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Following one of the most dynamic decades in college history, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College President Dr. Jeff Hale recently announced his retirement. Dr. Hale will step down from official duties on July 31 after 11 years of service.

“Eleven years ago, the OSU A&M Board of Regents gave my family and me the opportunity of a lifetime and since 2008, the NEO students, faculty, staff, and alumni gave us memories that will be with us forever,” Hale said. “Their work ethic, motivation to excel, and strong personal character motivated me to do by best each and every day. My wife Donna and I have a combined sixty-five years of service to public education in Oklahoma. We are grateful for all the help and support that we’ve received across the state, especially during our days in Miami, Norman, and Durant.”

Arriving on the NEO campus following a devastating flood that damaged much of campus in 2007, Dr. Hale set out to rebuild and shape the college into the premier two-year institution in the United States for academic achievement, athletic accomplishment, and co-curricular engagement. During his tenure, NEO cemented its reputation as the largest two-year residential college in the state of Oklahoma.

NEO achieved new academic heights under Dr. Hale’s leadership with the introduction of the Center for Academic Success and Advising (CASA). CASA, along with many other student support programs allowed Hale’s administration to raise average graduation rates from just under 300 each year, to nearly 450 every spring. The growth occurred as the Oklahoma legislature cut funding to higher education by more than 30%.

Along with growth in academic programs and improved students completion measures, Dr. Hale cultivated a culture of nationally competitive athletic teams. Since reintroducing the wrestling program to the NEO campus in 2013, student-athletes have claimed three team national championships and ten individual national titles. As the only two-year public college in Oklahoma with a football team, NEO has claimed regional and conference titles and recently had three alumni selected in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Competitive agriculture teams have also flourished under Dr. Hale, including the Equestrian National Champion Brittany Abernathy in 2017. Horse and Livestock judging teams consistently place in the top-ten nationally under Hale-era coaches, and the NEO Rodeo Team is sending two competitors to the College National Finals Rodeo in June 2019. In all, NEO’s nine intercollegiate athletic teams and four competitive agriculture teams answered Dr. Hale’s call for national success.

Dr. Hale’s most lasting impact will be in the areas of campus improvement and renovation. Working with business partners and regents, Dr. Hale led over $70 million in campus improvements, beginning with the Carter Student Union renovation. Improvements continue today with the recent completion of the NEO Soccer Locker Rooms and the renovations of Copen Hall. Over a dozen buildings were constructed or renovated during Dr. Hale’s tenure, including two new housing buildings.

Dr. Hale also focused on creating a fiscally stable institution through a combination of fundraising and thoughtful spending. As Oklahoma reduced support to higher education, Dr. Hale encouraged scholarship growth and increased revenue streams to support the college’s mission. He partnered with the NEO Development Foundation to bring assets from around $750,000 in 2009 to more than $7 million today. This growth in funding allows NEO to award 66 scholarships producing a record $140,000 each year in student support.

“Dr. Hale has provided outstanding leadership to NEO during his 11 years as president,” said Calvin Anthony, Chair of the A&M Board of Regents. “On behalf of the entire Board, I want to thank Dr. Hale for his service to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College, its students, faculty, and staff. As we all know, considerable budget challenges have marked the past several years. In spite of these challenges, Dr. Hale has ensured that NEO continues to provide outstanding educational opportunities for its students. We commend him for a job well done and wish him and Donna the very best in the years ahead.”

“Oklahomans need and deserve a system of higher education that prepares them for a highly competitive 21st century world and I’m hopeful Governor Stitt and legislative leaders will value their opportunity to invest in the next generation of young learners,” Hale concluded.

An alumnus of El Reno Junior College (now Redlands Community College) in Reno, Okla., Dr. Hale earned his B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. After teaching in the Mustang Public School System, he began his higher education career at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He soon was selected to be the first director of the Center of Student Life at the University of Oklahoma, where he spent ten years. In 2000, he became the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing, and Director of the Intercollegiate Athletics Department at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, Okla.

Hale plans to relocate to the Oklahoma City area to be close to family. The A&M Board of Regents will soon lay out a plan to conduct an inclusive and extensive search for the next NEO president.

Highlights from Dr. Hale’s tenure:

  • Over $70 million in campus improvements
    • Milligan Hall
    • NEO Wrestling Building
    • NEO Suites
    • Soccer Locker Room
    • Lab/Science Building
    • Student Union Renovation
    • Red Robertson Field Renovation
    • Ivan Crossland Senior Football Complex
    • Kah-Ne Hall Renovation
    • Cunningham Hall Renovation
    • Ongoing: Copen Hall Renovation
    • Planned: Fine Arts Renovation
    • Shipley Hall Renovation
    • Animal Science Building
    • Synar Farm Improvements
  • Installed 32,000 feet of fiber-optic cable and massive security upgrade
  • Secured over $10 million in federal grants
  • Received the largest single gift in NEO History at $1.1 million
  • Established President’s Partners Program
  • Re-introduced Miss Indian NEO Pageant
  • Established the American Indian Center for Excellence
  • Introduced the Top Ten Freshman Program to recognize outstanding students
  • Created the NEO Honors Program
  • Oversaw the creation of the NEO/GRDA Crop Research Farm
  • Athletic Success
    • 20 Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference crowns: (6 softball, 5 women’s basketball, 2 football (SWJCFC), 2 men’s basketball, 2 men’s soccer, 2 baseball and 1 women’s soccer)
    • 14 Region II Championships: (6 softball, 3 women’s basketball, 2 men’s basketball, 2 men’s soccer and 1 women’s soccer)
    • 14 Finished season ranked in the NJCAA Top 20: (6 softball-2nd in 2015, 3 women’s basketball-8th in 2011-12, 2 men’s basketball-10th in 2015-16, 2 football-8th in 2017)
    • Reintroduced Norse Stars Dance Team and Wrestling
    • Introduced Men’s and Women’s Soccer
  • Agriculture Success
    • Equestrian: Three Regional Championships, 2017 Individual National Champion, 15 National Qualifiers
    • Equine Judging: 20 competition championships
    • Livestock Judging: 30 Top Ten Finishes
    • Rodeo: 10 College National Finals Rodeo qualifiers

For more information, contact Jordan Adams at Jordan.m.adams@neo.edu or call 918-540-6211.

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