Albert Sydney Wyly
Wyly was born in Indian Territory of Cherokee descent. As secretary of the Cherokee Board of Education, he had organized and administered the tribe’s summer normal school sessions. In 1907, Charles N. Haskell, Oklahoma’s first governor appointed Wyly to the five-member Board of Regents for Oklahoma Normal Schools. In April 1909, members of that board appointed Wyly as the first president of Northeastern State Normal School, which compelled him to resign from the board. One month later, before the Tahlequah normal admitted its first student, he resigned as president and became supervisor of United States Indian Schools of the Cherokee Nation. This was a position vacated by D. Frank Redd when he was selected as vice-president of Northeastern State Normal.
Redd was an educator in his home state of Ohio and in Indiana before coming to Indian Territory in 1905 as principal of Muskogee High School. In 1906, he became U.S. supervisor of schools for the Cherokee Nation. The following year, Redd was appointed as Northeastern State Normal School’s first vice president. At the resignation of Albert Sidney Wyly, the board elevated Redd to the presidency of the school. After a disappointingly low enrollment when the school opened on September 14, 1909, his major concern was recruitment. He contributed to the increase the number of students to nearly 300 by the end of the first semester. During April 1911, ill health compelled Redd to resign.
Frank E. Buck
Buck was appointed by the State Board of Education to head Northeastern State Normal School. The former Superintendent of Schools in Guthrie, Okla., Buck’s first action was to create an extension program to offer instruction by correspondence to Oklahoma teachers. Over 80 percent of the state’s public school teachers had no college training and their schedules prevented them from attending the normal schools. On September 9, 1912, President Buck resigned unexpectedly, informing the faculty and students he was leaving with regret to accept a position as state agent for the McMillan Book Company. During his tenure, he was credited with increasing the normal school’s enrollment, improving its building and grounds and managing the school efficiently.
Gill was Superintendent of Public Instruction for Osage County since 1907. A native of Savannah, Tenn., he had previously been elected president of the state teachers’ association. Governor Cruce named Gill to the Oklahoma State Board of Education in August before Gill assumed the presidency of Northeastern State Normal October 1, 1912. To promote Northeastern, he and other faculty spoke at gatherings of teachers throughout northeastern Oklahoma, as well as sending letters to every county superintendent in the region assigned to Northeastern. His recruitment campaign attracted 713 students for the summer session – over three times the number attending the previous summer. President Gill submitted his resignation to the State Board of Education in 1913 to run for State Superintendent of Public Instruction However, he withdrew from the campaign before the primary election.
George W. Gable
Gable earned an A.B. from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 1900 and also taught in Navarro County before moving to Oklahoma from Mississippi. From 1911-13, he was the superintendent of Checotah Public Schools. In 1913, he earned an A.M. from the University of Chicago. Gable was the first president retained in office for more than two years. Under his administration, an alumni association was formed, a school orchestra was organized, a new athletic field was constructed [the first Gable Field, which has been relocated twice since then], a bathhouse was constructed for athletes [also used by students living in tents on campus in the summer], and a multi-purpose auditorium/gymnasium was built [another gymnasium was added to building in 1925, and the current Jack Dobbins Fieldhouse was added to the same building in 1954]. During World War I, a course was added to establish and supervise chapters of the Junior Red Cross. At the end of the war, Gable and Northeastern were confronted with the Spanish influenza outbreak. In 1919, the Board of Education dismissed three of the six normal school presidents, including Gable.
