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NOC dedicates Pickens Learning Commons

Cutline: NOC Tonkawa formally dedicated the Pickens Learning Commons Wednesday, Oct. 12. Pictured (L-R): Vice President for Community Relations & Development Sheri Snyder, Mural Artist Yatika Starr Fields, former NOC President Dr. Cheryl Evans, art collector Hugh Pickens, NOC President Dr. Clark Harris. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College).

NOC Tonkawa formally dedicated the Pickens Learning Commons Wednesday, Oct. 12.  Pictured (L-R):  Vice President for Community Relations & Development Sheri Snyder, Mural Artist Yatika Starr Fields, former NOC President Dr. Cheryl Evans, art collector Hugh Pickens, NOC President Dr. Clark Harris.  (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College).

NOC dedicates Pickens Learning Commons

The transformation of the Northern Oklahoma College library to the Pickens Learning Commons is complete as Northern Oklahoma College dedicated the updated facility at last Wednesday’s grand opening.

The event included remarks by NOC President Dr. Clark Harris, Hugh Pickens, artist Yatika Starr Fields, NOC Board of Regents Chairman Jami Groendyke, Tonkawa Chamber of Commerce President Kristy Favela, and NOC Vice President for Community Relations and Development Sheri Snyder.

Dr. Harris said the project was part of his “Building a Better NOC” initiative started last year.

“This project along with the generous support from the Pickens Museum connects with the current NOC Strategic Goals as well as to the Core Values of personalized education, continuous improvement and community and civic engagement,” Harris said.  “NOC strives to provide initiatives to insure student learning and student success. Programs and activities conducted by the institution are also designed to promote a quality of life that enhances the students’ total growth and development. The project exemplifies all of this.”

Regent chair Jami Groendyke said she is inspired by the Pickens’ family generosity.

“Today signifies an important day for Northern Oklahoma College,” Groendyke said.  “On behalf of the NOC Board of Regents, it gives me great pleasure to assist in this formal recognition and dedication. As an NOC alumna myself, I am inspired by the Pickens’ generosity to give back to this institution. As a Native American, I am proud of the gift of Native art that is showcased here at Northern also made possible by the Pickens family.”

In his remarks, Pickens spoke of the value of art.

“Art can do a lot of things, Pickens said.  “Art can inspire us, art can help us be open to other ideas, art can uplift our minds and spirits.  Art can change the world.  I know this for a fact because it changed mine.”

Pickens began collecting art in the 1960’s, then combined collections with his wife Dr. S.J. Pickens in 1984 and continued to collect art for 33 years where they spend hours in their studio admiring the art work they had acquired.

Pickens then said that (former NOC President) Dr. Cheryl Evans had asked if NOC could display art by artist Yatika Starr Fields.  Pickens then commissioned Fields to paint a mural in the Cultural Engagement Center at NOC.  He then said that (current president) Dr. Clark Harris had asked that Pickens’ presence at NOC continue and the result (100’x 20’ mural) and over 80 pieces of art is on display today.

“I am displaying this art to honor my late wife’s memory,” he said.  “I hope the students today will see this art and be inspired by it.”

Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields thanked Pickens for bringing him into the project.

“I want to thank Mr. Pickens for allowing me to share his vision,” he said.  “To have this amount if art work in one place here at NOC in Tonkawa is truly amazing.  It’s not something you see in Oklahoma so NOC and Tonkawa are very fortunate.”

Fields explained the mural as a work of Native American inspiration and he hopes this work will inspire others.

“I want to help students gain an inspiration to the energy of this mural and see vision of the past and the future,” he said.

Chamber President Kristy Favela said the new learning center is an amazing facility.

“I love how beautiful this Native American art work is and how it can bring cultures together and inspire students,” she said.  “I love how NOC and the City of Tonkawa can come together.  That’s what Tonkawa means and I love that idea.”

In the opening remarks of the event, Vice President for Community Relations & Development Sheri Snyder said, “Today, we want to not only share this amazing transformation within the Vineyard Library, but also want to formally recognize our private donor, Mr. Hugh Pickens and the Doctor Pickens Museum, Inc.,” said Sheri Snyder.  “We are so proud of our partnership with Hugh and The Doctor Pickens Museum, which started in 2020, when Hugh commissioned the beautiful 50-foot murals painted by Osage artist Yatika Starr Fields in our Cultural Engagement Center. Many of you were here in June 2021 when we held the artist reception and formal recognition.”

“We are extremely grateful that this partnership has continued,” Snyder said.  “In April of this year, President Harris shared the vision of the Tonkawa Library and new contemporary Student Learning Commons with the Northern Oklahoma College Board of Regents, where they not only approved the project, but also approved the naming of the facility thanks to the substantial support from the Doctor Pickens Museum, Inc.

Tonkawa Chamber of Commerce Directors also held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the event.

The dedication coincided with Pickens’ birthday so in honor of the event, the NOC Roustabouts sang Happy Birthday to Pickens.

Northern Oklahoma College, the state’s first public two-year community college, is a multi-campus, land-grant institution that provides high quality, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities and services.

NOC serves nearly 4,000 students through the home campus in Tonkawa, branch in Enid, and NOC/OSU Gateway Program in Stillwater.  Of these students about 80% receive financial aid and/or scholarships. 75% of NOC students complete their degree with zero debt.

The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers associate degrees in three general areas: Arts, Science and Applied Science; the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs; and the Accreditation Commission for Education and Nursing.

For more information about Northern Oklahoma College please call (580) 628-6208 or visit the NOC website at