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Northeastern State University (2009)

Brief Description:

Northeastern State University was founded in 1846 as the Cherokee National Female Seminary, opening its doors in 1851 as the first institution of higher learning in Indian Territory. On March 6, 1909, the Oklahoma legislature purchased the Seminary from the Cherokee Nation, and the following September classes began at the newly formed Northeastern State Normal School in Tahlequah. To commemorate this milestone in the institution’s history, the NSU Centennial Celebration officially begins on Founders Day, March 6, 2009. 

Through the decades, NSU has played a key role in the area’s history and development. Today, NSU is a comprehensive regional university and the fourth largest public four-year institution of higher learning in Oklahoma, with academic emphasis on business, technology, social sciences, mathematics, sciences, optometry, education, language and the arts. The main campus in Tahlequah and branch campuses in Muskogee and Broken Arrow provide outstanding educational and cultural opportunities for nearly 9,000 students and the citizens of eastern Oklahoma. Almost 29 percent of NSU’s student population are self-identified American Indians, and each year the institution graduates the highest number of American Indians among public four-year institutions nationwide. NSU faculty and staff are committed to preparing students to succeed as global citizens by providing exceptional undergraduate and graduate degree programs, along with the professional Doctorate of Optometry.


President's Quote:

“Northeastern State and the culture of learning have been synonymous in eastern Oklahoma since 1909 and the state’s establishment of the Normal School in Tahlequah to educate teachers for the brand new state. But the legacy of learning runs deep in these hills of Cherokee County, back to the establishment of the Cherokee National Male and Female Seminaries in 1846. The culture of learning was firmly planted here, for both men and women, and the enduring icon of the commitment initiated by the Cherokee people and continued by the state of Oklahoma is the fabled Seminary Hall, located at the center of the NSU campus in Tahlequah.

“Northeastern State celebrates its Centennial Year as an Oklahoma higher educational institution in 2009, and also the 163rd year that education and the culture of learning have been thriving here. In this way, education has its roots here beside these ever-flowing springs and in these hills. For Oklahoma education, this is hallowed ground.

“Among the events that will commemorate this celebration is the dedication of Centennial Plaza, NSU’s new gathering place just south of Seminary Hall. The focus of this project is a stunning statue of Sequoyah, the creator of the first Native American syllabary, forever linking NSU with its origins as a Normal School beginning in 1909 and as the locus for Cherokee higher education as early as the 1850s. The Plaza and the revitalized entry to the NSU campus in Tahlequah will welcome students, alumni and visitors to the institution, its historic traditions and its future focused on the premise that we are here to encourage and continuously improve the culture of learning, service and creativity.” -- President Don Betz


Fun Facts:

  •  Founded in 1846 as the Cherokee National Female Seminary, NSU’s historic link to the Cherokee Nation and Indian Territory make it the oldest institution of higher learning in Oklahoma.
  • Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry, founded in 1979, is the only optometry college in the state and one of only 18 nationwide. The College partners with the Cherokee Nation to provide rural eye care throughout 14 counties in northeastern Oklahoma.

  • NSU annually confers degrees to more Native American undergraduates than any other public four-year institution in the United States. Greg Drowning Bear received the first bachelors’ degree in Cherokee Education from NSU in Fall 2008. Through a partnership with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, NSU became the only public institution in the nation to offer a teaching degree in a native language in 2005. The program prepares K-12 classroom teachers in Cherokee speaking, reading, writing, and culture.

  • NSU hosts the nation’s only Annual Symposium on the American Indian. Theme of the 37th annual event, scheduled April 15-18, 2009, is “Legacy: 1909 – 2009,” in tribute to the NSU Centennial.

  • The Eleventh Annual Oklahoma Research Day, a consortium event coordinated by Oklahoma’s Regional Universities to provide students and faculty the opportunity to present research to their colleagues, will be held for the second consecutive year next November on the NSU Broken Arrow campus.

  • Under the leadership of Coach Larry Gipson, NSU won the 2003 NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball Championship. In football, Northeastern captured NAIA championships in 1958 and 1994.

  • Through July 1, 2009, NSU Broken Arrow will host “The Wonders of Learning – The Hundred Languages of Children,” a traveling exhibit from the North American Reggio Emilia Alliance. Translated into various languages, the exhibit has been telling the story of the Reggio Emilia, Italy early childhood educational experience worldwide for over 25 years.

  • In tribute to the ‘unsung heroes’ of the past century, the NSU Centennial Committee will present awards to 100 NSU Centurions on Founders Day. The day’s events also include the unveiling on Centennial Plaza of the statue of Sequoyah (George Guess), noted 19th century Cherokee diplomat and creator of the Cherokee syllabary.

  • The NSU Jazz Studies Program, which hosts the 42nd Annual Green Country Jazz Festival in 2009, has released four full-length music CDs in as many years, including “Appointment In Milano,” recognized as one of the top ten jazz CDs by Jazz Education Journal.

  • Muriel Saunders, a 71-year-old grandmother, received nationwide recognition when she was crowned NSU Homecoming Queen in fall 2005.

  • John Tyler Hammons, a 19-year-old political science major, was elected mayor of Muskogee, Oklahoma in May 2008 and is one of the youngest mayors in U.S. history.

  • NSU’s College of Business and Technology offers the only undergraduate Certified Financial Planner Program in Oklahoma.

  • In 2005, readers of Oklahoma Living Magazine named NSU the state’s “Best Regional University.”


Notable Alumni:


  • Government Officials

    Larry Adair – Retired Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives
    James Edmondson – Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court
    W. A. “Drew” Edmondson – Attorney General of Oklahoma
    Sandy Garrett – Oklahoma Superintendent of Education
    Glenn Coffee – Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore

  • Entrepreneurs, Celebrities and Artists

    Dr. Harold Battenfield – Tulsa orthopedic surgeon who holds four U.S. patents for devices used in the practice of orthopedic medicine.
    Bill Bright – Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ
    Charles Faudree – Author and one of America’s top 100 designers, specializing in Country French interiors
    Joan Hill -- Noted Cherokee artist and one of the most awarded women artists in the American Indian art world
    Billie Letts – Author of four novels, including Where the Heart Is (also a motion picture)
    Dennis Letts – Professor turned actor, appearing in movies, TV, and on Broadway
    Larry Fleming – Entrepreneur, one of the largest franchise owners in the Wendy’s restaurant system, and founder of Wendy’s Wonderful Kids
    Teresa Miller – Novelist, Tulsa television host and producer, and founder of the Oklahoma Center for Poets and Writers
    Mary Golda Ross – First woman engineer employed by Lockheed
    Ken Selby – Entrepreneur and founder of the Mazzio’s Corporation, a Midwest chain of nearly 200 affiliated restaurants
    Shawntel Smith – 1996 Miss America
    Carrie Underwood – Grammy awarding-winning country singer and 2005 American Idol winner

  • Educators

    Larry Coker – Former coach of the University of Miami Hurricanes
    Linda Hasler Reid – 2007 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year
    Susan Illgen – 2005 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year and executive director of Smart Start Oklahoma
    Rennard Strickland – Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Oregon, and nationally known authority on Indian law
    Larry Rice – President of Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma
    Steve Smith – President of Eastern Oklahoma State College, Wilburton
    Michael Turner – President of Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, Oklahoma
    Brandon Webb – President of Carl Albert State College, Poteau, Oklahoma


  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662