William T. Ford
Ford was the first president when Northeastern became a college. On December 30, 1919, the Board of Education authorized the six normal schools, including Northeastern, to expand its curriculum to offer college degrees and prepare teachers for positions in high schools and common schools. By 1919, Northeastern had four literary societies, a successful debate program and stimulating extracurricular activities - including musical groups, dramatic production, and varied athletics and social activities. In 1922, Northeastern Normal extended field services to offer classes in 24 northeastern Oklahoma towns, with the assistance of local instructors with appropriate academic credentials. The program supplemented the school’s correspondence offerings. In 1923-24, 704 students participated in the extension program and over 400 enrolled in correspondence courses. Success in the school’s outreach program and on-campus instruction was evident when in 1922 the North Central Association of Accredited Colleges and Universities granted accreditation to Northeastern State Teachers College. Despite Ford’s successful campaign to earn accreditation, the State Board of Education asked him to resign to allow the new governor to appoint his own president.
Monroe P. Hammond
Hammond was superintendent of Hugo schools prior to being appointed as seventh president. He earned his B.A. at Ouachita College in Arkadelphia, Ark., and Master’s at the University of Chicago. As president, he continued Ford’s emphasis on student recruitment. Plus, Hammond encouraged student activities to enrich Northeastern’s educational environment and created a Rural School Department to address needs of teachers in the one-room, country schools.
Northeastern’s athletics teams, known by a variety of names in the school’s early years, adopted the name “Redmen” early in Hammond’s presidency. The first football homecoming game was played on November 21, 1924 and Northeastern’s first homecoming queen was crowned. Annual athletic and academic festivals were held on campus, featuring a variety of sports and athletic and scholastic competitions.
During 1925-26, a student council was organized. In 1927, the basketball team played its first game in the college’s new gymnasium, which was attached to the auditorium built during Gable’s administration.
The new teacher-training building [now Bagley Hall] was built in 1927. Two years later, Northeastern received $95,000 to remodel and equip the Administration Building [now Seminary Hall]. A 1933 survey of all colleges in the state revealed that Northeastern ranked first among state-supported institutions in scholastic preparation of its faculty. In early April 1934, Rho Theta Sigma, the school’s first honor society, was established.
The first president to serve longer than the term of a state governor, Hammond avoided controversy, maintained good relations with state political leaders and worked to improve the college. In the spring of 1933, health problems kept him away from his office for extended periods. On March 11, 1935, just minutes after completing testimony before the house appropriations committee, Hammond suffered a heart attack and died in the Capitol Building in Oklahoma City at the age of 46.
Dr. J.M. Hackler was named acting president while the State Board of Education delayed selecting a permanent replacement. Hackler was the only remaining member of the faculty continuously at Northeastern since it opened in 1909. A Missouri native, he held a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago. He was the first head of Northeastern with a doctorate, which he earned at Stanford in 1930. He had served as superintendent of schools at Westville for four years before joining
Northeastern’s first faculty. In the fall of 1935, Hackler announced the largest building program in the college’s history. The Public Works Administration allocated Northeastern funds for the construction of two dormitories. In 1936, state and federal officials authorized construction of a new stadium west of the first Gable Field [now the Library north parking lot area]. The City of Tahlequah donated five acres immediately north of the campus for the construction of the new stadium. This tract was the first substantial augmentation of the campus since the purchase of the original campus of 40 acres in 1909.
John Samuel Vaughan
Vaughan was elected the ninth president of Northeastern by the State Board of Regents. A Tennessee native, his family moved to Texas while he was in grade school. After teaching briefly in Texas, Vaughan continued his career in education north of the Red River when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. After World War I, Vaughan was appointed registrar and dean of Southeastern State Normal School. While at Southeastern, he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1923 and served as acting president. In 1927, he was appointed State Superintendent of Public Instruction and completed his master’s at the University of Oklahoma.
One of the first items on his agenda was the construction of a library building. Recruiting students remained a high priority, and college-sponsored basketball tournaments, debate contests, and interscholastic meets continued to bring thousands of high school students to campus. Northeastern’s first High School Senior Day registered 500 graduating high school seniors. In 1937, a public relations department was formed to publicize the school and mobilize public support. In 1938, the Northeastern Student Lyceum Bureau was formed in cooperation with the music and speech departments to furnish free entertainment services to schools and civic groups throughout the state.
