The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education recently elected former Oklahoma Attorney General Michael C. Turpen of Oklahoma City as chairman of the board; retired Oklahoma Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven W. Taylor of McAlester, vice chairman; former State Rep. Dennis Casey of Morrison, secretary; and real estate investor Jack Sherry of Holdenville, assistant secretary. The new officer team will lead the nine-member board throughout the 2022-23 fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2023.
“We thank Chair Hickman for his leadership as our board chair over the last year. Following a positive legislative session yielding additional investment in public higher education, we have an important slate of priorities to address in the coming year,” Turpen said. “Looking ahead, we will continue focusing on affordability, incentivizing development of innovative academic offerings to meet current and future workforce needs, seeking additional operational efficiencies, and expanding strategic partnerships to better serve Oklahoma students.”
Appointed to the State Regents in 2009 and reappointed in 2018, Turpen is a partner in the law firm of Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis in Oklahoma City. Turpen served as Muskogee County district attorney from 1977-82 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 and 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.
“Regent Turpen’s professional and civic experiences and contributions are invaluable to this board, and to the public colleges and universities and students we serve,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “We look forward to his leadership in the coming year as we focus on meeting growing workforce needs in teacher education and STEM fields, including engineering and computer science.”
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 U.S. 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 the University of Oklahoma.
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 10 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.
Sherry was appointed to the State Regents in 2020. He owns Jack Sherry Real Estate & Investments in Holdenville and operates a cattle ranch in Hughes and Seminole counties. He was appointed by former Gov. Mary Fallin to serve on the Oklahoma Lottery Commission Board and served as a trustee to the Seminole State College Educational Foundation prior to his appointment as a state regent. Sherry currently serves as an advisory director to the First National Bank in Holdenville, president of the Hughes County Farm Bureau, and chairman of the Holdenville Hospital Board. He has also served on the Holdenville Public School Board of Education, the Holdenville Chamber of Commerce, Holdenville Lions Club, Oklahoma Southeast and Young Farmers of America, the FSA State Board, Hughes County Cattleman’s Association, and Hughes County Fair Board. He was recognized as Holdenville’s 2015 Citizen of the Year. Sherry attended Oklahoma State University and Seminole State College and earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern Nazarene University.
The other State Regents comprising the board are Jeffrey W. Hickman of Fairview, Dustin Hilliary of Lawton, Ann Holloway of Ardmore, Joseph L. Parker Jr. of Tulsa, 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; 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.