Murray State College in Tishomingo is home to many hard-working local students, some of which participate in an 18-month program for Occupational Therapy Assistants.
A recent Ardmore graduate, Donya Swindall, was honored with a new award Tuesday at a dinner sponsored by the Murray State College Foundation. The award, created specifically to recognize Swindall’s achievement as the first African-American woman to complete the program of study, has been named the Female Trailblazer Award.
Swindall’s story was shared with Foundatioxsday evening.
“Two students came to me with concerns about not being able to work during the last semester of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program,” said Malynda Cobb, Foundation coordinator. Because of the generous donations of alumni and the community, one of those students, Swindall, was able to complete not only the program, but a major milestone for the college.
Through the Foundation, Swindall was able to purchase needed supplies in
order to complete the certification, the first woman of color to do so.
“In her honor, we have created this award, the Female Trailblazer Award. In a true story of giving back,” Cobb said, “Ms. Swindall has established the Achieving in Higher Education—Tré Swindall Scholarship.” Swindall said she hopes to pay it forward with the scholarship in honor of her son.
Swindall addressed the assembled Foundation
members, thanking them for their support and encouragement.
“Occupational therapy assistants rehabilitate patients, who maybe had a traumatic brain injury or a stroke,” Swindall said.
She said they work with individuals to modify their life situations so that they can remain independent.
“We get them back to their life, back to their optimum level of independence, even if it’s modified.” Swindall said her motivation was her son, Tré, who has Asperger’s, which is on the autism spectrum. A friend encouraged Swindall to apply for the program at Murray after witnessing her work ethic at a local nursing home.
“My goal is to educate the community,” Swindall said, “and to inspire people to go back to school.”
 “I am so grateful to you for your donations,” Swindall said. “I am also thankful for the teachers, the professors. They really care and always stopped to check on me,” Swindall, a 1992 graduate of Pauls Valley High School, said she plans to continue her education at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
The OTA program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education. Jayne Campanini, director of the OTA program at Murray State, said program graduates complete an Associate’s degree in Applied Science along with the OTA certification. According to the program’s website, during the three-year period from 2014-2016, a total of 36 students graduated from the program, with an overall graduation rate of 84 percent.
For more information about the OTA program, check out the program’s website at To contact the foundation or make a donation, see