News Story

Alumni Association announces 2015 honorees

Bill John Baker, Distinguished Alumni
Darrell Sullenger, Distinguished Alumni
Dr. Kelly Bailey, Outstanding Young Alumna
Earl Sears, Presidents’ Award for Community Service

The Northeastern State University Alumni Association is pleased to announce that the 2015 Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni Honorees and the recipient of the Presidents’ Award for Community Service have been named.

Distinguished Alumni

This year Bill John Baker and Darrell Sullenger have been named 2015 Distinguished Alumni. 

Baker is a 1972 graduate of NSU and serves as the 17th elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribal nation in the U.S. He will begin serving his second term as Principal Chief with the August 14 inauguration. Prior to Baker’s political career, he built Baker Furniture into one of Tahlequah’s most prominent and respected businesses after purchasing it near the end of his time at NSU in the 1970s.

Baker is active in the community, serving as a charter member of the Rotary Club. In the past, he has served as the president of the Parent Teacher Association, coached youth sports and he has also been recognized for pulling the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce out of debt during his tenure as president. He also spent 12 years on the Tribal Council for the Cherokee Nation, serving on every standing committee.

Sullenger is a 1952 graduate of NSU. He worked for 35 years at Atlantic Richfield as a financial analyst, retiring in 1990. Currently he serves as a Trustee on the NSU Foundation Board. He is very active in the NSU Athletic Association, serving on the executive committee and he is the co-founder of the “Fast Forties” alumni group.

In 2005 Sullenger was inducted into the NSU Athletics Hall of Fame.

Outstanding Young Alumna

Dr. Kelly Bailey has been named as this year’s Outstanding Young Alumna.

Bailey is a 1997 graduate of NSU and holds a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. from Walden University and Oklahoma State University.

Currently, Bailey serves as the CEO of Sweet Adelines International, a worldwide organization of 23,000 women singers who aim to advance the musical art form of barbershop harmony through education, competition and performance. She is a 2015-2016 inductee into the National Association of Professional Women's VIP Woman of the Year Circle.

Prior to Sweet Adelines, Bailey worked at OSU as the Director of Adult Education & Workforce Center Programs and as the Director of Admissions & Recruitment. 

Presidents’ Award for Community Service

Earl Sears has been named this year’s Presidents’ Award for Community Service recipient.

Sears is a 1975 and 1981 graduate of NSU and currently serves as a State Representative of the 11th District. He is also the Chair of the State House Appropriation & Budget Committee. 

Prior to his political career, Sears spent 32 years at Central Middle School, as a teacher, vice principal and principal.

Each year, the Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni honorees are chosen by the Alumni Association’s board of directors. The recipient of the Presidents’ Award for Community Service is selected jointly by both the University president and the Alumni Association president. All are honored at Homecoming and Emerald Ball.

For more information about these awards and recognitions contact the Alumni Association at 918-458-2336 or visit

Published: 8/6/2015 4:49:27 PM

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