Since educating teachers was no longer the exclusive mission of the college, Governor Leon C. Phillips signed a bill changing the name of the school to Northeastern State College in 1939. Concerned by the school’s high drop-out rate among first-year students, President Vaughan set up a freshman counseling service.
As the Great Depression continued to grip the nation, declining state revenue forced budget cuts, and Northeastern resigned from the North Central Association of Accredited Colleges and Universities as North Central would not give the institution its stamp of approval until the state appropriated adequate funds for the school.
World War II expanded Northeastern’s mission. By the end of summer of 1942, students were enrolled in Northeastern’s Navy Civilian Pilot Training Program, the Enlisted Reserve Corps, and the Army Reserve Civilian Pilot Training program. Northeastern also provided 18 courses for special training designed to help the war effort. The
Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, better known as the GI Bill®, provided educational benefits for returning veterans. This bill had an enormous impact on Northeastern’s growth, which continued with little interruption for 25 years. The return to peace-time conditions produced surplus military supplies, buildings, and equipment, which Vaughan purchased for the campus at low prices from military installments throughout the area.
On January 21, 1951, Vaughan died at his home on campus from coronary thrombosis. This event marked the end of an administration that doubled the size of the college’s physical plant despite depression, world war, and its turbulent aftermath. The results of his administration still stand on the campus of Northeastern - the first two permanent dormitories, Wilson and Haskell Halls, the Industrial Arts Building [now CASE building], the Center For Performing Arts, the Student Center [now the Administration Building] under construction at the time of his death, and the John Vaughan Library, named in his honor by the regents less than a month before his death.
Louis H. Bally
Bally was a member of the faculty since 1922, and deserved much of the credit for building a biology program respected throughout the region for preparing students for careers in medicine. One of the first members of the Northeastern faculty to earn a doctorate, the young biologist worked on key college committees and earned a reputation as one of the school’s most productive professors. In 1946 he was appointed dean of the college. Named as acting president in January 1951, Bally proposed to continue the program designed by Vaughan and promised that there would be no changes made at the college. During Bally’s interim presidency, curricular and extra curricular activities continued as they had under Vaughan.
Harrell E. Garrison
Garrison, director of the reading laboratory at the University of Oklahoma, was named Northeastern’s president on March 12, 1951. The 42-year-old native of Hugo was the first president of the Tahlequah college born in Oklahoma and the first permanent president to hold a Ph.D.
The increase in enrollment and expansion of the physical plant in the six years following World War II was dwarfed by growth and building that occurred in the 19 years Garrison led the college. A 1932 graduate of Bethany-Peniel College in Bethany, Okla., Garrison earned a master’s from Northwestern University and a doctorate at George Peabody College. In 1954, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education granted Northeastern and the other five former teachers colleges permission to offer a fifth-year program leading to a master’s degree in teaching.
Garrison began hiring faculty with doctorates and terminal degrees. Colleges and schools informed the Northeastern president that better funding and expanded library facilities were also essential for accreditation. Increased funding and a determined campaign to meet NCA standards earned Northeastern accreditation in 1958. The same year, Northeastern’s football team earned its first national championship in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Another major accomplishment of the Garrison presidency was his successful campaign to bring natural gas to the college and the Tahlequah community. After 19 years of surging enrollment and unparalleled campus construction, Garrison announced his retirement. He left a physical legacy in brick and mortar that may never be equaled on the Northeastern campus. In his final year, however, enrollment slowed, dorm occupancy declined, and student unrest increased, leaving his successor a turbulent legacy.
Robert E. Collier
Collier, a 43-year-old microbiologist serving as Vice President for Academic Affairs at East Texas State University in Commerce was elected Northeastern’s 12th president on April 1, 1970. He had earned his bachelor’s and master’s from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. Collier was immediately confronted with student unrest, racial tension, declining enrollment, and financial problems, including bond payments and soaring inflation.
