Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker was among 10 recipients to receive this year’s Centurion Award by Northeastern State University.
A luncheon was held recently at NSU’s University Center as part of its Founder’s Day celebration. Each year since 2009, NSU has selected its alumni, professors, athletes or staff whose leadership has made a significant impact in the community for the Centurion Award.
“I am a proud alum of Northeastern State University and tremendously humbled to be recognized by the school as a centurion,” said Principal Chief Baker. “The school will always hold a special place in my heart. The education I received at NSU helped prepare me for a life dedicated to public service, and I am deeply appreciative of that. I was lucky to build invaluable relationships, friends and mentors to this day during my NSU tenure, and I have been blessed to stay active and involved with the university over the years.”
Chief Baker, who graduated from NSU in 1973 with education degrees in history and political science, earned the award as a community advocate, businessman and elected leader of the Cherokee Nation.
"Chief Baker’s leadership in the Cherokee Nation and tireless dedication to service are appropriately recognized in his centurion honor,” NSU President Dr. Steve Turner said. “He often mentions his experience as an NSU student and graduate as pivotal in his personal development, and it is certainly fitting that he is joining his mother, Isabel, as an honoree for their lifelong commitment to the heritage and legacy of NSU."
Chief Baker was elected as Principal Chief in October 2011. Prior, he spent 12 years on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. He has been a small-business owner in Tahlequah for more than 40 years.
While in office, Chief Baker has increased and expanded college scholarship funding for more tribal citizens, improved the tribe’s health care system and created new jobs throughout the Cherokee Nation. He also played a major role in reestablishing the tribe’s new home construction program.
Previously named centurions include country music superstar Carrie Underwood, “Tuna” trilogy co-author and co-star Joe Sears, former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, historian Beth Herrington and entrepreneur Jeff Reasor.