A celebration that honored the past while embracing the future was held Thursday in the Center for the Performing Arts at Northeastern State University.
The investiture ceremony for Dr. Steve Turner marked the official welcome for NSU’s 19th president, as state and local dignitaries joined family, friends, mentors, former colleagues, faculty, staff and students to share the moment.
Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson set the tone for the formal induction by providing an all-encompassing account of the university’s accomplishments, its history with the Cherokee people and the arrival of its new leader.
“Everyone would agree that President Turner has hit the ground running at Northeastern State University,” Johnson said. “It’s been said in the world of higher education that a university president has the authority, and ultimately the responsibility, to set the tone and the vision which shapes the goals, the direction and the dreams of the institution which he or she leads. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘The price of achievement is responsibility,’ and our Regional University System Board of Regents has given President Turner its endorsement and support as he formally takes over the reins of responsibility of this great university.”
Music for the processional was voted on by the student body, which selected “Home” by American Idol winner Phillip Phillips to convey its perception of the administrator.
Regional University System of Oklahoma Chair Terry Matlock embellished upon Johnson’s praise of Turner’s commitment to family, responsibility and community.
“The Regional University System of Oklahoma made the right choice when we selected Dr. Turner as the 19th president of Northeastern,” he said. “Northeastern State University has every right to be optimistic about its future. It’s growing. It’s dynamic. It’s an institution that inspires students to ‘gather here and go far.’”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker recalled the meeting he and other local officials shared with Turner, and noted the newest RiverHawk’s passion to build community among the area’s leaders.
“He had a vision that united the Cherokee Nation with the university, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees with the university, and the city [of Tahlequah] with the university, and we have religiously met and found common ground to make this institution even greater than it has been,” Baker said. “We have a long history, a long past with Northeastern State. It was the first institution of higher learning for any woman of any race west of the Mississippi. It became a state school, and now it is what it is today. And it’s an honor to be associated with it.”
United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma Chief George Wickliffe echoed Baker’s sentiment, saying Turner has made it known the university’s future will be greatly influenced by the shared efforts of the community and its pacesetters.
“When he came in, he organized the town – like Chief Baker said, the two tribes – and we had breakfast with him. We shared ideas and we brought [him] up to date [on] what we’re doing,” Wickliffe said. “We are devoted and we will continue to be devoted to everything we do as we grow for Northeastern or any other schools. We’re really involved, and we really do appreciate our relationship Dr. Turner has established. We feel like we’re a part [of things], and we’re working together. And that’s how you accomplish things.”
After being presented with gifts from the faculty, staff, student body and alumni association during each representative’s turn at the podium, Turner held the university mace with the president’s medallion proudly displayed on his chest and took his place as president.
“I wish to extend special thanks to the board of regents of the Regional University System of Oklahoma, and former regent Belva Howard, who this year completed 27 years of service, for giving me this opportunity to follow my dreams,” Turner said. “Until today, there have been 18 presidents at NSU. Thirteen were formally installed, and five individuals served in an acting or interim status. I’m honored to join this list of accomplished leaders as the 19th president.”
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