His administration introduced innovative programs, which were relevant to students’ needs to attract students to fill the dorms. Northeastern was the first of the state’s four-year schools to offer instruction in a field that would revolutionize society before the end of the century – computer science. He also purchased computer equipment for use in the business office plus admissions and records.
Other curriculum changes led to a new degree in law enforcement and cooperative program in medical technology, as well as tourism management, Indian studies, engineering physics, allied health services, learning disabilities, early childhood education, safety and finance. At the graduate level, a curriculum for training teachers for junior college positions and a master of business administration were authorized.
In 1971, Collier obtained regents’ approval to establish the Northeastern State College Educational Foundation to raise private funds to support academic excellence. Donations accumulated slowly, but within several years, the school was able to offer scholarships funded by the interest on gifts to the school.
On April 12-13, 1973, the college hosted the first American Indian Symposium as part of Indian Heritage Week. This tradition still continues. The President’s Leadership Class was established in 1974, and two years later a Reserve Officers Training Corps program was introduced. In spite of his innovative initiatives, the school’s financial problems worsened, and the Board of Regents dismissed Collier on July 21, 1977.
Fite, acting president of Northeastern, had been a professor and administrator at Northeastern for almost a quarter of a century. Employed in 1953 as an associate professor of music, he later served as coordinator of secondary education. In 1963, he became dean of the college. During the afternoon of July 21, 1978, Fite received a phone call from the president of the Board of Regents for Oklahoma Colleges, asking him to lead the school until a new president could be hired. Perhaps his greatest achievement was to calm the turbulence that characterized the Collier years. Most of the problems remained, but they appeared less divisive under Fite. Students remained unhappy about housing rules when Fite’s successor arrived, but he did not face an immediate student rebellion. During the 1977-78 academic year, Fite led Northeastern in a transitional period following a decade of confrontation and preceding an era of stability and growth.
W. Roger Webb
When Webb became president of Northeastern Oklahoma State University on July 1, 1978, he faced problems that had led to the dismissal of his predecessor. A native of Heavener, Okla., Webb was 36 when he was named the 14th president of Northeastern. Webb earned a bachelor’s from Oklahoma State University and a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Before completing law school, he was employed by the Department of Public Safety as a legal assistant and was appointed its commissioner in July 1974.
As Northeastern’s president, Webb developed programs, such as optometry, and secured an agreement with Monterrey Technological Institute in Northern Mexico for cooperative research and technological exchanges. He encouraged expansion of instruction in cutting-edge technology that enabled NSU students to compete in global markets. The school’s academic horizons were broadened following his trip to China, by the establishment of a sister institution in that nation. Domestically, the school’s reach was expanded by the establishment of a branch campus in Muskogee. Webb also created projects to enhance the school’s reputation and interact with the public, such as the construction of a fitness trail on campus property, the hosting of a canoe race on Illinois River in cooperation with Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, participation in the Save the Illinois River (STIR) project, Oklahoma Homecoming ’90, Renaissance, Kaleidoscope, and the summer River City music programs.
The bond crisis was resolved in 1982 when the legislature established a $9 million escrow account to reduce bonded indebtedness of Northeastern and two other state universities. Northeastern’s recruitment efforts reversed the downward trend in enrollment and increased occupancy in its dormitories. Construction resumed on Northeastern’s campus, including a gazebo, Visitor Information Center, Fitness Center, and a Technology Building eventually named for Webb. After reversing the fortunes of the university, Webb left the school in 1997 to accept the presidency of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
Larry B. Williams
Williams, who earned a bachelor’s degree and M.B.A. at Central State College and a Ph.D. at the University of Oklahoma, had extensive academic administrative experience before accepting the presidency at Southeastern in 1987. In July 1997, when Williams became Northeastern’s 15th president, the school faced no looming economic, academic, or social problems. However, uncertainty concerning the Rogers University consortium (formerly the University Center at Tulsa) continued to threaten Northeastern’s Tulsa-area recruitment base. Other issues facing Williams included deferred maintenance of buildings, large-scale renovations, and a downtrend in enrollment.
