ALVA, Okla. — Anyone associated with Northwestern Oklahoma State University (NWOSU) the past four decades knows the Case sisters.

Angelia and Valarie Case have been Rangers, both personally and professionally, since the 1980s.

“We bleed red and black,” Valarie said. “We love Northwestern. We love its people. We are the Ranger family.”

Graduates of Waynoka Public Schools, the sisters naturally gravitated to NWOSU — about a 30-40 minute drive away — because it allowed them to be closer to their hometown and parents, James A. “Jim” and Lorraine, and it was affordable.

A higher education

Their dad “was a big believer in us getting a higher education,” Valarie said, and he was a proud supporter when his daughters went on to get their bachelor’s degrees, Angelia in art under Don Bellah and Valarie in mass communication — the first one awarded in the school’s history as the program was established her junior year — under Wayne Lane.

When their dad passed in 1993, the family wanted to honor his memory. They established the Case Family Scholarship, which was endowed in 2014. Visual arts students benefit in even-numbered years and mass communications students in odd-numbered years, with preference given to Waynoka students or students who grew up in Woods County.

“My wish for the Case Family Scholarship is to help a deserving student with their education in our respective fields,” Lorraine said in 2016, when the scholarship was announced. “Jim and I always believed every child should have a good education. I’m hoping they will enjoy Northwestern as Angelia and Valarie have.”

‘Got each other’s backs’

Angelia, known as Ang to her friends, is older by one year than Valarie, known as Val to her friends, but they both started working at Northwestern in 1989. Many people mistake them for twins or even for being the same person.

“We wonder if people realize there are two of us because we’ll get mistaken for each other, called the wrong name, receive an email or a phone call meant for the other. It happens all the time,” Valarie said with a laugh. “It’s just funny.”

And while the two of them work in different departments on campus, they’re always there for each other to assist in whatever project is needed.

“My experience here is just better knowing that my sister works here, too,” Valarie said. “We’ve got each other’s backs.”

Coming full circle

Both feel they’ve come full circle in the 30-plus years they’ve been employed at NWOSU.

In the early days, Valarie returned to her stomping grounds of the university public relations office and the campus newspaper Northwestern News. She initially was the public relations secretary while unofficially advising mass comm students on the newspaper staff in writing, layout, photography and darkroom skills. She went on to become an instructor in the mass communications program, followed by her earning a master’s degree of education in speech communication.

“It was almost like I had come full circle, to become a faculty member in the same department I had become the first mass comm graduate as well as being the adviser of the very newspaper I had served as its editor,” Valarie commented.

She only served in that role two years before returning to public relations. Her official job title these days is university relations specialist.

Encouraging creativity

Angelia initially worked half time in the Instructional Media Center and half time as an assistant to John Barton, the division director for Language, Fine Arts, and Humanities in the Fine Arts Building, now known as Ryerson Hall.

She continued to pursue art projects on the side, including annually designing NWOSU’s homecoming button and becoming the sponsor of NWOSU Art Society in 2004.

Being involved with the art club on campus gives Angelia great joy. Her love for art stemmed from a sixth-grade encounter with “a real artist,” she said. She sold her first work, a pastel piece, in an outdoor show in downtown Waynoka to Thad Leachman, a regional western artist who encouraged her creativity.

“The encouragement from someone ‘in the business’ meant the world to sixth-grade me,” Angelia said. “It still does. I’ve thought of him many times over the years and how that day made such a difference to me. What he did for me was give me a lesson for later: be sure to encourage the creativity in others.”

The NWOSU Art Society hosts an art show every March; the 18th one is slated for this year.

Today her official job title is academic projects assistant and media specialist, working as an assistant to James Bell, the dean of faculty and associate vice president for academics. Angelia also earned her master’s degree of education in speech communication at the same time as Valarie.

Meeting a campus need

The sisters often tag team at events — whether it’s marching band, art shows, ball games or local activities — either on the front lines assisting or behind the scenes photographing and videotaping.

They’re passionate about the Campus Cabinet food pantry, of which Angelia is coordinator.

“This is simply the best thing I’ve been a part of,” she said.

“We saw a need and wanted to do something about it,” Valarie added.

After researching and surveying students and university employees, it became clear Northwestern needed a food pantry. NWOSU Art Society was among the organizations that helped develop it as people generously gave both money and non-perishable foods. The original idea was to create a blessings box, but the vision grew once Student Services and university administration got on board.

Located in Shockley Hall, Campus Cabinet’s room first opened in January 2019 and already has more than 110 students and employees who’ve benefited. In addition to food, the pantry accepts personal hygiene products and new or like-new bedding.

“There is nothing better than truly being able to help,” Angelia said. “We encourage people to let us help them now so they can pay it forward later. It’s so hard to ask for help, so we don’t take it lightly when they do.”

“Knowing that the campus food pantry is making a difference is a very fulfilling feeling. Seeing how happy and thankful the people we’ve helped are can make your day,” Valarie concurred.

Pandemic provisions

Together with their mother, they did their part during the height of the coronavirus pandemic too.

“It was Mom’s idea,” Valarie said about the Case family face mask project. Lorraine, who works in dietary at Alva’s Share Convalescent Home, wanted to make face masks for people who might need them.

The trio set up shop in Lorraine’s house and “pretty much made masks after work” every day from March 2020 until August 2020, when they began slowing down and taking breaks. Lorraine drew out the pattern on the material and interfacing and did most of the cutting out, Valarie assembled the three layers of material before sending over to Angelia for sewing.

The homemade masks — which were free — were offered to friends, family, co-workers, students and even complete strangers. And while they didn’t ask for anything in return, the Case family often was given money to cover the costs or material for masks.

Valarie said to date, they’ve made nearly 2,100 masks, including a modified enlarged one for Rowdy, the Rangers’ mascot.

Ranger parents

Over the years, both sisters have “adopted” students along the way, and “many still call us their Ranger parents,” Valarie said.

One notable “family member” is former NWOSU student and championship-winning wide receiver Willie Spears, who graduated in May 2000 and went onto coach high school football in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. He is a well-known motivational speaker in that region, and the Case sisters helped him initially establish The Willie Spears Experience through booking engagements and public relations.

“From the time I first became involved on campus as a student, Northwestern and its people became family. That feeling has just grown more and more through my years as an employee here,” Valarie said.

To see Angelia and Valarie’s artwork and photography, go to https://casecreations.wixsite.com/case.

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Replogle is a freelance writer who writes for the Enid News & Eagle.

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