50 Who Made A Difference
Deryl L. Gotcher
Some of those who have contributed most to the development of Oklahoma Christian University have been those who are products of Christian education themselves. Deryl L. Gotcher was reared in Texas and attended Abilene Christian College. He pursued his legal education at the University of Oklahoma, where he graduated and immediately began plying his new professional skills. He established a very successful trial law practice in Tulsa and was elected president of the Oklahoma Bar Association in the mid-1970s.
The Central Christian Board retained Mr. Gotcher to do some legal work as early as 1950, and he served as counsel for the college from that time forward. In 1968, he was added to the board of trustees. He became chairman of the board in 1979 and served 18 years, longer than any other person. Sixteen of those years were during President J. Terry Johnson’s administration. The two of them enjoyed a close working relationship in their respective roles of leadership.
Mr. Gotcher occupied a high visibility role for the college in Tulsa. He and his wife, Nadine, hosted many development and student recruitment functions, and he served as chairman for an array of operational fundraising campaigns. When the new Bible building was built in 1986, Mr. Gotcher led the campaign to secure its funding. On many occasions, he joined with Oklahoma Christian presidents to open the door for funding with his friends at the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundations. Mrs. Gotcher was active with the Tulsa chapter of Oklahoma Christian Women’s Association.
In 1973, Oklahoma Christian founded a subsidiary corporation known as the Oklahoma Christian Investment Corporation. It developed and acquired real estate properties to use as endowment for the college. Mr. Gotcher was a founding member of that organization’s board and became its second chairman. He also served as a member of the National Council for The Christian Chronicle, a newspaper owned and published by the university for the benefit of members of the churches of Christ.
An ardent Bible school teacher, Mr. Gotcher served as an elder for three congregations in Tulsa: 15th and Delaware, 29th and Yale, and Park PlazaBack to Top
Dan Hays has worked with some of the biggest names in college basketball. It’s not a stretch to say that, if he wanted to, Hays could be a successful coach at an NCAA Division I school.
But he is right at home in the Eagles’ Nest, where he has worked since 1983 to build the Oklahoma Christian men’s basketball program into one of the NAIA’s best. Hays, who was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1998 and OC’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, has led the Eagles to six Sooner Athletic Conference championships and eight national tournament berths.
In addition to almost 600 wins as OC’s coach, he has seen more than 90 percent of the seniors in his program complete their degrees. Hays also served as director of Oklahoma Christian’s acclaimed Cage Camp program from 1984 to 2006.
“Especially when I was younger, I liked to get to the office early to do my work and play basketball with my friends every day and teach and coach,” Hays said. “I felt like my niche was in small colleges. I love small-college basketball.”
Perhaps the greatest testimony to Hays’ influence is that more than 30 of his former players and assistant coaches have followed him into the coaching profession. One of his proteges is Sherri Coale, the head women’s coach at the University of Oklahoma.
“I learned so much about the game from him on a deeper level. I had a really unique opportunity in that I got to watch him rebuild that program,” said Coale, who played for the Lady Eagles the first year Hays was hired to coach the men’s team. “I didn’t know at the time what a neat thing that was to be exposed to. There’s a difference from starting and building a thing than to someone who’s just winning and winning.”Back to Top
J. Terry Johnson
Asking where Oklahoma Christian would be without J. Terry Johnson is much like asking where the Dallas Cowboys would be without Roger Staubach. It is impossible to speak of the Cowboys’ glory years without reminiscing about Staubach’s heroics. It is equally impossible to think of Oklahoma Christian University without the heroics of J. Terry Johnson.
As “quarterback” for Oklahoma Christian University for more than 21 years, Terry Johnson guided the institution through its advancement to university status and led it to unprecedented growth in the areas of campus development, student enrollment and institutional endowment.
During his first decade as president, construction and renovation projects included the Reba Davisson Residence Hall, Gaylord Student Activity Center, Phases II and III of the campus apartments, Harvey Business Center. and Payne Natatorium. The financial growth during this time was overwhelming. Fueled by strong enrollments and bold fundraising efforts, the endowment skyrocketed from slightly more than $1.5 million in 1975 to more than $8.8 million in 1979. This dramatic growth gave Oklahoma Christian the resources to realize even bigger dreams during the 1980s.
Johnson’s second decade of leadership was marked by the successful $50 million “With Wings As Eagles” campaign in 1985, the launching of the engineering program, the beginning of the Vienna Studies program and the addition of the master’s degree in ministry. New buildings added to the campus during that time included the Biblical Studies Building, Thelma Gaylord Forum, Prince Engineering Center and Enterprise Square USA. When the university celebrated its 50-year anniversary, the endowment stood at nearly $30 million, largely due to Dr. Johnson’s efforts.
In January 1996, Dr. Johnson handed over the presidential gavel to Dr. Kevin E. Jacobs and became the university’s fourth chancellor. After 21 years as Oklahoma Christian’s “quarterback,” Dr. J. Terry Johnson now serves the university he built as a wise “coach.”Back to Top
Edward C. Joullian III
Ed Joullian was present at the move to Oklahoma City more than 40 years ago when he witnessed the groundbreaking of the university that would rise out of the flat prairie of north Oklahoma City.
“Oklahoma Christian was brought to my attention by C.A. Vose and Edward L. Gaylord,” Joullian recalled. “Through their efforts, I became involved, and I learned much about the goals and desires to provide an educational opportunity in a religious setting.”
Thus began a 50-year relationship between Oklahoma Christian and Joullian, now the chairman and CEO of Mustang Fuels Corporation. Joullian served as chairman of Oklahoma Christian’s Board of Governors and was awarded the university’s first honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1990 for his longstanding support of the university.
