma State University, The University of Tulsa, Arkansas State University, The University of Arkansas, and The University of Pittsburgh.  Also, I serve on the faculty of the Sigma Chi Balfour Leadership Training Workshop.  I am the recipient of The Order of Constantine Honor, the highest award alumni of Sigma Chi can receive. 

I have served as an adjunct faculty member of The College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology at Oklahoma State University, The Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, and The Center For Executive and Professional Development at The University of Tulsa.   I have served on advisory committees for Oklahoma State University/Tulsa Campus, St. Gregory’s University, Tulsa Community College, Tulsa Public Schools, and Tulsa County Area Vocational Technical Schools. I have also served on the Oklahoma Quality Award Committee established by the Governor’s Quality Council and helped develop the criteria for the State of Oklahoma Quality Award.  I was a recipient of the Tulsa Area Human Resource Association Excellence Award, where I was recognized for my accomplishments in the field of human resource development. 

Currently, I am a docent at the Church Studio, the Tulsa Zoo, the Philbrook Museum, and the Oklahoma Aquarium 

I am married to Diana Allen, a retired Counselor and Academic Advisor at Tulsa Community College.  I have two sons, Patrick Allen (deceased) and Kyle Allen, who is a CPA and serves as Controller at a major national company. Kyle is married to Isabel Allen who is also a CPA.

Why do you volunteer?

To help me keep my mind and body sharp during retirement.  

To interact with and educate people who have similar interests to my own.

What inspired you to choose The Church Studio?

I had been a docent at the Gilcrease Museum and it was closing due to the rebuilding of the museum. I needed another place to volunteer and heard about the need for docents at the Church Studio.  Being a music lover and concert goer, it seemed perfect.  After meeting with Teresa Knox and hearing her goals for the Church Studio, I was sold that the Church was the place I should be. 

What surprised you the most about the studio?

The goals – I thought it was going to be a museum honoring Leon Russell.  I was blown away when I learned that first, it was to be a world-class recording studio and secondly, a school for recording engineers, as well as an archive and a tourist destination.

What is your favorite part of the studio? 

I like it all, but of course, the recording studio and live room are the best. I also like the table in the Green Room; it is very special.

What would you say to someone considering visiting The Church Studio?

Be prepared to be surprised and amazed. I think most visitors do not expect to see what is actually there. There is a lot to see, so plan for a visit of at least one to two hours. They should ask for a Docent Guided Tour.

The Church Studio

The Church Studio

The historic church was turned into a recording studio and home office to Shelter Records in 1972. Under Leon Russell's leadership, the stone structure served as a creative workshop for songwriters, musicians, engineers, and singers to collaborate, learn, and inspire.

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  1. Johnny McDonnell on July 15, 2022 at 8:50 am

    Great interview Willis..

  2. Mike Anderson on July 15, 2022 at 11:00 am

    Next time I’m there, I’ll ask for you! Thanks for your contributions to the Church.

  3. Cindy stone on July 15, 2022 at 2:18 pm

    Congratulations Willis.

  4. Vicki Camp on July 19, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks Willis !

  5. Scott Jones on July 27, 2022 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you Willis! You are an inspiration!

  6. Mantis Toboggan M.D. on August 13, 2022 at 10:08 am

    Awesome interview from a great man

    • Ron Hongouti on October 19, 2023 at 9:30 am

      Great tour, very informative and personal.
      And thank you Willis for returning the favor and visiting me at the Cherokee Art Market. Looking forward to seeing you again.

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