WILBURTON, OK (Sept. 26, 2019) – Eastern Oklahoma State College President Stephen E. Smith, Ed.D. has informed the EOSC Board of Regents that the current 2019-2020 academic year will conclude his service as president to the college after 13 years.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve as president of this historic institution. I cannot say enough about the various members of the faculty, staff and administration that have helped assist with the total transformation of Eastern Oklahoma State College over the past 13 years,” Smith said. “It has been exciting to be part of the many changes and improvements that have taken place during my tenure, including improvements to academics, technology, finances, campus facilities, marketing, as well as community and public relations. It has been equally rewarding to provide a college environment that our students helped develop to ensure they have a quality campus life as they pursue their dream of completing a college degree.”
EOSC Board of Regents Chair Bobby Mouser praised Smith for his efforts and 15-year service to Eastern.
“I would like to thank Dr. Smith for his leadership at Eastern Oklahoma State College. He has been a passionate leader and a positive change agent for Eastern. He has met every challenge head on and worked with the Board, staff and students to provide solutions that ensured the institution would continue to provide a quality education in a pleasant environment and at an affordable cost.
“Dr. Smith had a role in many significant achievements during his tenure, including earning a number one ranking in the state for our nursing program, the development of five fully online degree programs, awards of more than $40 million in grant funding and Eastern’s positive role in regional economic development. Dr. Smith will be missed and I wish him the best,” Mouser said.
In an announcement to the campus community and EOSC Board of Regents, Smith stated that he made the decision well in advance to give the Board sufficient time to identify a successor for the 2020-21 academic year. His last scheduled date of employment is June 30, 2020.
Mouser said the Board of Regents is preparing to conduct a national search and the process will include opportunities for the Eastern community to provide feedback throughout the process, including input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.
“We will begin a national search for a new president in October,” Mouser said. “We will have ample time to find a replacement and have a smooth leadership transition.”
Smith became Eastern’s 20th president on March 28, 2007. Upon his appointment as president, Smith was 38 years of age, making him the youngest college president in the state at that time.
Smith said that thanks to the collaborative efforts of the entire Eastern community, the institution has achieved significant milestones in the past 13 years.
Eastern received its largest endowed scholarship gift in the college’s 111-year history in 2016 with a $1 million donation from Pete Tourtellotte and his family in honor of their father, former president E.E. Tourtellotte. Additional fundraising efforts have resulted in about $3 million in donations and gifts to the EOSC Foundation and college. Smith also established Eastern’s Sapphire Ball, an annual event to recognize alumni, employees and community supporters. In 10 years, the event has raised more than $136,000 for student scholarships.
Efforts to advance Eastern’s academic programs include the completion of the Higher Learning Commission’s five-year Assessment Academy to improve student learning outcomes, the development of the college’s first study abroad program, the launch of five fully online degree programs, and the introduction of new degree programs in respiratory therapy and ranch management–stocker operations. In 2017, Eastern received a 10-year reaffirmation of its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
In 2015, Eastern launched Mountaineer Radio, a 25,000 watt commercial radio station that reaches into five counties in the college’s service area. Students in the mass communication degree program serve as interns and on-air personalities, producing news and weather reports, public service announcements and providing play-by-play and color commentary during local sports broadcasts.
Eastern added men’s and women’s soccer to its athletics program in 2014, bringing in an additional 40 students annually and adding international diversity to the student population.
During Smith’s tenure, there have been numerous improvements and renovations to facilities in both Wilburton and McAlester. Construction of a new student center was completed in 2009, the first new building on campus in 40 years. New apartment-style student housing opened in 2012, and two state-of-the art greenhouses were built to support Eastern’s agriculture students and aquaponics programs.
Smith has also led several efforts to improve community outreach in southeast Oklahoma. He established the Four County Small Business Consortium, in partnership with the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, to offer no cost entrepreneurial and small business management advising to help Oklahomans start and grow small businesses. The Consortium serves citizens in Latimer, Pittsburg, Haskell and LeFlore counties. He also helped develop the Career and College Expo, a hands-on experience designed to encourage eighth grade students to think about their future education and career goals and take the necessary steps to work toward them.
“I really appreciate the partnerships we have created over the years with organizations such as the Choctaw Nation, Kiamichi Technology Center and the Puterbaugh Foundation, just to name a few,” Smith said. “We are also very grateful to the various donors to Eastern that have helped us in meeting our mission.”
Shelley Free, superintendent of Kiamichi Technology Centers and recipient of the Eastern Distinguished Alumnus Award, reflected on the importance Smith placed on local partnerships during his presidency.
“One of the many things that impressed me about Dr. Smith during his tenure as president is his steadfast devotion to developing relationships and championing partnerships between Eastern Oklahoma State College and K-12 schools, Kiamichi Technology Centers, and the stakeholders of southeast Oklahoma,” Free said. “Generations of Eastern students will continue to benefit from the vision, hard work, innovation, and seeds of greatness Dr. Smith planted during his Presidency.”
The Puterbaugh Foundation is an organization that focuses its giving on education, medical research, and youth and social services. Puterbaugh Foundation Chair and retired Oklahoma Chief Supreme Court Justice Steven W. Taylor expressed his gratitude for Smith’s leadership.
“For many years The Puterbaugh Foundation has provided major annual scholarship support to EOSC. We have always appreciated the stewardship of these funds provided by President Steve Smith,” Taylor said. “He has been a positive force and a great leader. He will be missed. The Puterbaugh Foundation wishes him the very best in the future.”
Before joining Eastern as the dean of the McAlester Campus in July 2005, Smith gained experience in both the public school and CareerTech systems. He began his career as a high school assistant, principal and coach at Stigler Public Schools. Upon leaving Stigler, he was hired as an assistant principal at Stillwater High School, where he became one of the state’s leaders in the development of the Teachers as Advisors program. Smith presented the concepts of this program to more than 100 public schools across Oklahoma. He was also named as a two-time finalist for Assistant Principal of the Year in the state of Oklahoma.
After his tenure with Stillwater Public Schools, Smith remained in Stillwater and was named the director of Full-Time Instructional Programs at Meridian Technology Center. During his time in this position, he assisted with the development of the first precision metal fabrication program in Oklahoma, as well as one of the first bio-technology programs. At the time of their development, both programs were considered cutting-edge training programs throughout the state.
A native of southeast Oklahoma and member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, Smith graduated from Quinton High School and earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in education from Northeastern State University. He also earned an education specialist and doctorate in educational leadership from Oklahoma State University. Smith received national recognition for his research on the transition of dependent school district students to independent school districts in Oklahoma.
Smith said he has accomplished many of the goals he set out to achieve at Eastern and is looking forward to his next challenge.
“I have reached a point in the retirement system that I am fully vested and this will allow me to seek other professional opportunities. From a personal standpoint, I am excited about what the future holds as I seek another position that I hope will be as equally rewarding as the one I have held for the past 13 years,” Smith said. “Whether the new opportunity is in education, private business, or the non-profit sector, it will be a new professional chapter in my life that I look forward to exploring.”