On the occasion of OC’s 50th anniversary in 2000, with the university about to embark on another half-century of history, Joullian said he expected Oklahoma Christian to remain committed to its mission to provide religious and educational leadership.
“The continuing effort to teach and inspire students to respect and participate in the free enterprise system is most important,” he said. “Oklahoma City is fortunate to have such an educational institution located within its environs. I envision the university becoming more involved in community affairs and providing leadership to those elements that are necessary to sustain a dynamic and growing economy in a Christian environment.”Back to Top
How do you sum up a 32-year career of educating Oklahoma Christian students? You can put a number on it, but there’s more to it than that, says Dr. Darvin Keck, who served a long tenure as chairman of the science department.
“I kept my grade books back to about 1962 and did a little extrapolating and figured I had had 8,000 students in my classes,” he said.
That’s the number. Darvin looks at it and sees something more personal.
“Many of them are important people,” he said of his former students. “I don’t know if they got anything from me, but I did from them.”
Darvin was the recipient of the Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching in 1976, and upon his retirement in 1988, he was honored with the Distinguished Service Award.
His long association began on the Bartlesville campus in 1956. “We had 120 full-time students and were on the way downhill when the decision was made to move the school to Oklahoma City,” he recalled.
That move sparked a growth in students and facilities that Darvin said is most impressive when those humble beginnings are contrasted with today’s bustling campus.
His advice for the future? Plan for continued growth, but don’t lose touch with those roots, Darvin said.
“When you get to a certain size, if you are not careful, you lose some things that you had when you were smaller,” he said. “Be careful not to lose those things that we had when we were smaller.”Back to Top
Walter H. Judd
Walter Judd will always be remembered for his stirring keynote address at the National Republican Convention in Miami in 1960. It was the year Richard M. Nixon was nominated to run for president against John F. Kennedy. Judd was a member of the House of Representatives, and some political pundits thought he might be named on the ticket as Nixon’s vice-presidential running mate. Fate turned its head in another direction, and Dr. Judd finished out his distinguished career in the House a few years later.
A medical doctor and former missionary to China, Judd was a man of immense principle. He was an avowed conservative in his political and economic orientation, yet he had a heart of compassion and avoided being cast as an unsympathetic reactionary. Audiences young and old were mesmerized by his mastery of the national and international political scene. He rarely spoke anywhere without a standing ovation. Dr. Judd was to the 1900s what Daniel Webster had been to the 1800s.
In the late 1960s, Dr. Judd began speaking on behalf of Oklahoma Christian’s citizenship education programs. He was a contemporary of Dr. George Benson and shared with him both a political point of view and the years each had spent on the mission field in China. Through this acquaintance, he became involved with Oklahoma Christian College.
Dr. Judd addressed thousands of high school students and their teachers in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, St. Louis, Dallas and other cities where Freedom Forums and workshops were held. Many who had never heard of Oklahoma Christian came to know it through their having been in the audience where Dr. Judd spoke. He also gathered support from patrons for OC’s American Citizenship Center and eventually for its on-campus academic programs.
Among those who became friends of Oklahoma Christian because of Dr. Judd were Stanley and Dorothy Kresge. In 1978, when the Garvey Center was first opened, the Kresge Foundation of Troy, Michigan, and the Kresges personally provided major grants for the new construction. The new theatre was named for their dear friend, Walter H. Judd.Back to Top
One corridor of the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies at Oklahoma Christian University is named in honor of Raymond Kelcy, who served as the chairman of the Bible Department from 1962 until his death in 1986.
After a distinguished preaching career in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Kelcy began teaching part-time at Central Christian, commuting from Tulsa to Bartlesville two days a week. His strong analytical mind made him a natural for the classroom. He was an outstanding teacher because he was such a profound thinker. He set a powerful example for students and for the community by his respect for divine authority and by his tireless search of the Scriptures to know the whole will of God.
His preaching and teaching modeled a workable hermeneutics. Even while he was serving as chairman of the Bible Department and teaching full-time, he continued to preach for a local congregation where many students attended so they could have a chance to hear his preaching and have a chance to talk with him about great and pressing spiritual issues.
Kelcy was never afraid of investigating any issue. No matter how firmly he stood in a position, he was willing to re-examine the basis for that position. His analytical mind had the rare capacity to entertain differing and conflicting views and interpretations. His openness in working with Scripture encouraged many people to become more serious Bible students and to be more accepting of the ideas communicated in Scripture.
Raymond Kelcy earned the respect of many through his writing and his preaching, and he did much to strengthen the reputation of Oklahoma Christian as a sound and conservative place where young people could learn.Back to Top
Stanley S. Kresge
Long before anyone ever heard of K-Mart, there were S.S. Kresge stores in cities throughout America. These popular “five-and-ten” stores, founded by Sebastian S. Kresge, a contemporary of Henry Ford in Detroit, Michigan, were the precursors of the modern discount stores we know today. Mr. Kresge gained enormous wealth from his marketing success and chose to share it by establishing a charitable foundation, primarily for higher education, that became the repository for much of his estate.
Mr. Kresge’s son, Stanley S. Kresge, became a trustee of the Kresge Foundation and made it his goal to see that the wishes of his father were fulfilled in the administration of the foundation’s largess. The Kresge Foundation has given millions of dollars to colleges and universities for construction and continues to operate today as a benefactor for worthy institutions of higher learning.
