DURANT, Okla. – Southeastern Oklahoma State University’s Alumni Association will recognize three Distinguished Alumni as a part of Homecoming 2013 festivities.
This year’s honorees are Dr. Jim Barnes, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Assistant Chief Gary Batton, and Mr. Robert “Rob’’ Wells. They will be recognized at the Distinguished Awards Banquet on Friday, October 4, 5:30 p.m., in the Visual and Performing Arts Center.
Barnes (’64) served as the Oklahoma State Poet Laureate for 2009-10. Of Choctaw and Welsh ancestry, he grew up in Summerfield, Oklahoma. His bachelor’s degree from Southeastern was in English and theatre. He earned his master’s degree (1965) and Ph.D. (1970) from the University of Arkansas.
Barnes was a professor of comparative literature and writer-in-residence from 1970-2003 at Truman State University (Kirksville, Missouri), where he helped establish a strong poetry series at the University’s Press. Barnes still serves as poetry editor there. He also helped create the T.S. Eliot Prize, one of the premier poetry prizes in the country.
After retirement from Truman State, he was a Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing and English at Brigham Young University from 2003-06. His On Native Ground: Memoirs and Impressions (University of Oklahoma Press), now in its second edition, won The American Book Award in 1998. Among his many volumes of poetry, The Sawdust War garnered the Oklahoma Book Award in 1983.
His community service involves membership in many organizations, including the Associated Writing Programs, the National Association for Ethnic Studies, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West. He has sat on several National Endowment for the Arts committees.
Batton (’89) has served in a number of capacities with The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma since 1987. In 2007, he was named Assistant Chief under Chief Gregory Pyle.
In his 26 years with the Choctaw Nation, Batton has continuously looked for ways to improve and expand services and has been an integral part of the Tribe’s growth and success. Numerous Choctaw Nation programs and services have been created and enhanced under his leadership, including the Diabetes Wellness Center, the Youth Advisory Board, Veterans’ Advocacy, and Choctaw University.
He helps support Chief Pyle’s initiatives of health, education and jobs by expanding and increasing the profitability of current businesses and adding new businesses. Overall, businesses have shown a 69% increase in profitability since his appointment in 2007 and Tribal services continue to grow and evolve.
In addition, Batton has represented the Choctaw Nation on numerous boards and committees, including the National Budget Committee for Indian Health Service, the National Health Service Corps National Advisory Council, and the Tribal Technical Advisory Committee for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He currently serves on the Thunderbird Youth Academy Foundation Board, the Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Advocates, the Choctaw Nation Chahta Foundation Board, and the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Foundation Board.
He received his bachelor’s degree in management from Southeastern with minors in computer science and accounting.
Wells (’71) is CEO of TAG Aviation Holding SA, located in Geneva, Switzerland, and is responsible for TAG’s six operating companies. TAG Aviation provides aircraft management, charter services, base level maintenance operations and other services for business aviation worldwide. The company also owns TAG Farnborough Airport in Europe and subsidiary companies in Hong Kong, Bahrain, Spain, and the UK. TAG’s business jet fleet currently numbers nearly 150 aircraft based on all continents, and of the company’s 1,100 employees, nearly 350 are professional pilots.
He joined TAG Aviation USA in 1999 as Base Manager at its Seattle, Washington, operation. In 2002, Wells moved to TAG Aviation SA as President and CEO, responsible for the company’s European operations. He served in that role until 2007.Wells received his bachelor’s degree in aviation from Southeastern and earned his master’s of business from Southern Methodist University.
A licensed pilot with more than 8,000 hours logged, he currently serves on the Board of the European Business Aviation Trade Association. He was previously Executive Vice President for Piedmont Hawthorne Holdings, Inc. (now Landmark Aviation), where he held various management positions for more than 22 years.