TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Oklahoma’s oldest institution of higher education had an eagerly anticipated celebration last week as Northeastern State University hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to commemorate the Cherokee Nation’s recent investment in historic Seminary Hall.
The newly restored building features a new museum showcasing the longstanding history between the institution and its Cherokee founders—from its humble beginnings as the Cherokee National Female Seminary and through its evolution as a teacher’s college and present-day comprehensive university.
“This building is a visual reminder to future descendants and students of the importance of the commitment and sacrifice to provide higher education by the Cherokee Nation,” NSU President Steve Turner said. “Today, the NSU family, the Cherokee Nation and citizens of Tahlequah once again united in mind, body and spirit to preserve Oklahoma's oldest symbol of higher education, Seminary Hall. On behalf of the students, faculty and staff I want to offer our most sincere expression of gratitude to the Cherokee Nation for their investment of $4 million to preserve this building for seven generations and beyond.”
The ribbon cutting symbolized a new chapter in the building’s storied history of serving students seeking an education.
More than a century after founding the original Cherokee National Female Seminary, the Cherokee Nation has continued to support higher education at what is now NSU through a number of initiatives including its contribution to help restore Seminary Hall for future learners.
“This building to me stands as a symbol for two really important things,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The first is it represents this unyielding desire of the Cherokee people to make progress by investing in education for a new generation. And second, it has come to represent the power of friendship between the state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation.”
In addition to Turner and Hoskin, speakers included Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner, RUSO Board Chair Connie Reilly, Northeastern Student Government Association President Chelbie Turtle, Cherokee Nation Former Principal Chief and current Chairman of Cherokee Nation Businesses Bill John Baker and NSU Professor Emeritus Dr. Brad Agnew. The event began with a special guest performance by Tommy Wildcat on the flute.
Former Cherokee Principal Chief Baker played a pivotal role in facilitating the historic investment in Seminary Hall. He spoke on the importance of the iconic building carrying out its legacy of higher education for generations to come.
“It was the right thing to do, to put our resources into this building to save it for the next seven generations,” Baker said. “So that my grandkids and great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids can have a place to come and learn and pass on traditions.”
In addition to housing the new museum, Seminary Hall will provide updated academic and administrative office spaces to better serve the NSU campus.