Oklahoma Christian’s first encounter with Stanley Kresge was by extending an invitation for him to come to Oklahoma City to honor his longtime friend, Dr. Walter H. Judd. Dr. Judd was a congressman from Minnesota, and Oklahoma Christian had chosen to honor him on the occasion of his 75th birthday as an expression of gratitude for the many times he had spoken on behalf of the college and its American Citizenship Center. J. Terry Johnson, then executive vice president, extended the invitation to Mr. Kresge and promised to provide a private jet if he would attend. His promise eventually cost the college $3,000, but it was an investment in a friendship that paid huge dividends. Over the ensuing years, Oklahoma Christian received several million dollars from the Kresge Foundation and from Stanley and Dorothy Kresge personally.
In 1978, Stanley and Dorothy Kresge came to Oklahoma City for the opening of the Garvey Center and the east wing known as Kresge Hall. They made a personal gift in honor of Dr. Judd so that the small auditorium in the new wing could bear his name: Judd Theatre. A few years later, they made one of the seven gifts of $1 million or more to build Enterprise Square USA. Sebastian S. Kresge was included as one of the six heroic-sized figures in the Hall of Giants.Back to Top
When Richard Lawson graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 1966 with a degree in math, he discovered something remarkable. The academic skills he acquired allowed him to win a fellowship to Purdue University and work at a high level as he earned a master’s degree in computer science.
“I found out while at Purdue that my OC education gave me the background I needed to compete with others coming from larger and more prestigious universities,” Lawson said.
His Oklahoma Christian experience also helped prepare him for success in life. What he began as a small software company in his garage grew into a respected worldwide enterprise, Lawson Software. He was honored by Ernst and Young as Entrepreneur of the Year and recently sold his company for $2 billion.
In 2004, Richard and his wife, Pat, a 1967 Oklahoma Christian alumna, gave their alma mater a gift worth almost $30 million. It was one of the largest single gifts ever made to the university. In 2008, Oklahoma Christian honored them by dedicating Lawson Commons, which features the McGraw Pavilion and 100-foot Freede Centennial Tower in addition to beautiful landscaping.
“Richard and Pat Lawson continue to demonstrate the qualities of servant leadership through their gifts of time, resource and counsel to Oklahoma Christian,” said Don Millican, OC board chair. “We are thankful for their wonderful spirit and blessed by their support of Christian education on this campus.”
Richard has served on the Board of Trustees since 1993 and chairs the Campus Life Committee. He was honored in 1998 as Outstanding Alumnus from the College of Science and Engineering.
Pat Lawson is one of OC’s most effective volunteers and encouragers. She is a central figure in the success of the North Texas Alumni Chapter. Her love for OC and its students is demonstrated regularly by her personal involvement in connecting North Texas alumni, students and prospective students with Oklahoma Christian.
Both of their sons, Rick and Lance, and a daughter-in-law, Gaylene, attended Oklahoma Christian.
“OC gave me a Christian wife and two sons, as well as many friends who I stay in contact with because of church and school,” Richard said. “We made these gifts in appreciation for the excellent academic and spiritual training we received at Oklahoma Christian and in hopes that it will encourage other alumni and friends to provide resources to help assure that Oklahoma Christian University strengthens its position as one of the finest private Christian universities in the country.”Back to Top
Howard Leftwich chaired the Oklahoma Christian business department for 16 years. He authored books on business and free enterprise. He developed all the economic content for Enterprise Square USA.
But ask him what pleases him most about his teaching career on our campus, and Dr. Leftwich points to his former students.
“That would be easy,” he said. “That would be the stature that so many of our graduates have in the business world today.”
Dr. Leftwich is credited with developing Oklahoma Christian’s business program into an award-winning and highly-recognized source of quality business professionals. His leadership helped build a first-class accounting program that now boasts many graduates in executive-level positions.
“We’ve had a lot of non-accountants who are executives, too, but the biggest single successes have been in producing CPAs and people who have become high-level accountants,” Dr. Leftwich said.
A CPA himself, Dr. Leftwich joined the OC faculty in 1967 after working for the firm of Ernst and Ernst for nearly a decade. At Oklahoma Christian, he served as chairman of the Business Department from 1975 to 1991. Among the honors he earned were the Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching Award and the Merrick Award. In 2010, OC honored Dr. Leftwich as an honorary alumnus.
In 1994, Dr. Leftwich and his wife, Marilyn, were honored at the 21st Annual Spring Dinner Program. He retired in 1996.Back to Top
Jim Maple, Sr.
Jim S. Maple served on the Oklahoma Christian University Board of Trustees for most of the institution’s existence. A very successful owner of a Chevrolet dealership in Antlers, Oklahoma, Maple was selected as a trustee in 1951, and he served until his death in 1996. He served as an officer of OC’s board at various times, and frequently he chaired or served on the committee to select new trustees or to nominate officers for the board.
During the time when the school was considering the move from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City, Maple was a strong advocate of the move because it located the college closer to the region where there were more churches and more families thinking about higher education for their children. As always, Maple was a peacemaker who often mediated differences among trustees or negotiated to resolve issues that threatened to divide the board.
As a great lover of the church, Maple consistently supported the efforts to strengthen Bible teaching, to require all students to take Bible courses throughout their studies, and to encourage men to prepare for careers in serving the church as preachers and ministers. His passion for the church always made him a strong advocate of Christian education and especially OC, where he invested much of his time and energy.Back to Top
Eschewing a chance to carry on a very successful and lucrative family business, Hugo McCord made a decision early in his life that he wanted to be a gospel preacher.
