Twelve Oklahoma legislators are recognized by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the Council of College and University Presidents as recipients of 2022 Distinguished Service Awards for Higher Education. The awards are conferred in the following categories: Outstanding Legislation; Concurrent Enrollment Task Force; Policy Leadership; and Rising Star.

“We value our collaborative working relationships with legislators and appreciate their investment this year in our shared vision for higher education’s critical leadership role in changing the economy of our state and changing the lives of Oklahomans through a college degree,” said State Regents Chair Jeffrey W. Hickman. “These legislative leaders continue to demonstrate an outstanding commitment to our students and Oklahoma families, and to ensuring Oklahoma’s system of higher education is ready to meet the needs of future generations of Oklahomans.”

Rep. Mark McBride, Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, Rep. Regina Goodwin, and Sen. George Young received Distinguished Service Awards for Higher Education for Outstanding Legislation.

Rep. McBride, Rep. Hasenbeck, and Sen. Pemberton are recognized for their support of higher education and work in creating HB 3564, The Teacher Incentive Act.

“Rep. Mark McBride’s leadership was crucial in moving this important legislation forward, and Sen. Dewayne Pemberton and Rep. Toni Hasenbeck were unwavering in their support throughout the process to help Oklahoma recruit and retain our top teachers,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “The State Regents, college and university presidents and I are honored to present these legislative leaders with Distinguished Service Awards.”

The Teacher Incentive Act creates scholarships for students enrolled in teacher preparatory programs and stipends for graduates teaching in Oklahoma’s public schools.

“Public school teachers are honestly a gift from God,” McBride said. “Aside from involved parents, teachers are the top contributors to student success, and they are the absolute backbone of our schools. I made it my mission to fight for back-to-back pay raises for those in our classrooms, and – as chair of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Education – to appropriate record-high funding for education overall. This year, I was able to secure funding for scholarships to help attract new candidates into the teacher pipeline to help alleviate shortages both here in Oklahoma and nationwide. I’m grateful to the Regents for recognizing my commitment to Oklahoma teachers and public education. This is among my highest achievements.”

Rep. Goodwin and Sen. Young are recognized for their support of the Tulsa Reconciliation Scholarship Program, which received $1.5 million in new funding to support scholarships for students pursuing higher education degrees.

“We are honored to present Rep. Regina Goodwin and Sen. George Young with Distinguished Service Awards for their commitment to funding the Tulsa Reconciliation Scholarship Program,” said Garrett. “As champions for the scholarship program, their passion to ensure its long term success will make a college degree more attainable for students and their families.”

“Ignited by the establishment of the twenty-year scholarship by Representative Don Ross and Senator Maxine Horner, I am grateful that with $1.5 million dollars, education will be more enhanced and generations advanced due to the recommendations from the Tulsa Race Massacre report,” said Goodwin. “Descendants and students of the impacted community will benefit from this significant step forward. The support of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and Chancellor Garrett’s support has been invaluable.”

Sen. John Haste, Rep. Rhonda Baker, Rep. Jadine Nollan and Sen. Brenda Stanley received Distinguished Service Awards for Higher Education for their roles on the Concurrent Enrollment Task Force, which conclude with delivery of policy recommendations this fall.

“The legislators serving on the Concurrent Enrollment Task Force are committed to constructing a dynamic concurrent enrollment system across Oklahoma,” said Garrett. “Their leadership during this process is moving public higher education forward, supporting early access for high school students to earn college degrees and enter the workforce faster.”

The task force was convened by the Legislature to create a concurrent enrollment program centered on innovation and access.

“The concurrent task force has engaged in critical work on behalf of Oklahoma students and our higher education system,” Haste said. “These efforts will help Oklahoma lead the way on concurrent education for our high school students. Our task force is committed to creating faster pathways to degrees, lowering the cost of attainment, and increasing graduates to meet the workforce demands of today and the future.”

Sen. Lonnie Paxton received the Distinguished Service Award for Higher Education for his steadfast support of maintaining safe and secure campuses across the state system of higher education.

“The safety of our students, faculty, staff and guests is a top priority for Oklahoma’s colleges and universities,” said Garrett. “Sen. Lonnie Paxton’s continued policy leadership ensures our campuses remain places where students can safely focus on completing their degrees and preparing for their futures.”

“Ensuring that students feel safe while pursuing their education is paramount to their success,” Paxton said. “We have a responsibility to make sure our university and student populations are in environments where they can thrive in their professional and personal pursuits. I will continue to work with campus police and local law enforcement leadership to develop policy which contributes to the safety of these communities.”

Rep. Trish Ranson and Rep. Daniel Pae received Distinguished Service Awards for Higher Education as “rising stars” who consistently support public higher education initiatives. Both were elected to the Legislature in 2019.

“Rep. Trish Ranson has been a remarkable advocate for continued investment in higher education since her election. As a former educator, she is acutely aware of the needs of our system and the challenges before us,” said Garrett. “Rep. Daniel Pae was a strong voice for college and university efforts to address student hunger in this past legislative session, helping to obtain funding that will enable our institutions to provide and maintain food banks for students in need.”

“Higher education is a key component in our progress as a state,” Ranson said. “Having OSU in my district, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of a college education to our students, our city and our society. If we truly want progress, we will continue to invest in our future generations. I am honored and thankful to the Board of Regents for this award.”

“I am extremely humbled to receive the Distinguished Service Award for Higher Education,” Pae said. “It is absolutely critical that we continue investing in Oklahoma’s higher education system. I look forward to working with the Oklahoma State Regents specifically on reducing food insecurity on college campuses.”

The Distinguished Service Awards for Higher Education recognize individuals who demonstrate extraordinary leadership and support of higher education in Oklahoma during the legislative session. It is the highest award presented by the State Regents and the Council of College and University Presidents.