MARCH 25, 2009

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Northeastern State University Celebrates Founders Day

Photo of NSU centennial crowd at the institution's Centennial Plaza.
NSU celebrated Founders' Day with a ceremony at the historic institution's Centennial Plaza on March 6.

Northeastern State University ushered in its second century with a ceremony commemorating Founders Day at the historic institution’s Centennial Plaza on Friday, March 6.

“We are bidding farewell to our first century in the most fitting ways,” said NSU President Dr. Don Betz. “But that century is over and now is the time for us to begin our second century. That century will be written by those of us here today in this audience and by people not even born yet.”

Founders Day honors the day the Oklahoma legislature purchased the Cherokee Nation Female Seminary and the surrounding land from the Cherokee Nation in 1909.

“We have a message for the next 100 years,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith. “Do not settle for anything less than the Cherokee legacy established here, and that is to survive, adapt and grow.”

The ceremony also included the dedication of Centennial Plaza, a new centralized meeting area in front of Seminary Hall that pays tribute to the Cherokees, who had the foresight to lay the groundwork for higher education Oklahoma. A bronze statue of Sequoyah, the 19th century diplomat and creator of the Cherokee syllabary, designed by NSU alumnus Daniel HorseChief, stands at the heart of the plaza.

“What a wonderful, historic day,” said NSU alumna Winnie Perdue, a direct descendant of Sequoyah. “We truly stand on hallowed ground. Sequoyah had a vision, and his brilliant accomplishment has never been equaled. His achievements influenced the establishment of the Cherokee Female Seminary, which became Northeastern State University.”

Cherokee Traditionalist Benny Smith conducted a Cherokee blessing for the Sequoyah sculpture. He was joined by individuals from the seven Cherokee clans.

“We are honoring this milestone of achievement as we stand here gathered on this historic campus,” said Jay Hannah, NSU alumnus and master of ceremonies. “It’s right that we pause to consider the contributions of the Cherokee people who founded this great institution and at this hour, on this day, acknowledge the results of their dreams.”

L’Toya Knighten, with Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry’s Office, read a proclamation from the governor dedicating March 6, 2009 as NSU Founders Day in Oklahoma.

“We celebrate a significant event in Oklahoma’s history and certainly in the history of Northeastern State University,” said Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson. “Over the past century, we’ve seen Northeastern evolve into one of the senior regional universities in this state.”

Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins joined the congratulations of the university, praising the successes of Northeastern alumni as they have made their way into careers in the public spotlight.

“Celebrate the successes of your alumni, hope for the successes of your students, and honor the impact you have had on the state of Oklahoma,” said Askins.

Former State Sen. Herb Rozell praised the educators of Northeastern for helping students find career paths and leading them to areas of study they might not have considered otherwise.

“I know that the reason you’re here is for the love you have and I have for Northeastern,” said Rozell. “I’m happy to be here representing Northeastern as an alumnus. If it hadn’t been for this institution, I don’t know where I would ended up. I’m extremely honored to be among you.”

Tahlequah Mayor Ken Purdy praised the continued partnership between the university, the city and the Cherokee Nation in making Tahlequah such a successful and growing community over the past 100 years.

“Through the continued collaboration between the city, the university and the tribe, we will ensure that the next 100 years will be just as fruitful as the past century we celebrate today,” said Purdy.

In addition to the featured speakers, Cherokee Storyteller Gayle Ross shared a tale of the Cherokee Rosebuds, which were what the females Seminarians called themselves, and Cherokee Nation First Lady and NSU alumna Bobbie Gail Smith led an invocation for the ceremony.

Entertainment was provided by the NSU Brass Quintet under the direction of Dr. Norman Wika; the Cherokee National Youth Choir, conducted by Mary Kay Henderson; and the NSU/Community Choir, under the direction of Dr. Don Studebaker and Dr. Ralph Whitworth.

Following the ceremony, a reception was held in the NSU Science Center, and 100 students were given $100 Centurion Scholarships during a random drawing.