At Freed-Hardeman College, he met his wife, Lois, and together they spent the years of their life building up churches in the southeast and the Washington, D.C., area. Eventually, they moved for Hugo to preach at the Sixth and Dewey Church of Christ in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. They were attracted to Bartlesville because they wanted to help students grow as they attended Central Christian.
Almost immediately, McCord began teaching Bible part-time as student enrollment increased, and eventually he joined James Baird’s administrative team as a vice president. He was effective in winning friends for Oklahoma Christian, but decided that his greatest service would be to complete his doctoral studies so he could teach in the Bible Department full-time. With nearly grown children, he went back to graduate school, where he became a man of extraordinary discipline. Completing his studies, he returned to Oklahoma Christian in 1961 and was one of the principal influences until he retired.
McCord had a strong personality that was marked by warmth and friendliness. He loved students and enjoyed teaching freshmen perhaps more than any other group. In his classes and in the pulpit, he impressed people with his knowledge of the Bible. He memorized long passages and often read from his Greek New Testament as he was holding it upside down.
Some of his most effective sermons were a collection of scriptural passages he had memorized and actually interpreted with dramatic emphasis as he spoke to audiences. For generations, students joked about his beginning every class with “Take out a half-sheet of paper,” and then dictating five very simple questions.
Hugo McCord’s great love for the text of the Bible led him to do a translation of the New Testament that has been useful to serious Bible students in many places. His great love for young people and for helping young people understand the simplicity and power of the Bible made a tremendous difference in the lives of many who attended Oklahoma Christian.Back to Top
“Time presses in on him from every side. Curricula and conferences are the order of the day. Yet amid the intellectual trappings, his eyes looked into the soul, and we were glad that someone knew where the education was.”
Written almost 30 years ago for the 1972 Aerie, these words express both for then and now Bailey McBride’s impact on life and learning at Oklahoma Christian. Bailey McBride is loved and revered by students and alumni. His role as a friend and mentor is legendary. His ability to catalogue and remember the details of former students’ lives - their hometowns, careers, and children’s names and ages - is a constant amazement. Does he have a hidden memory chip in his brain to store all that data?
Sustained by their love for each other, Bailey and Joyce have enlightened the lives of three decades of students who have chosen the windy hill’s 200 acres for their college experience. Joyce’s “honey” and “darling,” authentic indicators of her Southern roots, have comforted many a homesick student, newlywed or young mother. Bailey’s concern for the nuances of students’ lives has restored humanity to innumerable fractured souls. Together, they have survived the sit-ins and cataclysms of the 1960s, the bell-bottoms and sideburns of the 1970s, the self-absorption and financial chaos of the 1980s and are now traversing the choppy waters of Generation X.
Though they do not seek glory, they are worthy of honor. In 2004, Bailey was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Christian announced an endowment to establish and support the Bailey B. and Joyce McBride Center for Faith and Literature. In 2011, Dr. McBride earned the Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching Award.
When Bailey left the thriving confines of Tulsa’s Will Rogers High School and traveled north to study at struggling Central Christian College in Bartlesville, did he know his choice would inalterably mold his life? When Bailey and Joyce returned to Oklahoma in 1966 as young parents and cast their lot with Oklahoma Christian, did they envision that the treeless fledgling campus would become the focus of their lives’ work?
Surely not. But as way led on to way; as Bailey moved from a faculty post to become academic dean, vice president, provost, director of the Institute for Excellence in Learning and OC’s Honors Program; as they became indispensable leaders at Memorial Road Church of Christ and Joyce’s pre-kindergarten class became a revered institution among that community, the years flew by with increasing speed.
Benny, Joyce’s brother, left his beloved Tennessee to join the growing family. The McBride children, Melissa, Lynette and Michael, grew up, graduated from Oklahoma Christian and established families of their own.
And through it all, one thing remained the same: Bailey and Joyce’s ongoing investment in the lives of people. There must have been a tremendous pull to quit, not to care, to say “enough.” But they didn’t, and won’t. This investment, a manifestation of their servant hearts, endures as the lasting legacy of Bailey and Joyce McBride.Back to Top
Joe McCormack left the cotton fields of southwest Oklahoma in 1957 to attend Central Christian College in Bartlesville. Along with being a student the final year in Bartlesville and the first year in Oklahoma City, Joe Eddie (as he was known then) claims to have been part of the very foundation of the new location by helping dig the ditches on the Oklahoma City campus.
McCormack returned to Oklahoma Christian University in 1967 to teach in the Language and Literature Department. Although he is beloved as a professor who inspired countless English majors to research and think for themselves, his work in establishing the university’s international programs took the school to a new level in recognition and in efforts to provide students with a higher-quality educational experience.
McCormack’s relationship with Ibaraki Christian College has been an enduring one. As the driving force through the 25 years of Oklahoma Christian’s exchange program with Ibaraki Christian, he has served as both the sponsor for the American students and host for the Japanese. He has implemented several changes designed to give both American and Japanese students a richer experience.
His leadership in the Japan program evolved into the role of Director of International Studies. For more than two decades, he has built the university’s programs in the Pacific Rim, Vienna, Latin America and England.
In more ways than one, McCormack changed the face of Oklahoma Christian University. In the late 1970s, he developed a degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), making Oklahoma Christian one of only a handful of colleges in the entire nation offering an undergraduate degree in TEFL. As a result, numerous graduates have gone out to teach in language programs around the country and overseas, in many cases to become self-supporting missionaries.
