Southeastern Oklahoma State University will honor four Distinguished Alumni during homecoming festivities Oct. 24-26.


This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award recipients are James Parrish, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Executive Director of Education/School Programs and Senior Director of the School of the Choctaw Language; Col. Tuan T. Ton, U.S. Army Senior Defense Official and Defense Attache’ to Vietnam; Rick Wells, Principal and Founder of Wells Hospitality Group, LLC, One Heart Ventures, LLC, and The Seed Project Foundation; and Dr. J. Herbert Taylor (Posthumously), molecular biologist and geneticist.


The honorees will be formally recognized at the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Awards Banquet on Friday, Oct. 25, in the Visual & Performing Arts Center.


Throughout his career, Parrish established himself as a leader in education in the State of Oklahoma, and is “known by all for his fairness to fellow workers and for being a champion in every respect to the children he has served.”


Upon his retirement from Bennington Public Schools in 2009, he joined the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Driven by a desire to preserve and promote the words of his ancestors, Parrish has worked to ensure that the Choctaw language be accredited as a world language within Oklahoma’s public schools.


He also brought integral information and knowledge to the Oklahoma State Department of Education to help create an alternative pathway to certification for Native American languages. To date, 10 tribes have taken advantage of the certification pathway, and students are now able to receive high school graduation credit for their world language study.


Ton assumed his current position with the U.S. Army in September of 2015.


Ton enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in 1986 and served with the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany. He received his commission as an infantry officer in 1989 and began his service with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), including participation in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a platoon leader. Ton later served with the 1st Cavalry Division as a mechanized infantry company commander.


After earning the Foreign Area Officer qualification in 2002, Ton subsequently served in the following assignments: Country Director for Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam at U.S. Pacific Command; Policy Advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs; U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Liaison Officer to U.S. Embassy Islamabad and Pakistan’s Army Headquarters in support of Operation Enduring Freedom; and Senior Military Advisor at the Department of State’s Bureau of East Asia and the Pacific.


Rick Wells is the principal and founder of Wells Hospitality Group, LLC, One Heart Ventures, LLC, and The Seed Project Foundation.


Wells Hospitality Group is the developer and co-owner of McKinney (Texas)-based Rick’s Chophouse, Harvest Seasonal Kitchen, and Sterling Events and Catering. Each of these entities has won numerous awards ranging from Top Ten Restaurants in north Texas, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, to the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in the Dallas area.


Wells also owns Water Boy Farms, an organic flower, vegetable, and honey bee farm in Lucas, Texas.


The late Dr. Herbert J. “Herb” Taylor did pioneering work in the fields of chromosomes and DNA. He verified by experiment, many of the theories that Francis Crick and James Watson held with regards to DNA. Crick and Watson, along with Maurice Wilkins, won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery of the structure of DNA.


In 2006, a Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory textbook stated that Taylor “comes as close as anyone to being considered the father of the field of chromosomes.” He published more than 100 scholarly papers in the field.


In 1960, Taylor co-founded the American Society for Cell Biology, which is still active today. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1977, which is one of the highest honors a scientist can hold.


Other traditional homecoming events include the parade, alumni golf tournament, pre-game tailgating, and football game. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 26, at Paul Laird Field as the Southeastern Savage Storm host Henderson State.


For a complete schedule of events, visit https://www.se.edu/alumni/homecoming-2019/.