Former Eastern President Dr. Stephen E. Smith inducted into OACC Hall of Fame
WILBURTON, OK (Jan. 29, 2020) – Former Eastern Oklahoma State College President Dr. Stephen E. Smith was inducted into the Oklahoma Association of Community Colleges Hall of Fame on Jan. 29 during the organization’s virtual annual conference. Smith retired in June 2020 after serving as president of Eastern for 13 years.
The OACC Hall of Fame began in 2011 and since its inception, 19 individuals have been selected for the prestigious award. Smith was inducted along with the late Dr. Phil Birdine, former president of Western Oklahoma State College. Former Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh and Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Tom Colbert, both Eastern alumni, are also members of the OACC Hall of Fame.
“I am honored to receive this recognition and I want to thank my colleagues for supporting this nomination. I am also proud to be inducted alongside my good friend Dr. Phil Birdine who was a great leader for Western Oklahoma State College and the state system,” Smith said. “Community colleges do the yeoman’s work of education. We take those students who may not have developed academic skills and we prepare them to go to university. We take that single parent mother who may have lost her job or went through a divorce and needs to get an education, skills and degree to make a better life for herself and her children. To anyone who works at a community college, know that you are valued and appreciated. We are leading students to a different place in life and we can all be proud of that.”
Eastern President Dr. Janet Wansick offered congratulations on behalf of the faculty, staff, students and administration of Eastern.
“There is no doubt that Dr. Smith left an impact on Eastern that will be remembered for many years to come. Among his accomplishments while president at the college are developing a $1 million scholarship donation, creating the Small Business Development partnership, receiving grant awards of more than $40 million, establishing the college’s commercial radio station, and launching five fully online degree programs,” Wansick said. “I thank Dr. Smith for all he has done for Eastern and wish him sincere congratulations on his induction into the OACC Hall of Fame.”
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. During his 13-year tenure as president, Eastern achieved several significant milestones including more than $3 million in donations and gifts to the EOSC Foundation and college, the establishment of Eastern’s Sapphire Ball scholarship fundraising event, the development of the college’s first study abroad program, and a 10-year reaffirmation of its accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. Smith also led efforts to construct, renovate and improve facilities at the Wilburton and McAlester campuses. He also led several efforts to improve community outreach in southeast Oklahoma with the establishment of the Four County Small Business Consortium, in partnership with the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center.
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 was 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.
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.
The OACC is made up of 14 community colleges that serve the needs of more than 100,000 Oklahoma students each year. The OACC supports Oklahoma’s community colleges by providing professional development opportunities, advocacy and connections with key stakeholders to improve higher education in the state.