McCormack has been recognized repeatedly by the university and his peers for excellence in teaching and leadership. He has received both the Merrick Teaching Award (‘87) and the Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching (‘93). His wife, Lottie, has been heavily involved in hosting and sponsoring groups of students, and all four of their children attended Oklahoma Christian.Back to Top
Bill and Bonnie McIntosh
Bill and Bonnie McIntosh have helped so many young people receive their college education at Oklahoma Christian that a luncheon is held in their honor every year. It’s an occasion to let the McIntoshes meet their scholarship students and to let the students, who otherwise might not be able to attend Oklahoma Christian, thank the McIntoshes. Bill and Bonnie’s belief in Christian higher education has resulted in dozens of “their” graduates going into the world to lead purposeful lives of leadership and service.
Bill and Bonnie McIntosh moved to Oklahoma City more than 20 years ago, and their association with the university began about the same time. Today, they admire the university’s strong Bible faculty and appreciate the university’s excellent faith-based core curriculum. But, most of all, they love the university’s students.
In addition to their longtime support of the university’s scholarship program, the McIntoshes have shown their love for Oklahoma Christian in a special way. In 1997, when fire destroyed much of the university’s fine arts building, the Garvey Center, President Kevin Jacobs approached them about helping rebuild and expand the structure to better serve the students and the community. That meeting resulted in a lead gift that led to the construction of the McIntosh Conservatory inside the Garvey Center.
The McIntosh Conservatory is the centerpiece of the reconstruction. With a glass atrium that bathes the conservatory in warm, natural light, along with a fountain and tropical plants, the area has become a favorite gathering spot for students before Chapel and is used extensively by the university for receptions, meetings and other gatherings.
Truly, Bill and Bonnie McIntosh have made a difference in the history of Oklahoma Christian and are among the apples of the university’s eye.Back to Top
In 1963, Lynn McMillon graduated from Oklahoma Christian College with a bachelor’s degree in Bible, and just three years later he returned to the college as a young instructor of Bible, having completed an M.A. and an M.Th. at Harding Graduate School of Religion. He went on to complete his Ph.D. in Religion at Baylor University and eventually became Distinguished Professor of Bible and Dean of the College of Biblical Studies.
Lynn has made a difference to Oklahoma Christian in a variety of ways. He has made a difference to students because he has been an outstanding teacher. Hundreds of OC alumni have stronger marriages from having taken Lynn’s course, Christian Family. A licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, Lynn has offered wise and godly counsel that has made a profound difference in the lives of students and colleagues.
He and his wife, Joy, also have made a difference to the university in their work for The Christian Chronicle. After serving as an English instructor and as a national coordinator for the Oklahoma Christian Women’s Association (OCWA), Joy served for 10 years (1979-1989) as managing editor of The Chronicle. Since 1996, Lynn has served as general manager. Together, they have been responsible for much of the success of this highly influential publication.
Lynn’s influence is perhaps most evident in the growth of the College of Biblical Studies. In his years as Dean of the College of Biblical Studies, Lynn saw the college grow numerically; more than 200 students are currently majoring in Bible. He also saw the college grow academically. He was responsible for the addition of quality new faculty, for the development of a Family Life Ministry track in the M.A. program, and for the development of a stronger youth ministry program. The Bible programs have always been at the heart of the work of the university, and Lynn McMillon’s influence has made a profound difference in them.Back to Top
R. Stafford North
R. Stafford North moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in January 1952 to teach speech and become an integral part of life at what would eventually become Oklahoma Christian University.
From the beginning, North brought energy, enthusiasm and creativity to everything he touched. Teaching speech, homiletics and occasionally tennis, he challenged students to think and to develop skills. He was involved in the first drama productions and won the first trophy the school ever earned in a drama competition at the University of Oklahoma.
After a brief leave of absence to complete his doctorate, North returned to serve as advisor, mentor and friend to two presidents. His role in the development of the first buildings on the Oklahoma City campus was significant, and from 1958 to 1995 all campus facilities had his special imprimatur. Stafford and Jo Anne North have been deeply involved in everything that has gone on at the university. As the chief of operations for more than 30 years, he helped shaped policy, long-range planning and academic quality for the university.
Dr. North is the consummate teacher. Whether he is in a classroom with a group of freshmen or in a meeting of an administrative team, he is always in the role of sharing information and leading people to new understandings of opportunities and challenges. For 17 years, he served as the chief academic officer and led the university through a period of rapid expansion and dramatic changes.
Pioneering in the development of alternate ways of delivering information, Dr. North made the Mabee Learning Center a hub for teachers from universities around the country who wanted to learn more about the uses of technology in college instruction. He not only developed programs using taped instructions with workbooks, but he articulated the philosophical concepts for other teachers to imitate what he had done. His years of administration were never a disruption to his commitment as a teacher. When he decided to step out of administration in 1994, he became a Distinguished Professor of Bible and continued his innovative ways by offering the first online course in the university’s history.
For two generations, students have watched Stafford North running across the campus to avoid being late for his next appointment. All have seen him respond immediately anytime there was a crisis in technology in Hardeman Auditorium or in a dining facility where a presentation was to be made.
He has always enjoyed performing for an audience. His innumerable presentations at First Week Follies have been a source of joy to him and to all of the audiences. Even when he is before a class or a group of adults, he has some element of a performer, and as an exemplary communicator, he is enthusiastically involved and so alive that he sparks energy and life for those around him. For much of Oklahoma Christian’s history, Stafford North has been shaping and directing the course of student learning and institutional life.
