JANUARY 14, 2004

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Officers from the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association and Communicators Council gather around Natalea Watkins, center, after honoring her with the organizations' first "Communicator of the Year Award." Beginning in 2004, the award will be called the "Natalea Watkins' Higher Education Communicator of the Year Award."
Communication leaders present new award to OSU's Watkins

Two statewide organizations dedicated to telling the higher education story in Oklahoma recently gathered at Oklahoma City Community College to present the first "Communicator of the Year Award" to a prominent communications expert: Natalea Watkins of Stillwater.

"She has set the bar quite high for all of us," says Vicki Patterson, president of the Oklahoma College Public Relations Association. "Her leadership in higher education has had a tremendously positive influence, not only for Oklahoma State University, where she dedicated herself for many years, but also for the state system of higher education."

Watkins retired this fall after serving 13 years as assistant vice president of communications at OSU in Stillwater.

The event was jointly sponsored by OCPRA and the Communicators' Council of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education.

"Natalea Watkins has not only been a diligent and outspoken advocate for OSU, but also for the state system of higher education," said Susie Brown of Tulsa Community College, who co-presented the award. "She has provided superb leadership in both of these statewide groups, as well as in the national organization, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. She has represented Oklahoma and Oklahoma higher education well while also acting as an effective advocate for students. She will not easily be replaced."

Watkins is most deserving, said Ben Hardcastle, state regents' director of communications. "It is fitting that Natalea's name will always be associated with this award. In years to come, outstanding communicators will be reminded of the high standards that Natalea set for all of us to try to attain."

Watkins was praised as an innovator and motivator by co-presenter Randy Talley of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha.

"Natalea Watkins is a consummate professional," Talley said. "She inspires people to be their best and reach their highest potential. She pragmatically assesses best directions and outcomes with diplomacy and solid leadership. Her example reminds us that leadership is best demonstrated by delivering ideas that magnetically bring people together. She is living proof that real power has nothing to do with might or volume; it is compassion, moving people from the inside."

Watkins, who owns a horse ranch east of Stillwater, was presented a western-theme statue, a replica of Frederic Remington's "Bronco Buster."

"Watkins' resilience in overcoming the physical limitations caused by a traffic accident three years ago has been inspirational to her colleagues in higher education," Talley said. "Despite her disability, she continued to serve OSU and to be a leader in our profession. Her resourcefulness is remarkable."

So significant is Watkins' influence in Oklahoma that both organizations voted unanimously to name the award for her in subsequent years. Beginning in 2004, the award will be called the "Natalea Watkins' Higher Education Communicator of the Year Award."

Together the two organizations represent virtually all of the 30 public and 11 private colleges and universities -- and constituent agencies -- in Oklahoma.

Contact: Randy Talley, 1-405-574-1337 or Vicki Patterson, 1-405-733-7458