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East Central University is expected to grant bachelor’s degrees to 496 candidates and master’s degrees to 153 more during ECU’s 2017 Spring Commencement Ceremonies Saturday, May 6, at the Kerr Activities Center.

J. Michael Prince, a global retail executive, will be the keynote speaker during the 10 a.m. ceremony while former Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh will address candidates during the 2 p.m. exercises.

For the first time, the commencement ceremonies are scheduled to be livestreamed at

Here is biographical information on the two featured speakers:


J. Michael Prince, who graduated at the top of his class in 1993 while majoring in accounting at East Central University, is a global retail executive who has worked in senior leadership positions with some of the most iconic sports & fashion brands in the world including Nike, Cole Haan, Converse, Hurley, Umbro and Guess? 

He is also a strategic advisor working across multiple industries partnering with Family Offices and Native American tribes on potential marketplace and investment opportunities.

Prince started his professional career in Oklahoma with his first job at PriceWaterhouse where he earned his CPA.  He later worked for two of Oklahoma’s most prestigious companies, Devon Energy and BancFirst.  He most recently served as the president and board member of Cole Haan, the global fashion brand. 

As president of the company, he provided executive leadership over commercial, operational and financial aspects of the business including the Company’s 300 global retail stores, digital commerce and extensive international and licensing businesses as well as new product categories. 

Prince has both public and private company executive and board experience and has worked closely with the Wall Street and private equity communities. Prince’s accomplishments as an executive have ranged from overseeing a $4 billion portfolio of brands for Nike to expanding Cole Haan’s billion-dollar global retail and digital footprint internationally.  He has also worked with sports icons such as Dwyane Wade, formerly of the Miami Heat and now with the Chicago Bulls, as well as global collaborations with American Airlines. 

While at ECU, Prince was also vice president of the ECU Student Body. He earned his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and currently serves on the Board.  He was raised in the local Ada area where he graduated from Latta High School and is a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.  He is a donor to East Central’s Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business and has established scholarships at Duke University and the Choctaw Nation.

Finally, Prince has been a featured speaker at numerous collegiate events for Duke University, University of Oklahoma and ECU, discussing the topics of global brands, international business, and entrepreneurship. He is an advisory board member and investor of Toronto International Fashion Week (TIFW). Prince is also a member of New York Metro’s Young Presidents Organization and was honored in 2016 with the State of Creativity Award by Oklahoma’s Governor.  He and his wife Amanda reside in West Palm Beach, Florida and have two sons, Coleman and Benjamin.


Gov. George Nigh, a 1950 graduate of East Central University (then called East Central State College), served as the 17th and 22nd Governor of Oklahoma. His delivering of today’s commencement address enables him to set a Guinness World Record for the number of times in which a speaker has spoken at a college graduation ceremony.

In 1950, Nigh began a 32-year career in public office. He was the youngest member of the House of Representatives when he was elected and taught at McAlester High School, taking a leave of absence in alternate years that the Legislature met.

At the age of 31 in 1958, Nigh was elected lieutenant governor, the youngest in state history and the youngest in the nation at that time. He lost his bid for governor in 1962, but briefly served as governor of Oklahoma for nine days from Jan. 6-14, 1963 after the death of U.S. Sen. Robert Kerr. The sitting governor J. Howard Edmondson resigned in order to be appointed by Nigh to fill Kerr’s seat.

In 1966, Nigh was elected lieutenant governor and served in that capacity until being elected governor in 1978 and ultimately being re-elected in 1982.

Some of his achievements, include being the first Oklahoma Governor to be re-elected and the first to win all 77 counties in the state. He appointed the first two women – Yvonne Kauger and Alma Wilson – to serve as justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. He also is credited with increasing the numbers of minorities serving on state boards and commissions as well as management of state agencies. In addition, he introduced legislation designating “Oklahoma!” as the state song.

Nigh later served as president of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond.

Born on June 9, 1927, Nigh served in the U.S. Navy from 1945-1946. He graduated from McAlester High School and Eastern Oklahoma College in Wilburton before graduating from ECU in 1950.

He and his wife Donna head the Donna Nigh Foundation, a nonprofit organization serving Oklahomans with developmental disabilities.


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