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ADA – Former Oklahoma Gov. George Nigh, a 1950 East Central University graduate, presented the prestigious George Nigh Award to Noelle Hurt-Bryan on Friday, April 25.

Each year top seniors are selected to apply for this award and, after a rigorous application and interview process, the 2013-14 recipient ascended to the top for many reasons.

Not only has Hurt-Bryan excelled in the classroom and on campus, but she has spread her generosity throughout the community with her current involvement in tutoring middle school and high school students in the Stratford Afterschool Program.

“Noelle impressed the selection committee with her intense commitment to helping students learn,” said ECU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Duane Anderson. “The selection committee found Noelle to be made from the same mold of many previous George Nigh Award recipients in her potential for significant public services.”

The late Julian Rothbaum, a Tulsa oilman, banker and one-time state regent for higher education, established an endowment through the ECU Foundation Inc. to fund the Nigh Award.

Nigh served four terms in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, four as lieutenant governor and two as governor. He was also president of the University of Central Oklahoma.

Hurt-Bryan, who attended Stratford High School, graduated from ECU with a degree in English Education in December. She not only works with the Stratford Afterschool Program, but has served in long-term substitute teaching stints in Vanoss and Stratford. Hurt-Bryan plans on pursuing a master’s degree and Ph.D. and become a teacher.

The $750 award is based on academic achievement, character and potential contribution to public service.

What began for Hurt-Bryan as another community project, with the Ada Boys and Girls Club’s Olympic HEROES program, ended in a change of majors from political science to English Education and a shift in career goals.

“It helped me uncover the pure joy of preparing and participating in lessons and activities with students, presenting information, as well as supplying parents with educational information to extend the students’ learning at home,” Hurt-Bryan said. “Olympic HEROES was able to show me the difference between being invested in a career that could serve me well and being invested in a life that could serve others well.”

That change led to her volunteering at the ECU Writing Center as a part-time tutor, helping students, ranging from international students to honors students and to zero-level composition students. Hurt-Bryan says the service to the students in the Writing Center was designed to help them rearrange, rethink and maybe even rediscover themselves both personally and academically.

“This experience taught me how to encourage students, not with the power of a red ink pen, but with the power of listening, caring and a little bit of differentiated instruction,” said Hurt-Bryan. “Students, whether they are young or old, accomplish amazingly more than expected when even one person takes an interest in them and becomes invested in helping them find a strategy to improve their lives and academic abilities.”

Among Hurt-Bryan’s most recent academic honors include: Horace Mann Centennial Scholar (2013), Higginbotham Scholar (2013), Peggy Nims Scholar (2012-13) and Georgia Howell Limes Scholar (2012).

She received 2013 awards for Best Essay in a Literature Course and Best Essay in a Writing Course and a 2012 award for Best Essay in a Language Course. Hurt-Bryan also won a Martin Luther King Jr. Spirit and Leadership Award in 2012. She is also a member of the Alpha Chi National Honor Society member, Sigma Tau Delta National English Honor Society, Literati Executive Council and Oklahoma Council of Teachers of English.

The other finalists for the award were: Jamie Michelle Worden, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in English and minor in business administration; Macy McDonald, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in sociology; Sharolyn Simpson, who will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minors in math and chemistry; and Paul Caleb Fulton, who achieved a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2013.

Worden, who was on the president’s honor roll or dean’s honor roll throughout her ECU academic career, was awarded several scholarships in the Department of English and Languages through ECU. She has won departmental awards for academic and creative writing and had her academic work chosen for presentation at regional academic conferences. Her creative work has been published in literary journals.

Worden, who attended high school at Paoli, also has a long list of academic services, including the current position of office manager for the ECU Educational Talent Search Program. She has also served as a tutor in the ECU Department of English and Languages and principal student coordinator for the Page One Literary Art Gallery. She has participated as a volunteer in community service projects such as Better World Books drive on the ECU campus, Girls Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, OCTE Oklahoma Young Writers Contest and the Mother Teresa Project at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ada.

McDonald, of Stratford, spent a semester abroad at Swansea University in Wales as the ECU Brad Henry International Scholar for 2012-13, studying gender and literary theory. She also spent an intersession at the Universidad de Extremadura in Spain in 2011, studying Spanish culture and everyday Spanish. She is a Presidential Leadership Scholarship recipient and Sarah Randall Memorial English Scholarship winner for 2013-14.

McDonald has several undergraduate research presentations to her credit and has served as Alpha Chi National Conference Convention Delegate in 2014, student representative on the Teaching Excellence Committee for 2013-14, co-president of Literati Club and research branch leader in the Honors Student Association for 2013-14. Her community service endeavors include co-coordinator of the Presidential Leadership Class 5K for Africa, volunteer at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ada and community outreach with Community Freewill Baptist Church.

Simpson, from Wetumka, is pursuing a career in dentistry and has gained valuable experience working as a dental assistant at Ada Smile Place. She has also conducted research projects at the University of Oklahoma Health and Sciences Center and in the Research Lab at the Dean McGee Eye Institute. One of her most recent endeavors was serving as a dental assistant to Dr. Benjamin Edwards on a mission trip to Belmopan, Belize in March.

She has continually made the dean’s honor roll at ECU since 2010. She also has

memberships in the Alpha Chi National Honor Society, McNair Scholars Program, Tri-Beta

National as well as achieving a Regent Baccalaureate Scholarship, Dr. Raniyah Ramadan Summer Research Internship and Dr. Raniyah Ramadan Scholarship for 2013-14. Her volunteer work includes: Seminole Faith Hospice, Nature Conservancy, Ada Boys and Girls Club, Chemistry Club (tutoring), Oklahoma Blood Institute and Salvation Army.

Fulton, of Wilson, obtained his bachelor’s degree in finance in 2013 and a certificate in finance and banking. His accomplishments include serving as president and member of Enactus. He attended the George Nigh Leadership Academy in 2013 and served as a CEO in a project called Books for Fiji in which over 15,000 books were sent to Fiji. Fulton is an Alpha Chi Honor Society member, volunteer for the Oklahoma Food Bank, Special Olympics supporter and volunteer and pianist with Wilson Public Schools, Zaneis Public Schools and First Baptist Church of Wilson. He was also co-reviver of ECU’s Chi Alpha Campus Ministries.

While at ECU he worked as an enrollment specialist/office secretary for the ECU School of Business and teller, trainer and new accounts representative with American National Bank in Wilson. Fulton had the opportunity to intern at Devon Energy and was hired as a revenue accountant after his intership.


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