Peggy Kates grew up on a dairy farm in Calumet, a town with a population just shy of 600. Although her parents loved cattle farming, they were determined that their daughter would have additional professional choices with a college education.
“Education was very important to my parents,” Kates said. “My dad served on the school board for 10 years. And even though they didn’t have a college education, they were determined for me to have a better life and understood how important education is to success.”
Kates attended the University of Central Oklahoma, then known as Central State University. She supplemented her college scholarships through a work study program in UCO’s financial aid office. Even though Kates was a science major, she fell in love with the process of finance. And if it hadn’t been for her new contacts in the financial aid office, she might not have met the love of her life.
Kates’ boss invited her to attend church and another friend had invited a young man named Ben. “We were both guests that morning, so that broke the ice. We dated, fell in love and got married my junior year,” Kates explained.
Kates graduated from UCO with a degree in biology and chemistry. She was the oldest of four siblings and the first in her family to earn a college degree. After a brief stint as an educator, she and Ben started Midwest Wrecking Company in 1976 and from the beginning Peggy was the financial officer.
“It was tough at first. We worked hard to get our name out there and get the big demolition jobs,” Kates reflected. “Every year I would type 5,000 letters to potential customers to bid for jobs and market the company.”
The hard work paid off. Midwest Wrecking Company began working on large demolition projects including Leadership Square, the Waterford and Murrah Federal Building.
“We were one of the first there and the last to leave,” Kates recalled. “I am proud to say that we were part of the recovery efforts every step of the way.”
The success of Midwest Wrecking Company has allowed Kates to give back to her alma mater and support other students by establishing several scholarships honoring UCO professors.
“My professors cared and wanted me to succeed,” Kates said. “They are excellent teachers, but they also support and mentor students beyond the classroom. Through giving back I can help other students succeed.”