Roger Webb is the longest serving President in the history of Northeastern Oklahoma State University. His arrival in September of 1978 was an exciting and exhilarating time for the oldest university in Oklahoma. Not only was Webb one of the most charismatic college presidents in the nation; he was also the youngest.
As a journalism major and staff writer for The Northeastern student newspaper, the present journalist covered the Northeastern State University campus in 1978 and witnessed the arrival of Webb after his first college president, Robert Collier, retired. Collier was a distinguished gentleman and will always be remembered as such; however, after many years of service, it was time for a young and dashing president. Roger Webb was all of that and more.
The Tulsa World covered big events in Tahlequah and the changes Webb brought to Northeastern were enormous. When the present writer arrived on the campus in September of 1975 the official name of the college was Northeastern Oklahoma State University and the abbreviation was NEOSU. The school mascot was an American Indian. Having the largest American Indian population of any American university in the world made the American Indian affiliation logical. There was no negative or pejorative use of the American Indian affiliation.
The main building at Northeastern in 1978 was Seminar Hall. It was a magnificent building. Seminary Hall was filled with memories and history. The walk to the president’s home from Logan Hall passed the University Center, the Fine Arts Building and Seminary Hall. The grounds at Northeastern were gold, and brown, and red with the brightly colored leaves of autumn. It was a beautiful college campus. And that 1978 Thanksgiving Day dinner was a wonderful meal at a great university.
The decision to stay on campus and study was based on the desire to remain on the Dean’s List and to save the cost of a round trip flight home to South Carolina. Having flown home on May 30, 1978, the frugal college budget did not allow flying back again in November. The invitation to have Thanksgiving Dinner with the President and his family was a noble gesture of a humble man who never promoted himself; however, he gave his all for his students.
In speaking with the Northeastern Foundation this week, there have been many changes to the university since the present writer became a journalism major there in 1975. The school has grown and prospered and is now twice the size of the 5,000 student enrollment of 40 years ago. Roger Webb retired and has a building named after him there. He wrote to the author when he became a professor at the Ecole Normale Superieure in 1984. He wrote again after seeing a photograph of his journalism graduate in the New York Times teaching as a professor at Howard University on April 21, 1994. And finally he called the writer after the Coup d’ Etat took over the government in Mali in 2012.
He wrote “Your Northeastern family is proud of you.” And this journalist is thankful and proud to be a graduate of Northeastern Oklahoma State University. This Thanksgiving, no matter where you are, remember Thanksgiving is in your heart. Remember just one moment when you shared the joy of Thanksgiving with family or friends and no one, no matter how cruel or evil, can take that memory away.
Happy Thanksgiving, America.