NSU President Turner to retire after more than a decade of service
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Northeastern State University President Steve Turner will retire as the university’s 19th president later this summer.
“Penny and I feel blessed beyond measure to be part of the NSU story,” Turner said. “We sincerely thank each of you for making NSU our home for what will be 11½ years. This season is ending and a new one begins later this summer. NSU’s future is bright.”
A nontraditional, first-generation graduate, Turner began college in his late 20s after nearly a decade of oil field work. Turner assumed his presidential duties at NSU in January 2012. He came to the university from East Central University where he served as vice president for administration and finance and executive assistant to the president for governmental relations and economic development.
“On behalf of the Regional University System of Oklahoma Regents, I want to congratulate Dr. Steve Turner on his upcoming retirement and for serving RUSO for the past 35 years,” Connie Reilly, RUSO board chairperson said. “As president of Northeastern State University, Dr. Turner has served with the highest integrity and has positively impacted countless students who have used their education to contribute to the economic strengths and culture of Oklahoma. Dr. Turner's absence will be felt throughout the region - we wish him the very best.”
Under his leadership, NSU completed the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in the institution’s history, raising more than $27 million to support student scholarships, faculty research and facility improvements as part of the Preserve our past. ENSUre Our Future campaign.
As a strong advocate for creating workforce-ready professionals, Turner has worked to bring high-demand degrees to NSU and ensure programs provide students with much-needed experiential learning opportunities through research opportunities, community service, internships, clinical experiences and more.
Turner led several new construction projects through his tenure. This includes the construction of the NSU Event Center, RiverHawks Wellness Center, Isabel Cobb Hall, the NSU Academic Success Center, the Innovation Discovery Education Academy, the Battenfield-Carletti Investment Lab, the NSU veterans monument and the River’s Edge Coffee Shop.
Turner has also been a strong advocate for athletics through his support of facility upgrades and expanding scholarship opportunities for student-athletes.
“Dr. Turner has been a strong advocate for the holistic D2 student-athlete experience as a leader in the MIAA. During the past two years, it has been a privilege to work with Dr. Turner in his role as chair of the MIAA CEO Council,” MIAA Commissioner Mike Racy said. “His legacy in the MIAA will include the development of new health and safety initiatives for our members, enhanced championship experiences for our students in many sports, a comprehensive risk management initiative for the conference, a new and improved MIAA Constitution, and expanded MIAA membership.”
In addition, Turner has led the university through tumultuous times such as several years of state funding cuts, the COVID-19 pandemic and drops in enrollment. Under his leadership, the university worked diligently to remove the various barriers students might face when attaining a postsecondary degree—helping them save time and money. This includes providing support for accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree programs and working with faculty and staff to expand the Smart Choice Program that helps students make a seamless transition from earning an associate degree to a four-year degree.
“I congratulate President Steve Turner on his pending retirement from Northeastern State University,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett, Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with President Turner through the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the MIAA Athletic Conference and now in the Oklahoma system. I’ve observed for many years his understanding of higher education issues, passion for students and drive to make NSU the best it can be. I wish him the best in his retirement.”
Northeastern State University is Oklahoma’s immersive-learning institution offering workforce-ready degrees at campuses in Tahlequah, Broken Arrow and Muskogee, as well as online. From its humble beginnings as the Cherokee National Female Seminary and through its evolution as a teacher’s college and present-day comprehensive university, NSU is proud of its role to provide a quality, affordable education in Green Country and to serve the educational, cultural and workforce needs of Oklahomans.