In the years that followed World War II, the Servas program for international visitors kept a very specific focus.
"You had to promise to talk about efforts for peace," recalled Nancy Feldman.
She and her husband, Raymond, hosted guests in their Tulsa home.
"People could call up and give you 24 hours' notice. You could say yes, or not. They would stay with you one or two days," Feldman said.
Out of that experience -- and the Feldman's own travels -- came an organization focused on bringing international visitors to Tulsa.
After continuing to serve as frequent hosts for international visitors through another program, Nancy Feldman learned from another Tulsan, Diane Cook, how the U.S. State Department relied on volunteers to entertain foreign guests.
Around 1976, Nancy Feldman visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for a Tulsa chapter of the national visitors program.
It was far from a sure thing, Feldman said.
"I worked out pretty carefully what I was going to say and what would work, and it really was the business community that made it work," said Feldman, now retired after a long career as a University of Tulsa professor.
She described her pitch. "I felt very sincere. 'They will meet the heads of companies. They will meet top people who are interested in this and are willing to take the time to spend with them, and they can't do that in big cities.' And that was a very persuasive thing," Feldman said.
Along with emphasizing Tulsa's strong Native American culture, Feldman did enough to sway federal officials, paving the way for the creation of an organization now known as Tulsa Global Alliance.
The non-profit group continues to bring international visitors to Tulsa -- more than 320 in the 12-month period that ended July 1 -- while overseeing a variety of programs, including Tulsa's sister city program.
At the group's annual awards dinner, the Feldmans will be honored as the inaugural recipients of the Nancy and Raymond Feldman Lifetime Achievement Award for Citizen Diplomacy.
"They really get involved with people when they go somewhere," said Becky Collins, the association's president and chief executive officer, noting that the pair have continued to travel internationally well into their retirement age.
"That's what makes the difference. That is a part of citizen diplomacy, the personal, person-to-person relationships that form, the impact they make on us and the impact we make on them," Collins said.
Recently, the organization helped land an event that will bring some the world's brightest researchers to Tulsa.
A diverse group of 75 Fulbright scholars hailing from many different countries will be in town from Oct. 23-26, attending a multi-disciplinary program known as an enrichment seminar, Collins said.
Along with the University of Tulsa and the Gilcrease Museum, the alliance applied to present a program on land acquisition and the development of the American west.
"For the University of Tulsa, they're excited to be recognized on a national level," Collins said. The Tulsa Global Alliance organization is housed on the TU campus, but it is independent of the university.
Collins noted that the group's application was one of four selected out of 22 applications.
The worldly scholars will bring with them a tremendous variety of experiences, but "my guess is most of them will not have heard of Tulsa, Oklahoma before," Collins said. "So we will have the opportunity to show them what the heartland of the United States is like."
Included in the program will be a visit to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve just north of Pawhuska, with various academics speaking about diverse topics, in addition to time spent at the Gilcrease Museum.
Another part of the visit will be similar to what visitors experience anytime they arrive in Tulsa through the Tulsa Global Alliance.
"Every single one of the 75 scholars will be invited to the home of an Oklahoman to share dinner in an American's home," Collins said.
Hosting visitors remains an integral part of the association, which relies on volunteers to provide meals and hospitality for guests.
Also being honored Sept. 24 is Dayal Meshri, founder of Advance Research Chemicals, who Collins described as a global entrepreneur but also a humble house host for visitors.
"His hospitality is just amazing," Collins said.
The Rotary Club of Tulsa is also being honored. "They are very internationally minded," Collins said, noting that the group has been involved with a clean water project in Nicaragua as well as other international service projects.
The organization can even claim strong support from both mayoral candidates, with Mayor Dewey Bartlett and former mayor Kathy Taylor among the sponsors recognized in this year's awards program.
"We have a wonderful relationship with city hall," Collins said, noting that the sister city program involves "mayor to mayor agreements." The city's mayor office contracts with the group to help manage the sister city contact.
"We've had strong support by all the mayors I know of in Tulsa, but definitely both Mayor Bartlett and Kathy Taylor," Collins said.
Nancy Feldman said that she thinks the association has taken hold very strongly in Tulsa, in part because "it is good for the businesses of Tulsa, and it is good for the city in so many ways." She also gave credit to the local chamber of commerce for providing office space during the organization's formative years, as well as volunteers who helped with office work.
But the enduring popularity may have been evident soon after its start, when Feldman began asking people to serve as hosts. "From my original list of who started taking people, I don't remember anyone every leaving it," Feldman said, adding that people came to really enjoy having the interaction with visitors.
"It was as simple as that," she said.
For information about attending the Tulsa Global Alliance annual Global Vision awards and fundraising event on Sept. 24, visit tulsaglobalalliance.org.
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