MIAMI — Northeastern Oklahoma A&M president Dr. Jeff Hale will retire effective July 31.

Hale, who has been NEO president since 2008, announced his intentions in a letter to staff, faculty and students Thursday afternoon.

It’s not known when the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges will name an interim.

“This wonderful small college has had such a positive impact on my family,” he said in his letter announcing his decision. “You provided the Hales an opportunity of a lifetime and we have met some of the most genuine, hard-working and giving people through our time at NEO. The support and encouragement that we have received from faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community gave my family the strength to deal with many personal challenges during our days at NEO. We are grateful!”

He and his wife, Donna, plan to return to the Oklahoma City area to be closer to family.

His retirement brings to a close a 36-year career in education that began at Mustang in 1983 as a history teacher and coach and then with stops at Miami (Ohio) University, the University of Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma State University before being named NEO’s 15th president.

“Dr. Hale has provided outstanding leadership to NEO during his 11 years as president,” said Calvin Anthony, Chair of A&M Board of Regents. “On behalf of the entire Board of Regents, 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 assured 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.”

Under Hale, the college has experienced a meteoric growth spurt, both in enrollment and campus improvements.

In 2010 NEO was named one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation.

More than a dozen campus facility projects totaling more than $60 million have been completed during Hale’s tenure, most recently a complex that houses the Norse and Lady Norse soccer programs.

His work with the NEO Foundation has resulted in its growth from $400,000 to more than $6 million.

Hale knows firsthand about life at a community college. After graduating from Yukon in 1976, he attended El Reno Junior College, now Redlands Community College.

In addition to his duties at the college, Hale has been active with the Miami Area Chamber of Commerce and has been chair of the Miami Community Facilities Authority, which oversees the Miami Multi-Purpose Sports Complex at Red Robertson Field.

In closing his letter to the NEO family, he said “… I am proud of the work and results that Team NEO has accomplished during our time in Miami and sincerely hope that you and the Regents will continue to be the strong advocates for quality public higher education in far northeast Oklahoma. The citizens of northeast Oklahoma and the four-state area need NEO more today than ever before.”