The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently elected immediate past Oklahoma Speaker of the House Jeffrey W. Hickman of Fairview as chairman of the board; former Oklahoma Attorney General Michael C. Turpen of Oklahoma City, vice chairman; retired Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven W. Taylor of McAlester, secretary; and former State Representative Dennis Casey of Morrison, assistant secretary. The new officer team will lead the nine-member board throughout the 2021-22 fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2022.
“While completing the search for and successfully transitioning to the next Chancellor of the Oklahoma state system of higher education is a key priority at this time, we also have an important agenda of issues to address in the coming year,” Hickman said. “Accelerated changes in higher education mean the future of higher education our 2018 task force report was preparing us for is here and modernizing our system is now a critical action item rather than a long-term plan. In the days ahead, we will be looking for additional efficiencies in our operations, examining our funding structure to ensure equity for our institutions and that we are incentivizing alignment with workforce needs in our state, encouraging continued partnerships, shared services and mergers to preserve higher education access points throughout Oklahoma in the future, and evaluating financial aid programs and tuition and fee processes to ensure all Oklahoma students and families know the dream of a college degree can be a reality.”
Appointed to the State Regents in 2017, Hickman is president and CEO of the Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association. He has also been involved with his family’s farming operation in Alfalfa and Woods counties since childhood, and is now the fifth generation in his family to own and farm land near Dacoma and Cherokee in northwest Oklahoma.
Hickman was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2004 and served as Speaker of the House for three legislative sessions from 2014 to 2016, and as Speaker Pro Tempore for two sessions from 2011 to 2013. Hickman, who holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with distinction, worked as vice president of Omni Media Group in Woodward and in higher education public affairs for seven years. He is chairman of the board of directors of Fairview Savings & Loan and serves on the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Board of Advocates and the United Way of Northwest Oklahoma board. Hickman is an Aspen Institute Rodel Public Leadership Fellow and a National Institute for Civil Discourse Next Generation facilitator.
“We look forward to working with Chair Hickman this year as we remain focused on STEM and workforce development initiatives and increasing college degree completion in Oklahoma,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “His professional experiences and contributions in the public and private sectors are invaluable to the State Regents and to the public colleges and universities we serve.”
Turpen is a partner in the law firm of Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis in Oklahoma City. He was appointed to the State Regents in 2009 and reappointed in 2018. Turpen served as Muskogee County District Attorney from 1977-1982 and was elected Oklahoma Attorney General in 1982. He appears weekly on Oklahoma City NBC affiliate KFOR’s award-winning public affairs show, “Flashpoint.” Turpen is president of the Lyric Theatre Board of Directors and serves on the boards of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, Oklahoma State Fair Board, United Way, and Allied Arts. He is a member of the American, Oklahoma, Tulsa County and Oklahoma County Bar Associations, as well as a Founding Fellow of the Oklahoma Bar Foundation and a faculty member of the National College of District Attorneys. Turpen holds a bachelor’s degree in history and law degree from the University of Tulsa.
Appointed in 2019, Taylor is a retired Chief Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. He previously served as Associate District Judge and as Chief Judge of the 18th Judicial District. In over 20 years as a trial judge, Taylor presided over more than 500 jury trials, including the state trial of the Oklahoma City Bombing. He is a former mayor of McAlester, and served in the United States Marine Corps as a prosecutor, defense counsel, and ultimately, as a Special Court Martial Judge. He became the youngest judge in the U.S. Armed Forces at the age of 28 and was later promoted to the rank of Major. Taylor is a board member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and serves on the board of directors of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. He currently serves as Chairman of the Puterbaugh Foundation in McAlester and is a past Chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a law degree from OU.
Casey, appointed to the State Regents in 2020, is a retired public-school educator, coach, principal, and superintendent, and owns and operates a cow/calf operation and custom hay cutting business near Morrison. He served four terms in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives, representing District 35 and was a leader on the House Appropriations Committee. Casey spent 30 years in public education teaching, coaching, and as an administrator. As a high school athletic coach, his teams achieved ten state championships and three academic state championships. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Coaches Hall of Fame in 2010. Casey holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Northeastern State University.
The other State Regents comprising the board are Jay Helm of Tulsa, Ann Holloway of Ardmore, Joseph L. Parker Jr. of Tulsa, Jack Sherry of Holdenville, and Courtney Warmington of Edmond.
The State Regents are the constitutional coordinating board for the 25 public colleges and universities of the Oklahoma state system of higher education. The State Regents prescribe academic standards of higher education; determine functions and courses of study at state colleges and universities; grant degrees; request appropriations on behalf of state system institutions; set tuition and fees; approve institutional allocations; and, upon review, provide final approval of institutional budgets following governing board approval and submission; and manage numerous scholarships and special programs. The nine citizens who comprise the board are appointed to nine-year terms by the Governor and confirmed by the state Senate.