ADA — Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges is expected to make a final decision today on which of the four finalists is best suited to meet the needs of East Central University as its new president. Dr. Bill Cole, ECU president, retires June 30.

Candidates for the position include Richard Rafes, senior vice president for administration at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas; Donnie L. Nero, president of Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma with campuses in Muskogee; Duke R. Ligon, general counsel and senior vice president of Devon Energy Corporation; and Claudia A. Limbert, president of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Miss.

Richard Rafes is the senior vice president for administration at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. He has previously served the University of North Texas as interim vice president/vice chancellor for administrative affairs and as chief legal counsel for the University of North Texas System which includes the University of North Texas, University of North Texas Health Sciences Center at Fort Worth and University of North Texas at Dallas. His previous employment included serving as general counsel for the Texas State University System in Austin, Texas and as an Assistant Attorney General of Texas.

Rafes earned his bachelor’s degree in government at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. He earned his doctor of jurisprudence degree at the University of Houston, and his doctor of philosophy degree in higher education administration at the University of North Texas.

In addition to his career achievements, Rafes has received numerous honors and awards including the College of Education Honors Day Outstanding Alumni Award, the Honors Day President’s Special Recognition Award, Administrator of the Year award and the Top Professor award from the Mortar Board National Honor Society. In addition the University of North Texas Urban Astronomy Center was named the Richard and Tommye Rafes Urban Astronomy Center in 2005. Rafes has also served on numerous boards and committees including: the United States All Star Federation Special Needs Committee, North Texas Community Clinics, YMCA Executive Committee and Fort Worth Regional Science Fair at the University of North Texas.



Duke R. Ligon is general counsel and senior vice president of Devon Energy Corporation. His previous employment includes serving as a partner at the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw in New York City and as a senior vice president and managing director for investment banking at Bankers Trust Co., also in New York City. He has also held various leadership positions with the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Treasury as well as the Department of Energy.

Duke Ligon has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Westminster College in Missouri, where he received the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1992. He earned his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

In addition to his career achievements, Ligon has been actively involved in a number of civic organizations including serving on two board committees of the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art, the board of directors of the Seminole Nation Museum, Friends of the New York Public Library, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Oklahoma City Art Museum and the Oklahoma City Petroleum Club. He has also served on the board of New England College and the University of Texas Law School Foundation.

Ligon received the 2006 Eugene Kuntz Award presented by the University of Oklahoma for his outstanding contribution to oil and gas law. Additionally, he served as a captain in U.S. Army in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star medal for his performance of duty.

Ligon is originally from Wewoka and currently resides in Oklahoma City.



Donnie L. Nero is the president of Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma with campuses in Muskogee. His previous employment includes serving as the provost of Tulsa Community College – Southeast Campus. Nero was employed at Tulsa Community College – Southeast Campus for 15 years where he served in numerous capacities including: member of the development team, coordinator of self-study, coordinator of multicultural education, coordinator of staff development, coordinator of marketing management, instructor of psychology of human relations and dean of student services.

Nero earned his bachelor’s degree in health, physical education and recreation at East Central University where he received the distinguished alumnus award in 2002. He earned both his master’s in educational administration and his doctorate in occupational and adult education at Oklahoma State University.

Nero has received various awards including the Phi Theta Kappa International Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction and Phi Theta Kappa Distinguished CEO for the Oklahoma/Arkansas Region. He is a founder of the Oklahoma Legal Issues Conference, a graduate of Leadership Tulsa Class XVIII and Oklahoma State Coordinator of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Nero has also served as an Oklahoma Quality Award Examiner, president of the Muskogee Area Educational Consortium, Indian Capital Technology Center and the Muskogee Rotary club. He has also served on the board of the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce, Greater Muskogee Development Corporation, Tulsa Area United Way, Volunteer Center of Tulsa, Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce, Big Bothers and Sisters of Tulsa and numerous other organizations.



Claudia A. Limbert is the president of Mississippi University for Women (MUW) in Columbus, Mississippi. Her previous employment includes serving as campus executive officer at Pennsylvania State University, DuBois campus after serving as their director of academic affairs. She began her career as an English and women’s study professor at Pennsylvania State University, Shenango campus. She was then selected as an administrative fellow and spent a year in leadership training under the direction of a senior vice president at Pennsylvania State University, University Park campus.

Limbert earned her bachelor’s degree in English, history and education at Bethel College in Newton, Kansas. She earned both her master’s degree in Creative writing and her doctorate in English literature at Boston University.

Dr. Limbert has received many awards, including the Athena Award for service to women and the community by the Greater DuBois Area Chamber of Commerce, the Outstanding College Administrator of Pennsylvania State University’s Commonwealth College in 2001, the Rosemary Schraer Mentor Award from Pennsylvania State University’s Commission for Women in 2000, and the Teaching Award in 1994 from the students of Pennsylvania State University, Shenango. She also was named one of the Achieving Women of Penn State. Most recently, she was selected as one of Mississippi’s 12 Leading Business Women for 2004.

She is a member of numerous organizations and committees. Her more recent affiliation is with the Southern Association of Schools Commission on Colleges, MUW’s accreditation agency, as a commissioner, a member of the executive council, and chair of the Mississippi commissioners.

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