MIAMI – “I feel like working in the president’s office has been an achievement. Having worked in the office as a student, I can say that it was a definite goal of mine that I was able to accomplish.”
Peggy Rhine is a staple of Northeast Oklahoma A&M College (NEO). Much like Odin standing outside the Dayle Creech Library Administration building, she is a solid part of the NEO tradition.
Peggy Louise Rhine (Tramel) has worked at NEO for over 35 years and most of that time has been in the role of executive assistant to the president.
She will retirement at the end of the month and be succeeded by Cindy Bigby.
Rhine’s story has themes that many in northeast Oklahoma will find familiar.
As the daughter of a part-time preacher with a full-time job at the Georgia Pacific paper mill and a homemaker/shoe store manager, she grew up outside of Pryor, near Lake Hudson.
“We grew up in a small… well it wasn’t even a town. We had a combination post office/general store, one church, and the two room elementary school,” she said.
By the time she was in high school at Pryor, Rhine already knew that she wanted to study secretarial science. She came to NEO in 1969 on a scholarship.
Her first position at NEO came while she was a student, working in the president’s office under Dr. Bruce G. Carter, the school's longest-serving president.
After marrying Jim Rhine and graduating with her Associate Degree in 1971, Rhine began work as the secretary to Dr. J.D. Wilhoit, dean of occupational education who retired in 1987.
However, it was not long before she and her husband were expecting their first child.
In 1972, after having their son nine weeks premature, the Rhines moved away from the area as Jim worked with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
It was not until 1981 that she returned to NEO to work for Dr. Charles Angle, dean of academic affairs, who had been dean of students while she attended NEO.
“Within about four years, the lady who was secretary to the president at that time decided to retire, so I moved into this office,” Peggy Rhine said.
“I’ve seen a lot of change,” she said. “I’ve worked for several different presidents; I worked for Dr. (Bobby) Wright, Dr. Clyde Jenkins (interim), Dr. Jerry Carroll, Dr. Jim Lovell (interim), Dr. Glenn Mayle, Dr. Tom Poole (interim) and now I work with Dr. Hale, so I’ve worked for seven presidents and interims.”
During her time at NEO, Rhine has enjoyed getting to know instructors and students alike.
“I love working with everyone on campus,” she said. “I enjoy talking to the instructors and I like the comradery.”
Aside from the professional aspect of working at NEO, Rhine also has made several lasting connections here.
“NEO is like my family,” she said. “I have formed very close friendships with the people that I have worked with over the years. When our kids were growing up we always went to the athletic events, so it’s always been a very big part of our life.”
As Rhine enters retirement, she hopes to spend time with her husband, her three children, her four grandchildren, and travelling.
“I want to travel and visit places in the U.S. that I haven’t seen, such as Seattle, Washington, the state of New York, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Niagara Falls,” she said. My husband and I enjoy cruises and we plan to take an Alaskan cruise as well as a European cruise. I plan to spend more time with my grandchildren and I would like to do volunteer work.
“I plan to discard my alarm clock and when I get up in the morning and have time to read the newspaper and do the crossword puzzle.”
Rhine’s message to students encourages them to get the most out of their NEO experience:
“Enjoy your time as a student at NEO and take advantage of the opportunities to get involved with campus life and be a part of various clubs and organizations.”
Part of Rhine’s legacy is Peggy’s Closet.
She understood that students did not always have access to professional wear for jobs, interviews, or on-campus events.
She coordinated with NEO Women and Friends to establish Peggy’s Closet; an on-campus location where students can go to receive free professional clothing.
“I will truly miss everyone at NEO when I retire and NEO will always be a part of my life as it has been since 1969,” Rhine said.