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Five graduating seniors at East Central University have been selected as finalists for the George Nigh Award to be awarded at the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 6, at the Kerr activities Center. Recently, the finalists met with Governor George Nigh at a luncheon then went through the final selection process.

The George Nigh Award goes to the top graduating senior from ECU annually and is named in honor of the former governor of Oklahoma and ECU alumnus. In addition to governor, Nigh served multiple terms in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and as lieutenant governor. He also served as president of the University of Central Oklahoma.

The late Julian Rothbaum, a Tulsa oilman, banker, and state regent for higher education, established an endowment through the ECU Foundation, Inc., to fund the Nigh Award. Each year top ECU seniors are invited to apply and undergo a rigorous application and interview process.

The finalists are Bethany Bengs, Brandon Denney, Kyle Foster, Kailey LeMay and Reese Siegle.

Bethany Bengs, a senior from Quinton, Oklahoma, maintained a 4.0 GPA while earning dual bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Biology with a health science concentration. Bengs has joined multiple honor societies during her time at ECU including the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, Delta Alpha Pi Honor Society, Pi Mu Epsilon, and the National Society of Leadership and Success. Bengs has held leadership positions and also won many awards and scholarships during her time at ECU.

Bengs’ Honors Thesis “An Analysis of COVID-19 Infection Rates Among Native American Tribal Nations in Oklahoma” demonstrates her dedication to research as the thesis was published in the scientific journal “The Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science.”

Bengs plans to attend graduate school at the University of Kansas Medical Center to pursue a Ph.D. in Biostatistics. As a biostatistician, Bengs plans to bring awareness to marginalized populations and provide more accurate results through research.

Brandon Denney will earn their Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies while maintaining a 4.0 GPA and overcoming numerous obstacles while pursuing their degree. Denney has been involved with several organizations and leadership positions during their time at ECU. Those include the ECU Tiger Speech and Debate Team, Honors Program, Honors Student Association Leadership Team, the Honor Court of the ECU Student Government Association, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma Intercollegiate Legislature, ECU Legal Professionals Association, Alpha Chi Honor Society, Young Democrats of ECU, and the Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society.

Denney’s career goals include pursuing work as a paralegal with Oklahoma Indian Legal services, Inc., assisting attorneys to perform legal services for enrolled members of Native American tribes. Denney plans to focus on civil expungements of eligible criminal records. Other interests they plan to pursue include tattoo artistry and work as a harsh metal vocalist.

Kailey LeMay will finish her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology in May with a 4.0 GPA, being listed in the President’s Honor Roll and Alpha Chi Honor Society Member. Inspired by Bethany Hamilton’s story of resilience in the movie “Soul Surfer,” LeMay will pursue a career as an Orthotic and Prosthetic Practitioner. She hopes to improve the day-to-day lives of patients by providing devices needed and to help them achieve their dreams.

LeMay will pursue a Master of Science in Orthotics and Prosthetics from Kennesaw State University, one of only 13 such programs in the country. She has nearly 200 hours of observation in orthotics and prosthetics clinics and has volunteered her summers at an adaptive sports event called the Endeavor Games.

Kyle Foster completed his Bachelor of Science in Mass Communication – Media Production in December 2022 and maintained a 4.0 GPA despite the many challenges during his first two years at ECU and also being a team player for both the ECU baseball and football teams. Foster volunteered as a youth baseball instructor and with the American Cancer Society and AdaFest. He has interned with his hometown newspaper and built a social media presence for both the paper and family-owned business.

Currently, Foster plays baseball for Piraci Wladyslawowo in Poland. He plans to pursue a career in media, particularly sports journalism, and to work with his community.

Reese Siegle plans to pursue a career as a physician to care for the underserved indigenous populations. After maintaining top grades at ECU, he plans to attend the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences through the Indians into Medicine Program.

At ECU, Siegle was involved with the Board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the Native American Student Association, ECU Honors Program, Future Physicians Club, NASA and OK-LSAMP Scholar, and numerous organizations. Siegle is involved with many organizations in the community. Siegle observed physicians while volunteering at the Central Oklahoma Family Medical Center, furthering his passion to care for patients.

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