Dr. North is a member of the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame. In 2011, Oklahoma Christian honored him with the Faculty Leadership Award.Back to Top
If Ralph Burcham was responsible for lighting the fuse for mission work on the Oklahoma Christian campus, Howard Norton must be credited for seeing that the explosion was heard around the world. Year after year, he incorporated missions into every facet of his work at the university. He both championed the cause and nurtured the people who had committed their lives to this form of Christian service.
Howard grew up in Ft. Worth and attended Abilene Christian College, where he was elected student body president his senior year. Impressed with the urgency of foreign missions, Howard and his wife, Jane, became pioneers in the team approach to international evangelism. In 1961, the Nortons were among the first of a large group of American couples who settled in Brazil to plant congregations in key cities within South America’s largest nation.
It was Oklahoma Christian’s good fortune that the College Church of Christ became the Nortons’ sponsoring congregation. When on furlough to the states, Howard made friends with faculty and staff members at the college. An opening presented itself in the Bible faculty, and Howard was hired for the position. He later returned to Brazil, where he completed his doctorate at the University of Sao Paulo.
Always popular with students, Howard was one of the most effective speakers in chapel programs. He worked well with his faculty peers and created enormous goodwill for the college among preachers and elders. He initiated the “missionary-in-residence” program that utilizes talented professionals from the mission field. Upon Raymond Kelcy’s death in 1987, Howard was named chairman of the Bible division and later became the College of Biblical Studies’ first dean. Under his leadership, the Master of Arts in Ministry degree was first offered.
In 1981, Oklahoma Christian acquired The Christian Chronicle, and Howard was named editor. He advanced the paper from a monthly circulation of fewer than 4,000 to more than 100,000 in just a few years. As everyone expected, the paper was generously flavored with news of churches in the states and those internationally. He worked diligently to balance his many gifts and excelled as a pulpit expositor, a university professor, a Christian journalist and a missionary to the world.Back to Top
Ralph E. Owens
A product of Christian education at Abilene Christian College, Ralph E. “Doc” Owens was forever enthusiastic about his beloved Oklahoma Christian College. He aspired for every student to have the same experience he had enjoyed years before in Abilene, where he played for the football team, received a sound education and met and married his wife, Roma.
Elected to Oklahoma Christian’s Board of Trustees in 1957, Doc Owens worked tirelessly with Dr. George Benson and Dr. James Baird to advance the college’s reputation. He was one of three members of a pivotal committee that made the recommendation for the college to move from Bartlesville to a larger metropolitan base. His leadership came at a crucial time in Oklahoma Christian’s brief history.
Ralph and Roma Owens were among the first wave of supporters to embrace the college upon its move to Oklahoma City in 1958. They spent weekends planting grass and building flowerbeds on the barren prairie that was selected as the site for the new campus. Because of their influence on the grassroots level at Southwest Church of Christ, where Ralph served as an elder, and among the community where he was a prominent podiatrist, many of their friends became members of the Booster Club or the Oklahoma Christian Women’s Association.
In 1967, following the untimely death of trustee chairman G.A. Hale and the brief interim chairmanship of J.E. Wright, Doc Owens was named head of the Board of Trustees. He served in that role for 12 years, spanning the last seven years of James O. Baird’s presidency and the first five years of J. Terry Johnson’s presidency. A man of large stature, Doc Owens was a kind but intimidating figure behind the chairman’s gavel.Back to Top
At Oklahoma Christian University, saying the name “Lou” has the same effect as saying “Cher” or “Elvis” to music fans. No last name is needed because everyone knows “Lou.” Lou is a friend of Oklahoma Christian in every sense of the word.
During more than three decades at Oklahoma Christian, Lou served as executive assistant to President J. Terry Johnson and later as a coordinator of special projects, where her work won friends for the university worldwide. Lou was the liaison between Dr. Johnson and highly distinguished guests, including the President of the United States. Serving as official hostess for the 1992 visit of President George Bush, Lou took it all in stride: arrangements with the White House speechwriters, rooms and refreshments for the President, security, all of it.
Placing a best foot forward for the university, Lou spent two decades beside its president and first lady, directing an office and countless events virtually behind the scenes. “Whatever it takes to do the job,” Lou is said to have responded just before she accepted her position with Dr. Johnson. The rest is history. She followed that statement with tireless service to Oklahoma Christian that culminated in a 1995 Spring Dinner in her honor.
Energetic, dedicated, creative, organized, fun, talented, capable, responsible, flexible and thorough are all words Lou’s coworkers have used to describe her. Lou also embodies the phrase “King Maker,” as she considers former OC president Kevin Jacobs and current Pepperdine University president Andrew Benton (an OC alumnus) her boys.Back to Top
Guy J. Ross, Jr.
Guy J. Ross, Jr., grew up in love with Oklahoma Christian. As a boy in Holdenville, Oklahoma, he learned of the college and attended one of the high school days designed to attract students. He came home with a resolve to come to the new campus in Oklahoma City in the fall of 1960. A popular student, Guy majored in speech and Bible. His favorite professor was Dr. Stafford North, who directed him in debate and “Songs America Sings.” His senior year, Guy was elected class president and named “Mr. Aerie.”
Shortly after graduating in 1964, Guy was hired by Phil Watson as a field representative in the development office. It was here that he learned the ropes in fundraising while also keeping an eye on a co-ed from Muskogee, Mary Ann Hardesty. They married one year later. After graduate studies at the University of Oklahoma, Guy accepted a fulltime appointment at Oklahoma Christian and has been a key figure in the staff and administration ever since.
