Commencement Speakers

Fall 2017 Undergraduate Commencement Speakers

The Honorable Jim Halligan

President Emeritus, Oklahoma State University
Former member, Oklahoma State Senate

OSU is honored to present the “Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award” to Ann and Jim Halligan in recognition of their public service to their community and their state, as well as their ongoing and enthusiastic involvement on the Oklahoma State University campus. This award is the highest humanitarian award given by Oklahoma State University.

Halligan served as OSU’s 16th President for eight years, retiring in 2002. Six years later, he won election to the Oklahoma Senate, where he was an advocate for education and served on several committees including appropriations, education, energy, business and commerce, finance, and rules during two terms in office. He retired from the legislature in 2016.  

As OSU’s president, Halligan increased enrollment, emphasized student success, improved retention and graduation rates as well as scholar development. OSU was named a Truman Honor Institute and one of “America’s Best College Buys” during his tenure. Focusing OSU research efforts on economic development and homeland security, Halligan also supported OSU’s first capital campaign, which topped $260 million – more than double the original goal. In addition to the renovation of Gallagher-Iba Arena, construction of new campus research centers, including student facilities, multi-media classrooms and suite-style student housing, he oversaw the launch of OSU-Tulsa campus construction.

The Halligans hosted thousands of students in their home each academic year and supported student-run events such as Orange Peel, Homecoming, Varsity Revue and Into the Streets. The Halligans also led the university community through the emotional aftermath of the tragic plane crash in Colorado that claimed the lives of 10 members of the OSU family. The Halligan Hall of Scholars, which recognizes the major national and international awards won by OSU students, was dedicated in 2007.


The Honorable Neal McCaleb

Ambassador At-Large, Chickasaw Nation
Former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs

OSU is honored to present an Honorary Doctor of Science (ScD) to Neal McCaleb in recognition of his successful professional career, his outstanding philanthropy and public service, as well as his service
as an advocate for student success.

Oklahoma City native Neal McCaleb has dedicated much of his life to public service, from his time in the Oklahoma Legislature to his appointment as assistant secretary of the interior and head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

McCaleb graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1957 with a degree in civil engineering and soon participated in the planning and design of the interstate highway system. He also served as an assistant city manager in Oklahoma City for a few years before opening his own private consulting firm, which he ran for 25 years. He was elected to the state legislature in 1974, serving eight years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, that last four as Republican floor leader.

McCaleb was appointed as the first secretary of transportation in Oklahoma, while serving as director of the state transportation department. He was appointed again in 1995 as secretary of transportation as well as director of the state turnpike authority and transportation department.  

In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed McCaleb assistant secretary of the interior, which also made him head of the Bureau of Indiana Affairs, where he was an advocate for the improvement of tribal nations and their sovereignty. He later served as a special adviser for Indian economic development to Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation, for which he has also served as an ambassador-at-large. McCaleb is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.

McCaleb was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2014.