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Former Southeastern president Kate Galt Zaneis, Distinguished Alumnus Buddy Spencer to be honored by Oklahoma Higher Ed Hall of Fame

August 1, 2022



DURANT, Okla. – The Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society will welcome 11 individuals into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2022.

Among that group are Kate Galt Zaneis, late president of Southeastern State Teachers College, now Southeastern Oklahoma State University, and Buddy Spencer, businessman and SE Distinguished Alumnus. Spencer will receive a special merit award.

The 28th annual induction ceremony and banquet is scheduled for Nov. 1 at the Oklahoma History Center.

“We are honored that President Zaneis and Mr. Spencer are receiving this award,’’ said Southeastern president Thomas Newsom. “Both of them are deserving of this recognition after having made such long-lasting contributions to higher education.’’

In 1935, Zaneis was appointed as the ninth president of Southeastern — the first female to head a state college or university in the nation.

Although Zaneis only served as president from May 1935 to July 1937, she accomplished a great deal, including overseeing a 33 percent increase in enrollment, obtaining Public Works Administration funding for facilities, equipment, and athletic field improvements, increasing funding for student work programs, and in 1937, securing an appearance by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for a speech on campus and overnight stay at the President’s home.

           Born in 1887 in Springplace, Georgia, Kate moved with her family to Ardmore, Oklahoma, and graduated from high school there in 1907.

            She later served as principal of Lincoln Ward School in Ardmore.  In 1915, Zaneis became the superintendent of Lone Grove High School and Rexroat Consolidated Schools, and not long after, was on the summer teaching faculty at Southeastern State Teachers College (STC).

 In 1920, while pursuing her bachelor’s degree at STC, Zaneis was elected as Carter County superintendent to work on rural school consolidation.

Later, as a member of the State Board of Education, she successfully achieved approval of sabbatical leaves for college faculty members. In 1935, shortly before she received her master’s degree from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University), Zaneis was named president of STC.

In her later career, Zaneis served as the director of education for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety. She also worked on the school lunch program through the Department of Public Welfare and later through the Department of Education.

Zaneis died on September 9, 1973, in Ardmore.

Buddy Spencer graduated from Southeastern in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in Education.  While attending Southeastern, he played basketball for the legendary coach Bloomer Sullivan for four years and served as the President of the Student Body.   Following graduation, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

            Spencer returned from military service to enter the automobile business, first working for Chevrolet and then as an automobile dealer.  He has been in the automobile business for more than 50 years, starting with his first dealership, Buddy Spencer Ford in Durant.   He is now the owner of the Blue Ribbon Auto Group in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.

            Spencer’s wife Doris is also a Southeastern graduate.  He was honored as a Distinguished Alumnus at Southeastern in 1982, and has received similar honors at Carl Albert State College.

            Other Hall of Fame inductees this year are  Larry Duffy, vice president for development and alumni affairs at Western Oklahoma State College; V. Burns Hargis, president emeritus of Oklahoma State University; Cindy Hess, senior vice president and chief academic officer at Tulsa Community College; Mary Margaret Holt, dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma; George W. McLaurin, late professor at Langston University; Gloria Pollard, human resources department, OU; William Ray, dean emeritus of the graduate college at OU-Tulsa; Randa Shehab, associate dean at the Gallogly College of Engineering at OU; and Gene Rainbolt, businessman, higher education philanthropist and civic leader (special merit award).