Although Guy is an excellent fundraiser, his contribution to the university goes well beyond that realm. He became vice president when Dr. J. Terry Johnson was appointed president in 1974. He was named senior vice president in 1986. Throughout the Johnson administration, Guy was in a pivotal role as presidential advisor, institutional strategist and ambassador of goodwill wherever he spoke. In the 1970s and 1980s, he, along with Drs. North and Johnson, made crucial decisions that advanced the college toward becoming a university in 1990. He was highly instrumental in raising the $15 million to build and endow Enterprise Square USA.
Few people have had better rapport with the Board of Trustees than Guy. Not only did he raise endowments, scholarships and operating support from most of the trustees over his almost 40 years of service to Oklahoma Christian, he also preached at their congregations, counseled their grandchildren and traveled with them around the globe on university-sponsored excursions.
No one “works a crowd” better than Guy Ross. People get a smile on their faces when they see him coming. A fabled raconteur of the first order, Guy Ross may well have told more stories about students and faculty at Oklahoma Christian than has any other person dead or alive. He remembers details long forgotten by others, and has been known to embellish on occasions when it suited his purpose. People love to hear him reminisce, and in the process, they fall in love with the idealism of Christian education.Back to Top
Bob Rowland had a passion for economic education. He had a vision for a center that would bring thousands of students and educators to the Oklahoma Christian campus each year to learn concepts of citizenship and economics.
Rowland came to OC in 1971 as president of the campus-based American Citizenship Center. He educated thousands, but saw the possibilities for reaching even more.
“I was conducting Freedom Forums and seminars in a five-state area, and I would reach maybe 5,000 students and teachers a year,” Bob recalled. “I thought, ‘What if you built yourself a museum of some kind, an educational attraction that would attract that many or more each month, year round?’ “
The vision became reality in 1982, when Enterprise Square USA, opened, offering economic education and history in a unique venue located on campus. Rowland was its first executive director.
Although he retired in 1990, Bob looks back at the impact of Enterprise Square on economic education with a special pride. When educators brought classes to the center, students often were tested before and after their visit.
“We would see those scores jump from a 25 to 30 percentile average to a 65 to 70 percentile, doubling their scores nearly every time,” he said. “That was a great source of satisfaction.”Back to Top
How many lives did the late Bob Smith touch through his 25-year administrative career at Oklahoma Christian University? The numbers are amazing.
As Dean of Admissions and Records from 1970 to 1987, Bob led the university’s recruitment effort and was responsible for duties of records maintenance and registration.
Bob developed innovative and aggressive recruiting techniques to bring students to campus for a Christian education. He signed up 15,639 applicants and enrolled nearly 11,000 of them.
Among many innovations, he developed a recruitment plan that organized assignments by zip codes, developed a computer program to track prospects, organized the Summer Singers to travel to camps and banquets and sent out student envoys to assist in recruiting.
Later, as Vice President of Administrative Services, Bob oversaw curriculum and records, plus academic advisement and institutional research. He coordinated 195 separate semester enrollments, planned and oversaw 69 commencement programs and audited the degrees of 6,005 graduates over the years. In addition to his administrative duties, he taught a religious education course for a couple of years and was active in the Oklahoma City area as both a preacher and elder.
But the numbers are only a part of the impact. The personal faith and genuine love for God continue in the lives he touched.Back to Top
Jess Stratton liked to call himself a rancher from the short grass country. He had long been a stalwart at Clinton Church of Christ and was a wise and caring elder. He first came on the board of Oklahoma Christian in 1955, and served from then until his death in 1990.
For most of those years he was vice-chairman of the board. In that capacity, he served on a variety of important committees and participated in critical decisions. His work in the National School Boards Association, even as president of that association, gave him many experiences that were helpful to a growing college.
Stratton was a great storyteller and often embellished board meetings with his remembrances. These were valuable as a means of transmitting the heritage of Oklahoma Christian to those coming at a later time and often provided some humor to break the tension.
Jess Stratton represents those strong church leaders who pioneered in establishing a Christian college in Oklahoma and in setting it on its course.Back to Top
Ray Vaughn epitomized the Christian coach. Serving on the faculty from 1958 until his death in 1980, Ray established the highest standards of character and athletic performance for Oklahoma Christian’s varsity programs. His exceptionally rigorous training schedule each day for his track and field teams forced athletes to stretch their limits and to fulfill their potential.
A quiet and perceptive observer of every workout, he knew his teams and gave each person special attention and coaching. Although he respected athletic ability and personal determination, he valued character and moral strength even more.
His strong personal faith motivated and directed his whole life, and he mastered the art of helping young people understand the significance of spiritual realities. He inspired respect, honor and devotion in those he taught and coached because every word he spoke had the ring of authenticity.
In 1970, he was elected to the NAIA Hall of Fame. In 1991, he was part of the inaugural class to the Oklahoma Christian Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1999, his wife, Sue, and his children, Ray Vaughn, Jr., and Lynn Mitchell were present when Ray Vaughn was among the first Master Teachers inducted into Oklahoma Christian’s Faculty Hall of Fame.Back to Top
G. R. Tinius
When the first rumblings about starting a Christian college in Oklahoma began, G.R. Tinius, from Tulsa, was one of the first to hear them. He was among the initial group of temporary trustees appointed on June 4, 1946, to consider founding a Christian college in Pryor, Oklahoma. After a thorough study, this group decided that, while the former army site in Pryor was not a good location, they wanted to continue exploring possibilities in Oklahoma. Tinius was among the eight men appointed to a location steering committee and was elected chairman.