Increased emphasis on recruitment and retention improved enrollment and the regents authorized the construction of a branch campus in Broken Arrow, which ensured Northeastern’s share of the Tulsa market. NSU began offering courses in Broken Arrow in the fall semester of 2001 and eventually six major academic buildings were completed in the Tulsa suburb. Williams considered the addition of the Broken Arrow campus his major accomplishment as president.
In 2007, Northeastern’s designation as the “Redmen,” which dated from the 1920s, was abandoned in favor of the “RiverHawks.” The change produced considerable controversy in the academic community but was justified by Williams as required by NCAA policy. As the centennial of the establishment of Northeastern approached, Williams laid plans for a major observance, including the creation of a new entrance to the campus, featuring a “Centennial Plaza” with a larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of Sequoyah. Almost exactly two years before the anniversary, Williams suffered a massive heart attack, which compelled his retirement a year later.
Kim Cherry, Vice President for Administration, was appointed Acting and later Interim President when Williams’ health required long-term medical care and it became apparent that he would be unable to resume leadership of NSU. She remained in the position until a permanent president was chosen. The recovery from the economic downturn at the beginning of the new century was not complete in the spring of 2007 when Governor Henry vetoed the budget approved by the legislature. The action forced Northeastern’s Acting President to implement a hiring freeze until differences between the governor and the legislature were resolved.
Betz, Chancellor of University of Wisconsin –River Falls, was named NSU’s 17th president in April 2008. He had begun his academic career at Northeastern as assistant professor of political science in 1971, after obtaining a Ph.D. from University of Denver. In this phase of his career at NSU, he served in a series of administrative posts before he resigned in 1994 to accept the position of Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Palmer College, Davenport, Iowa. In 1999, he moved to the University of Central Oklahoma as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs until 2005 when he accepted the Wisconsin post. He assumed the presidency of NSU after 23 years as professor and administrator at Tahlequah and with 14 years of upper-level administrative experience. As president, Betz reorganized the university’s executive leadership team and reversed a three-year down-turn in enrollment. To honor student athletes who had represented the school as Redmen, the new president converted a surviving section of the grandstands of Gable Field constructed during the 1930s into a wall of honor. The university’s gridiron, the third Gable Field, was renovated and designated as Doc Wadley Stadium. A long-delayed database management system was implemented and Betz continued efforts to globalize the school’s curriculum and vision to prepare students for careers in the 21st century. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, Betz resigned his position to become president of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.
Tadlock, who holds a doctorate in administration and leadership from Miami (Ohio) University and a master's degree in English secondary education from Utah State University, joined the UW-Oshkosh administration in 2007. He has been dean of the College of Professional Studies, graduate dean and professor of Educational Leadership at California State-Monterey Bay, 2006-07; dean of the College of Professional Studies, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and professor of Professional Education at Bemidji State University, 2001-06, and interim associate dean of the College of Education, Middle Level Education coordinator and program chair, and associate professor in the department of Elementary Education at Utah State, 1993-2001.
Tadlock continued on the path begun by Betz of quality education including collaborating with educational partners and working towards global awareness. He has taken students to China and strongly believes in international programs. Foreign presence on campus, which began during Webb’s tenure with China and Mexico visits, has continued with Betz and Tadlock by having Japanese and Danish students studying on campus. Tadlock also continued encouraging faculty and students to study abroad. With China’s growing economy, NSU has signed agreements with universities in Guangzhou and Weifang. Tadlock encouraged closer partnerships with the City of Tahlequah and Cherokee Nation. Construction and/or renovation projects on campus during Tadlock’s tenure included the Redmen Heritage Wall, Second Century Plaza, Capitola Wadley Center for Reading and Technology, Performing Arts Center renovation, groundbreaking for the new events center, as well as plans to replace outmoded dorms. This sounds like he did a LOT in the six months he was here.