News Story

NSU announces 2019 Circle of Excellence recipients

Dr. Neal Whittle
Dr. Ben Kracht
Dr. Alan McKee

(Tahlequah, Oklahoma) - During the spring semester, Northeastern State University announced the three 2019 Circle of Excellence Award honorees at a ceremony honoring all past and current recipients.

NSU faculty members were nominated by their peers in one of the three categories: teaching, research and service. A selection committee of past honorees chose the best in each category for this recognition.

The 2019 Circle of Excellence Award honorees are: Dr. Neal Whittle for teaching, Dr. Ben Kracht for research and Dr. Alan McKee for service.

Whittle graduated from NSU’s Oklahoma College of Optometry in 2012. He completed a residency in Family Practice and Ocular Disease at NSUOCO, after which he joined the faculty of NSUOCO in 2013 as an assistant professor. Whittle currently teaches the Geometric and Physical Optics course, as well as the Vision Science I: Optics course. He is the clinical chief of the Electrodiagnostics Clinic at NSUOCO in addition to serving in other clinical areas such as ocular disease, contact lenses and primary care. Whittle is involved in NSUOCO’s Advanced Procedures and Laser Course that is offered each year on the Tahlequah campus.

McKee is a 1996 graduate of the NSU’s Oklahoma College of Optometry. McKee is a professor of Optometry and director of Optical Services for the college with teaching assignments in ophthalmic optics, environmental vision, contact lenses and is a clinical instructor in the NSUOCO clinics. His service to the university includes the University Student Learning and Assessment and University Curriculum committees as well as the college’s Equipment and Curriculum Committees. He has served in leadership positions within the Oklahoma Lions Eye Bank Executive Board and continues to provide expertise in the fabrication of spectacles for the Special Olympics Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes program.

Kracht is a professor of anthropology and has taught anthropology and American Indian studies classes at NSU for 27 years. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology/history, a Master of Arts in anthropology and a doctorate in anthropology. Most of his publications pertain to Kiowa religion, including coverage of the Ghost Dance, dancing and shamanic societies and indigenized Christianity. Kracht's book, “Kiowa Belief, and Ritual,” delineates indigenous Kiowa religious beliefs. His second book, “Religious Revitalization among the Kiowas: The Ghost Dance, Peyote and Christianity” delineates culture change and revitalization movements in early twentieth century Kiowa society. He is currently working on a third book, a collaborative autobiography of a Kiowa woman.

“The circle of excellence is a celebration of faculty and their roles in research, service and teaching,” said Dr. Renée L. Cambiano, professor and Faculty Council president. “During the celebration, we thank the faculty for their contributions and the differences they have made in the lives of our students. Every day, together we serve the mission of our institution by empowering students to reach their full intellectual and human potential by creating and expanding a culture of learning, discovery and diversity.”

The Circle of Excellence event is organized by the Campaigns and Events Media Studies class.

“This is the second year they have helped put on Circle of Excellence,” said Cambiano. “Under the direction of Dr. Dana Eversole, professor of Media Studies, the class arranged the event from selecting swag, the meal, the speaker and the entertainment. Both years a student has created a video for attendees to watch.”

Each faculty honoree of the Circle of Excellence Award receives $2,500 that he or she can receive as a check or use for professional development. The office of Academic Affairs and the NSU Foundation provide help and support for this award.

For more information, contact Cambiano at

Published: 6/18/2019 2:45:22 PM

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