june 11, 2003

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Kegans ends 40-year career at NOC

Coach, physical education instructor, cheerleader sponsor, dean, division chair—Nevona Kegans spent her entire professional career at her alma mater, Northern Oklahoma College. She retired this May after a total of 40 years’ service, including 36 years as Dean of Women.

Nevona Kegans
Nevona Kegans in 1963

Kegans’ career began with her employment in 1963 as head of women’s athletics and assistant residence hall hostess. A physical education major at Central State University, now University of Central Oklahoma, she was in Wichita signing a contract to teach elementary school physical education when the Northern president and the dean of women left her an invitation to teach for Northern’s new women’s physical education department.

“This was my dream come true,” Kegans said. She canceled her contract with the Wichita school system and accepted Northern’s offer.

On the job, Kegans began a 10-year career as women’s basketball coach. In those days the squad played many independent teams since few colleges offered women’s basketball programs. “Once I paid out of my own pocket to take the team to a tournament,” Kegans remembered. She drove the team herself to out-of-town games.

Kegans’ dedication paid off, as three of her teams were invited to National Junior College Basketball Tournaments in Lindsay, Okla., where the 1972 team placed fourth. In 1970, she was named Outstanding Basketball Coach.

When the women’s track program began in 1975, Kegans was the logical choice for coach. A former track competitor on the national level (she ran sixth against three-time gold medalist Wilma Rudolph at the 1959 National Track Meet preliminary to the 1960 Olympics), Kegans coached the program for six years, winning numerous first-place awards and, in 1981, the Region II Track and Field Championship and a sixth-place national finish. In addition to coaching women’s basketball, Kegans coached varsity volleyball for two years.

“I’ve coached every sport except football,” she joked.

Nevona Kegans
Kegans today

When she was appointed Dean of Women in 1967, Kegans was the youngest college dean in Oklahoma. After 36 years in that position, she retired as arguably the dean with the longest tenure in the state. She served under four Northern presidents and with six deans, proving, she said, that “Men come and go but a good woman is hard to find.”

From August 1998 until her retirement she chaired the HPE&R Division while continuing to instruct physical education classes and to sponsor the cheerleading squad, a responsibility she undertook for 35 years (1967-2002). Throughout her tenure, she taught an estimated 10,000 students enrolled in 19 different courses and provided “a lot of counseling” assisting students with problems both emotional and physical.

“I’ve loved my job,” she said.

An outstanding example of one who truly enjoyed her profession, Kegans was devoted to helping students receive an excellent education. Completely dedicated to the college, the students and to her profession, in 1999 she was one of four individuals receiving the prestigious Cornerstone Award for outstanding support of higher education from the Oklahoma College Press Relations Association, an honor she considered the highlight of her professional career.

Story Contact: Marjilea Smithheisler