NCAI President Jefferson Keel named Spring Commencement speaker

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Jefferson Keel
Jefferson Keel

Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, will deliver the keynote address at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s spring commencement.

The undergraduate ceremony will be held in the Quad on May 4. A separate ceremony for The Graduate School will be held at Givens Performing Arts Center on May 3. Keel will speak at both ceremonies.

Keel, Lieutenant Governor of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, is a retired U.S. Army officer with more than 20 years active duty service. His combat experience included two extended tours of service in Vietnam as an Infantryman, where he received the Bronze Star with valor, two purple hearts and numerous other awards and decorations for heroism.

This will mark Keel’s second visit to UNCP. He toured the campus and met with faculty, staff and students in September 2017.

Keel has always proven himself as an effective leader. He is a former Airborne Ranger, and served as an instructor in the elite U.S. Army Rangers.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from East Central University, a Master of Science degree from Troy University, and completed post graduate studies at East Central and East Texas universities.

He has management experience in the private sector and tribal programs and operations. He is proud of his Native American heritage and often assists other tribes and groups in cultural and historic preservation activities. Keel is firmly committed to the service of Indian people and actively supports their desire to become self-reliant.

The welfare of the Chickasaw people is his first priority. He is keenly aware of the roles and responsibilities expected of tribal leaders and earnestly believes in the policy of “helping our people through honorable public service.”

As president of the National Congress of American Indians, he leads the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native tribal government organization in the country. He was appointed by Senator Harry Reid to serve as a Commissioner on the Tribal Law and Order Commission.

He has served as chair for the Tribal Interior Budget Committee, serves on the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Tribal Advisory Committee, and Centers for Disease Control Tribal Consultation Advisory Committee.

Keel and his wife, Carol, have three children and eight grandchildren.