Save the Illinois River, Inc.
24369 E 757 Rd.
Tahlequah, OK 74464-1949
(918) 284-9440

STIR Near Scholarship Goal

Save the Illinois River, inc., STIR | Environment | December 05, 2023

STIR pushes toward fundraising goal, seeks tax-deductible donations.

Tahlequah Daily Press 12/4/23
By D.E. Smoot
Keegan Stallings

Keegan Stallings, left, and his wife, Viktoria Stallings, stand along a stretch of Town Branch Creek, where they carry out much of their research while pursuing freshwater sciences degrees at Northeastern State University. Keegan Stallings was awarded the Save the Illinois River Freshwater Sciences Scholarship for the 2023 spring semester.

Save the Illinois River Inc. aims to achieve its goal of funding an endowed scholarship for students enrolled in Northeastern State University’s Freshwater Sciences program by Dec. 31.

The Tahlequah-based citizens coalition raised 80% of its goal during the first 10 months of its year-long campaign. STIR also funded scholarships awarded to its first two recipients, both of whom will be among the first graduates of NSU’s new River Studies and Leadership Certificate program.

STIR President Denise Deason-Toyne said the grassroots coalition funded the scholarship with hopes of attracting the next generation of “water warriors.” She said the $1,500 scholarships are intended to promote interest among young people in NSU’s freshwater studies program and conservation, both of which will be critical for the future of the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller.


“I truly believe this scholarship is very important, very helpful to our students … who participate in this program,” Deason-Toyne said, while making a pitch for tax-deductible donations to the endowment fund. “We think they’ll do good things for the Illinois River, for Tenkiller Lake, for Spring Creek, for all the waterways in Oklahoma.”

Lizz Waring, assistant professor of biology, said NSU’s Freshwater Sciences program blends “together biology and chemistry,” establishing an “environmental pathway” for students. She said NSU began offering freshwater science degrees in 2021 and produced its first graduates this year; a STIR Scholarship recipient was among them.

“We also had four students finish River Studies and Leadership Certificate program this spring,” Waring said during a recent gathering in Cherokee County of River Management Society staff and board members. “We officially started offering it [certificate program] in January and by May, we had three students with three different majors finish it. We currently have 12 students across five different majors working toward the certificate.”

Angie Fuhrmann, RMS training director, said the certificate program adopted by NSU and more than a dozen other colleges and universities is central to the society’s mission. That mission, she said, is providing support for professionals who study, protect and manage North America’s rivers.

“All that starts with students, right?” Fuhrmann said, describing the advent of river studies certificate program. “They’re the next generation of river professionals, the ones who begin by studying them and then move on to managing or protecting them, or both. They are the future of river management, so it’s very important.”

Fuhrmann said NSU was one of the quickest to implement the certificate program after adopting it. Because NSU’s freshwater sciences curriculum overlaps to some extent with RMS’ certificate program, NSU students earned certification in near-record time.

“They’ve been … a shining star of the program,” Fuhrmann said about NSU, Waring, and students enrolled in the program. “I don’t think we’ve had another school do that any faster.”

Keegan Stallings, recipient of STIR’s inaugural Freshwater Sciences Studies Scholarship, said the STIR-funded scholarship afforded him more time to focus on his freshwater sciences research and studies.

He and his wife, Viktoria Stallings, STIR’s second scholarship recipient, said they expect the STIR scholarship and the RMS certificate program will bolster interest in NSU’s freshwater sciences program.

Deason-Toyne said STIR board members are considering ways other than the scholarship to bolster interest in protecting and preserving the Illinois River, its tributaries and lake. There has been some consideration, she said, about giving students an opportunity to serve as a non-voting member of the board.

“We are hopeful about establishing an endowment for scholarships that will help train the next generation of water warriors,” Deason-Toyne said. “Allowing students to serve as a non-voting board member is another way to generate interest and participation in STIR and grow our next generation of water warriors.”

Peggy Glenn, executive director of the NSU Foundation, said anyone can donate to the STIR scholarship fund. Scholarships, she said, reduce the amount of debt many students accumulate while earning a college degree.

“Scholarships are an ideal way to reduce that burden while rewarding student excellence and commitment,” Glenn said in a letter to STIR, noting the NSU Foundation awarded more than $1.18 million in 2022. That “was an all-time high, though the need is so much greater.”

Anyone who wants to make a tax-deductible contribution to the STIR Scholarship Endowment may do so online or by mail.

Online donations may be made at by designating the amount to be donated and the words “STIR Scholarship” in the box designated for comments.

“Donors can also set up regular monthly, quarterly, or annual donations through that form,” Glenn said about donations made online.

Scholarship contributions made by check should be made payable to NSU Foundation, with “STIR Scholarship” written on the memo line. Those donations may be sent to the NSU Foundation at 812 N. Cedar Ave., Tahlequah, OK 74464, or to STIR at 24369 E. 757 Road, Tahlequah, OK 74464.

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Save the Illinois River, Inc.
24369 E 757 RD
Tahlequah, OK 74464

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