History of Seminole State College and Membership with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools,Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
Seminole State College (SSC) is a two-year, public college authorized by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to offer programs and confer associate degrees. Established by local citizenry in 1931, the school was organized under the name Seminole Junior College. In 1968, the institution began to be integrated into the state system when the State Regents recommended the development of a state-supported junior college for the locality. In 1975, Seminole Junior College became a fully state-supported institution and received initial accreditation from the Commission of Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1996, the name of the institution changed to Seminole State College.
Seminole State College is located in the city of Seminole in east central Oklahoma, 57 miles southeast of Oklahoma City, the State Capitol. Seminole has a population of 7,069 citizens and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce designated it an All-American City. The Colleges service area covers the five counties of Seminole, Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Hughes, and Okfuskee, which include the cities of Seminole and Shawnee. The economy has been based historically largely on agriculture, ranching, and petroleum. More recently, the area has experienced widespread growth in manufacturing and service industries.
Seminole Junior College was originally organized as an extension of the local high school with classes held at the school and taught by its faculty until 1969. The Colleges original mission and purpose was to offer university-parallel courses and a small component of business and secretarial science coursework. In 1968, with the enthusiastic support of the local citizens and their political representatives, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education began the movement to develop the College as an institution of higher education, independent of the public school district.
Under the terms of the 1969 reorganization plan, a separate board of trustees was appointed, and Dr. Elmer Tanner became the Colleges first President. In that year and for the first two years of College operations, the First Presbyterian Church of Seminole donated its facilities until the new campus could be built. Six College faculty members were recruited during the 1969-1970 academic year. Due to limited classroom space, these early faculty members taught up to 27 credit hours. A record number of 364 students enrolled at the College during that first year in temporary headquarters. This population compared favorably to total enrollment figures of 35 to 50 during the initial years in the history of the College. Moreover, increased enrollment indicated to the founders the need for an institution of higher education in the area.
The transition to the state-supported junior college and a new campus had full and active support of Seminole. In 1969, the city of Seminole donated the 40-acre tract of land on which the current campus is located. Citizens also voted on and passed, by an eight-to-one margin, a $250,000 bond issue to assist in financing the first campus building. The local school district donated $50,000 for the future campus, and the City spent an additional $300,000 providing free utility service showing further local support.
In March 1971, Seminole voters approved a one-cent sales tax to help support the institution of higher education until 1975 when it became a totally state-supported, two-year college. From 1971 to 1974, the College obtained operational funds from appropriation of one-half the Colleges instructional costs by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. Remaining operating funds were derived from the City sales tax. The approved sales tax generated over $800,000 for College operations. The City of Seminole became the first community in Oklahoma to use a self-imposed sales tax to support a college. Even at the close of the century, this community pride of ownership continues. Through a 1998 referendum, the local community continued to endorse the College by approving a sales tax extension dedicating $400,000 to help build a Residential Learning Center.
The first building on the present-day campus, later named Tanner Hall, was completed in 1971. Originally, Tanner Hall housed seven classrooms, two science laboratories, a developmental reading center, an interactive television course room, and faculty and administrative offices. In the mid-1990s, State bond funds and grants from Sarkeys Foundation and the National Science Foundation paid for two more classrooms, two additional science labs, a medical technology laboratory, the modernization and equipping of the math/science computer laboratory, and more faculty offices.
Along with classes, academic and support services for students of Seminole State College are conducted in other physical facilities on campus. Seven buildings came after Tanner Hall as part of the initial large construction phase supporting the development of the Colleges curriculum. The following facilities continue to sustain the institutions educational and varied other purposes:
During Dr. Tanners tenure, the College was able to secure continued accreditation from the North Central Association (NCA) in 1979 for a ten-year period. Dr. Tanner retired in 1982 and President Greg Fitch replaced him. Mr. Fitch led the College through a turbulent time in Oklahoma history, highlighted by the economic "bust" of the oil industry. International tensions affected colleges throughout the country, reflected by a direct decline in enrollment of foreign students at Seminole State College. Among the challenges his administration faced, was dealing with physical plant problems resulting from poor construction of several campus buildings. The difficulties of the President Fitch era were overcome by the resiliency of the faculty, staff and governing board.
After the resignation of Greg Fitch in 1987, Dr. James J. Cook became the third President of the College. Formerly Vice President for Academic Affairs, he served in his new capacity from August 1987 to June 1996. During this period, SSC updated and modernized curricula, mostly after the prior NCA visit in 1989. Curricular additions and alternations included computer science (which replaced data processing), management information technology, office management (which replaced secretarial science), wellness/human development and aerobics. General Education offerings were also revamped to strengthen the humanities program. During his presidency, Dr. Cook made $3,000,000 in physical improvements to the campus.
President Cook and the faculty are credited with developing the Colleges use of multimedia instructional technology and developing its use of interactive educational television instruction implemented after the last NCA Team Visit. Dr. Cook served as chief executive officer when the North Central Association granted the institution its second ten-year continuance of accreditation in 1990. In 1992, the College received national recognition from NCA for its institutional Assessment Plan. Local leaders credit Dr. Cook with working to keep the College interwoven with the fabric of Seminole as a respected leader on campus, in Oklahoma higher education, and in the community.
One of the last acts of Dr. Cook during his presidency was shepherding through a resolution passed by the Seminole Junior College Board of Regents requesting state officials to change the name of the institution to better reflect the institutional mission of a small community college. The Oklahoma legislature and the current Governor Frank Keating approved the name change to Seminole State College in May 1996. By fall of that year, the Colleges enrollment had grown to 1,447 students.
Following Dr. Cooks resignation, Dr. James W. Utterback became the fourth President of Seminole State College in January 1997. Under his presidency, and with the effort and hard work of faculty and staff, SSCs headcount enrollment reached an all-time high of 2,037 students in fall of 1999. Annual increases in student numbers reflect a number of academic adjustments, including the reintroduction of College courses in area communities, development of cooperative agreements with local vocational-technical centers, and the creation of new programs.
Since Dr. Utterback became President, the institution has been revitalized. This renewal is demonstrated, not only in record enrollments, but also in further emphasis on institutional planning and resource development. Such advancements have led to strengthening student services and academic offerings, in revamping the strategic planning process, and in reformulating the budget and physical plant plans for new or projected construction. The Lloyd Simmons Baseball Facility was completed in 1998 and construction is now underway on a new residential learning center. Architectural plans have been approved and funds are in place for a technology center scheduled for completion in 2001.
Seminole State College has also benefited from a strong effort in securing national, state, and foundation grants emphasizing economic development in the community and advancement of the home institution, both mission-oriented goals. An expert in the field of economic development, Dr. Utterbacks experience in this area has also strengthened the Seminole State College Educational Foundation. Advancements include: adding new Board members, rewriting the bylaws, updating endowment and investment policies, appointing SSCs Director of Resource Development to serve as president of the Foundation, and helping launch the largest capital campaign program in the history of that Foundation.
Seminole State College, with loyal support of its citizens, faculty and staff, has served the needs of its service area for 69 years. It remains a small, public college of quality a unique community in which to live and learn. Seminole State College is the only two-year college in the region. The demography of its service area legitimizes the need for a two-year institution of higher education to meet the challenges of a changing economy.