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Northwestern announces spring commencement, locals set to graduate

Dr. Joe Highfill of Norman, a 1966 graduate of Northwestern Oklahoma State University, will deliver the commencement address at his alma mater during the University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 8, at 10:30 a.m. at Ranger Field.

The stage will face south for this ceremony to allow for social distanced seating on both the home and visitor sides. Guests in the stands will be encouraged to wear a face covering.

In case of inclement weather, the spring commencement exercises will be held in Percefull Fieldhouse. If the event is moved indoors, the universities’ COVID protocols will be observed.

A native of Alva, Highfill graduated from Northwestern State College with a bachelor’s degree in natural science, and later earned a master’s degree in natural science and a Ph.D. in phycology with a minor emphasis in human anatomy, both at The University of Oklahoma. While at Northwestern, Highfill was a member of the Ranger choir, band and other organizations.

Highfill taught eighth-grade science at Curtis Junior High in Wichita, Kansas, for a year and then taught high school biology at Woodward High School. Following those two years, he entered the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. After two and a half years in the army as Assistant Registrar and Assistant Patient Administrator at U.S. Army Hospital Fort Carson, Colorado, and promotion to Captain, he retired from the military and returned to Woodward, where for 18 years he taught a number of different science classes, coached tennis and also earned his master’s degree during summer sessions.

Following his second teaching stint in Woodward, Highfill returned to OU as a full-time student studying human anatomy at the OU Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. He then moved to the main campus in Norman where he completed his doctorate and was soon hired to become faculty at the university where he taught biology for teachers, introduction to botany and economic botany in the botany – microbiology department. He then moved to the zoology department where he taught human cadaver anatomy, comparative vertebrate anatomy, introduction to zoology, protozoology and the senior capstone course.

After retirement from OU, Highfill entered the nursing program at Oklahoma City Community College where he graduated with an associate degree in nursing. The following five years he worked as an oncology nurse in the Norman Regional Hospital Oncology department.

The University of Oklahoma asked him to return, so he spent an additional 12 years there teaching comparative vertebrate anatomy. During the first two years of his return to teaching at OU, he also worked part-time as a hospice nurse in the Norman area.

After a 40-year career that started in 1966 and ended in 2015, he now enjoys reading, working in the yard and traveling  the world on Disney cruises.

A live stream link for the commencement exercises can be found at

Eleven candidates will receive Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees.

Thirty-five candidates will receive master degrees, 21 will receive Master of Education degrees, 13 will receive Master of Counseling Psychology degrees, and one will receive a Master of Science in General Psychology degree.

A total of 208 candidates will receive bachelor’s degrees with 38 graduating with honors. Students with cumulative grade point averages between 3.70 and 3.79 are designated cum laude, those with GPAs between 3.80-3.89 are magna cum laude and those­­ above 3.90 are summa cum laude.

A live internet stream of the graduation can be found at:

Graduates and their hometowns are as follows:

Bachelor Of Business


• Aline: Ethan Sacket, business administration.

Bachelor Of Science

• Cherokee: Andrea Corr, psychology; Eugene Highfill, psychology.

• Jet: April Burchfiel, biology.

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