Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012
Center for the Performing Arts | Tahlequah, Okla.
President Turner, Regents, honored guests, faculty, family and students, it is a privilege to be here today to celebrate this special occasion with you. Northeastern State University is an important component in our State’s higher education system and is truly is a great reflection of the growth and optimism higher education has exhibited throughout our state’s rich history.
Northeastern State University began in 1851 as the Cherokee National Female Seminary, then in 1909 the Legislature created Northeastern Normal School to provide a balance of institutions operated in the east and west portions of our State. As the State of Oklahoma continued to grow, so did Northeastern State University, whose first enrollment report showed 215 students. Today, Northeastern State University has an enrollment of well over 9,000 students, with students and campuses in Tahlequah, Broken Arrow and Muskogee.
This university continues to play a vital role within the higher education community as an innovator, a solid partner and as a leader in preparing our students for future success.
In the collegiate world, a president has the authority and ultimately the responsibility to set the tone and vision which shapes the goals, direction and dreams for the institution that he or she leads. And as Winston Churchill once said, “The price of achievement is responsibility,” and our RUSO Board has given President Turner their endorsement and support, and he has certainly taken over the reins of responsibility.
It has been my privilege to work with President Turner since he was a part of the senior administrative team at East Central University. Even then, I was impressed by his dedication to the mission of higher education, his understanding of how our state system works, as well as his commitment to always putting the needs of our students first.
As everyone here knows, President Turner hit the ground running at Northeastern State University. Our State System of Higher Education’s top priority for the next 12 years will be our college degree completion initiative, Complete College America. And although he had only been on the job less than two months, President Turner was the first president in the state system to actively engage his faculty, staff, students and alumni on the specifics of Complete College America. He was successfully able to frame the issue in the terms of how each person on all three campuses could utilize their position more effectively and more efficiently to achieve Northeastern State University’s degree completion goals.
And as he has been able to incorporate our state systems goals for degree completion into his personal vision for Northeastern State University.
We know that every leader has to have a personal vision of where he or she wants to lead, but just having the vision won’t do it. Effective leadership means getting the best people you can find to share that vision and to help you in achieving it and certainly, we can see that President Turner has assembled a very capable team at Northeastern.
President Turner, to be selected as the president of a university is always a great honor; for the purpose of a university is to convey our history to future generations, to unlock the knowledge of the ages; and to blend the truths which are timeless with realities of today.
There is no more noble enterprise than to provide learning opportunities to the leaders of tomorrow.
We all know that the role of a university president has changed dramatically over the last 30 years. Some observers say, with its multiple constituencies and decentralized structure, declining resource base, that it is virtually an impossible job to define and manage. We would respectfully disagree, but we know that it’s clearly a very tough job.
Dr. Clark Kerr, president at the University of California-Berkeley once said, "The university president in the Higher Education arena today is expected to be:
Above all, he or she must enjoy traveling in airplanes and cars, eating his or her meals in public, and attending lengthy public ceremonies like this one today. No one can do all of these things perfectly, but I would submit that President Turner scores very high marks in each of these categories.
I am a firm believer that one cannot hold the office of president without feeling an affinity with those who have been associated with this university, and whose leadership helped to forge the successful position that Northeastern State University holds in our state today. And like all of those presidents who preceded you, and I know several former presidents are here today, the role you play at NSU has never been more important than it is today, right now, in this time of change.
We know that in today’s knowledge-based, world economy, higher education is being asked to play an increasingly important role in our nation’s economic recovery because we know that over 90 percent of the fastest growing jobs will require a college degree. Tomorrow’s leaders must be smart, educated, and creative individuals who know how to collaborate in order to efficiently lead, manage to accomplish the agenda at hand. Our responsibility in higher education is to prepare our students to meet these challenges.
We know that our colleges and universities are very special places. They are places where one generation meets the next generation. They are a place where lifelong learning occurs. But most of all they are places of possibilities for our students --- a place where each student has the opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.
This university will continue to be a place that draws the most talented people, inspires creative and analytical thought, and ultimately NSU will certainly be a place that will define the leaders in an age of unprecedented global competition.
The Oklahoma State Regents and I pledge continue to work with you as you shape the academic programs and services that will lead NSU through this next decade. We stand ready to assist you as you strive to serve the students, faculty, staff and alumni of this historic institution, which has an important past, but an even more robust and promising future.
Congratulations Mr. President on this significant day in the history of Northeastern State University.