MIAMI — The tenure of Dr. Jeff Hale wrapped up in a way that became common during his 11 years as president of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College: with a dedication.
Hale, who officially retired Wednesday, July 31, participated in a ribbon cutting for the Outdoor Centennial Classroom, a project spearheaded by NEO First Lady Donna Hale and the NEO Women & Friends.
The centennial classroom was part of a yearlong celebration of the school’s 100th anniversary.
A variety of activities still are in the works for the first semester of the new school year, including homecoming festivities in October and the dedication of a centennial tribal monument.
“What a better way to send Dr. Hale and Donna riding off into the sunset as we Aggies call it than to dedicate this incredible classroom,” said NEO ag instructor Alisen Anderson, representing the NEO Women & Friends.
“I see this project as a new way to reach students,” said Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Dustin Grover, noting that the layout will allow students to “look each other in the eye.”
“The one word that best describes my 11 years here is ‘fun.’ I had so much fun,” Hale said. “There was literally not one day that went by where I didn’t have some kind of enjoyment and entertainment. At the end of the day, it was flat-out fun.
“I can go on and on and on and on about the good things that have happened during our time here.”
Hale announced in May that he planned to retire and return to the Oklahoma City area so he could be closer to the families of he and Donna Hale.
Dr. Hale received a number of “parting gifts,” including an original painting of the Carter House and a Native American blanket as part of the celebration.
More than a dozen campus facility projects totaling more than $60 million have been completed during Hale’s tenure.
There’s also a five-year plan for renovations on the campus’ older buildings. Work on Copen Hall is nearing completion with Shipley and Ables halls on deck.
“On behalf of the entire faculty, staff and student body of NEO, I just want to say ‘thank you’ to you and Mrs. Hale,” interim president Dr. Mark Rasor said. “NEO is a much better place today than it was when you arrived 11 years ago. The physical plant is significantly improved. The morale on campus is significantly improved over the last 11 years. The relationship between the community and the various stakeholders has significantly improved.”
“What most people don’t realize is when Dr. Hale gets complimented on the work he’s done around here, he always passes the credit back to the people on campus. I have seen it time and time again at board meetings and everywhere else. He gives credit to the people back here on campus.”
Rasor vowed to continue the path of excellence Hale established.
Rasor currently is NEO’s Vice President for Fiscal Affairs.