NSU President Steve Turner presents Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker with Seminary Hall blueprints from NSU Archives, after the Nation gifted the university $4 million to preserve said historic building.
Published December 5, 2015
TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA – Nearly 130 years ago, 1,500 Cherokee officials and area residents watched as the first cornerstone was laid at the newly rebuilt Cherokee Female Seminary, which had been destroyed by fire at its original location a year earlier. Today, that iconic building represents the oldest structure on what would eventually come to be known as Northeastern State University.
On Wednesday, Cherokee Nation officials contributed $4 million to ensure Oklahoma’s historic and iconic symbol of education, Seminary Hall, will be preserved and celebrated for generations to come. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge and NSU President Steve Turner were joined by Cherokee Nation Tribal Council members, NSU faculty, staff, students and community members in the foyer of the historic hall for the presentation of the gift.
“Seminary Hall is a powerful unifier of the university, the city of Tahlequah and the Cherokee Nation,” said Cherokee National Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “It reminds all of us every single day that the partnership between the tribe, the school and the community is anchored in advancing quality education and making it accessible to our citizens.
“When our Cherokee leaders where first removed to this part of the country, they made a moral decision to invest in the future of our people through education. Despite the trauma of removal and starting over, the tribe allocated half of its overall budget to erect the seminary school and fund its mission. Today, we honor our Cherokee ancestors by making this investment for the generations to follow.”
Seminary Hall currently houses the College of Liberal Arts administration, faculty and classrooms. It serves more than 1,700 students. The daily activities of a busy college campus have taken its toll on this 126-year-old building. Additionally, the 19th century building is not equipped for 21st century technologies and learning environments.
“The generosity of the Cherokee people and their commitment to higher education have come together in an unprecedented way,” said NSU President Steve Turner. “Seminary Hall has been and will continue to be a symbol of courage, hope and determination. Principal Chief Baker’s leadership continues to have a tremendous impact, not only on NSU, but on the entire state.”
The Cherokee Nation gift provides the necessary resources to preserve, renovate and repurpose Seminary Hall. The iconic structure will become a multipurpose building that will showcase its cultural linage, provide a modern classroom experience for students and house administrative departments. A highlight of the project will be a museum, which will be guided by expertise from the Cherokee Nation and the university.
Cherokee Nation Businesses is funding the effort to further its mission of preserving Cherokee culture and history. Through its cultural tourism efforts, the tribe’s holding company recently restored another Tahlequah landmark, the Cherokee National Capitol, and operates three local Cherokee Nation museums.
The largest contribution to date raises the bar for the university’s “Preserve our Past, ENSUre Our Future” campaign, which aims to raise $20.925 million in campaign investments by focusing on four project areas: opportunities for students, strengthening the faculty, new and revitalized facilities, and enhancements in athletics.