After a series of regional meetings to test the waters, the steering committee decided there was sufficient interest to proceed. Twelve more men were added to the group, now called a tentative board, with Tinius still serving as president. One of the first actions of this board was to appoint Tinius as a full-time field manager to raise an initial capital fund of $250,000 so that when a site could be found, some money would be in hand.
Tinius was involved in all of the early decisions about the new school: the decision to purchase the 152-acre Foster estate in Bartlesville; the selection of the first president, L.R. Wilson; and the raising of the initial funds to get the new school going.
At considerable personal sacrifice, G.R. Tinius served as an unflinching supporter in the school’s earlygoing. He served on the Board of Trustees until his resignation due to ill health in November 1955.Back to Top
C. A. Vose
He liked what he saw. And if Charles A. Vose hadn’t liked what he saw in a fledgling institution called Central Christian College, the trajectory of the school might have gone astray ... or might never have gone anywhere at all.
When the college moved to Oklahoma City in 1958, its founders were tirelessly hitting the pavement and beating the bushes raising capital from churches, individuals and businesses to build the new campus. While that was going on, contractors continued laying the foundations for buildings on the 200-acre prairie. When the money ran out, the Board of Trustees voted to seek a loan. Dr. George Benson had a relationship with C.A. Vose, president of First National Bank and Trust Co. in Oklahoma City. Because of this relationship, Vose became familiar with Oklahoma Christian and joined the group of Oklahoma City civic leaders who would support it. He was so impressed that he approved the loan right away, enabling those first buildings to be completed in time for classes in the fall of 1958.
In 1973, President James O. Baird awarded C.A. Vose with the Distinguished Service Medallion, praising him for his longstanding support of the aims and purposes of quality higher education and for his efforts to strengthen the moral fiber of society.Back to Top
“The land! The land!” Thousands of Oklahoma Christian University students can instantly recognize those words as the words of their favorite teacher, Dr. Jim Wilson. They may or may not share his exuberance concerning the American frontier, but they remember the words because they are the words of a person who made a difference in their college years.
Jim came to OC in 1969 and quickly made his mark as an excellent teacher as well as one of the most beloved teachers at OC. Students loved his classes because they knew he loved students. Even in his largest sections of American history, he learned their names. He remembered their names. He attended their basketball and soccer games, their concerts, their plays. They knew he cared.
In 1973, he completed his Ph.D. in history at the University of Oklahoma, and taught large sections of freshman courses in American history and government for more than 30 years. For many years, he served as Chair of the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences, fondly known as the BASS Department, perhaps in recognition of the department chair’s passion for fishing. In 1997, Jim was named Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
Although he had a major influence on the university in his administrative roles, Jim’s greatest influence was as a teacher. His enthusiasm for history was contagious; thousands of students caught his love for the subject. They also caught his love for God and for family. Jim, his wife, Anna, and his daughter, Jimieanne, have served students as a powerful example of what a Christian family should be.
Jim’s kindness and his love and concern for students and colleagues truly made the campus community a much better place to live and to learn.Back to Top
J. E. Wright
J.E. Wright was one of those stalwarts of the Church of Christ in eastern Oklahoma who was highly respected as an elder, a teacher and a Christian businessman. He became involved in the early efforts to establish a Christian college in Oklahoma. Wright was among the group that studied the possible development of a school in Pryor and then was on the first Board of Trustees at Central Christian College.
He was involved in many of the monumental early decisions: selecting the location in Bartlesville as the first site of the college, choosing L.R. Wilson as the first president and helping with those difficult funding decisions as the school began.
Wright provided a valuable link for the young college to its Tulsa constituency, and he continued to serve in that capacity even after the move to Oklahoma City. He was a generous contributor, a great board member and a man of vision who provided important leadership in the critical early years. He served on the board until 1984.Back to Top
It would be hard to imagine someone who took his role as trustee more seriously than did Vernon Newell. Attracted to the college by Dr. George Benson and Dr. James Baird, who espoused a “no nonsense” approach to Christian education, Vernon was proud of Oklahoma Christian and the values that shaped the institution. He was eager for others to share his conviction on these matters.
For many years, Vernon Newell served as chairman of the trustees’ building and grounds committee. He worked closely with Dr. Stafford North to ensure the very best quality of construction on all campus buildings at a reasonable and fair price. His own professional career as owner of a roofing and sheet metal company enabled him to know many contractors and architects. On each campus project, Vernon would work closely with the winning contractors to see that value was delivered to the job.
Vernon and his wife, Rowena, were both generous contributors to the college. They helped to underwrite the expenses for athletic programs, Oklahoma Christian Women’s Association projects and a variety of other funding campaigns undertaken by the college. Many times, the Newells provided scholarship assistance to help with the education of those who could not otherwise afford to attend.
Vernon served as chairman for a few fundraising campaigns and solicited gifts on many others. He and fellow trustee Ralph Owens traveled to all corners of the state on behalf of the college. They raised money, recruited students and created goodwill wherever they went. More than once, they had to talk themselves out of speeding tickets by pleading with a highway patrolman that they were on a “mission of mercy” for the college.Back to Top
L. R. Wilson
Interest had been brewing for a Christian college in Oklahoma since 1946. A board had been established and a down payment had been made on a location in Bartlesville, but energy had not yet been generated to make the plan viable. Someone was needed who could build interest and develop confidence in the new school.
L.R. Wilson had just resigned from the presidency of Florida Christian College, a school for which he had been the founding president four years before. The board decided that since he had just experienced starting a new Christian college and was a well-known and respected preacher throughout Oklahoma and the surrounding states, Wilson would be ideal as the first president of the new school they had named Central Christian College (now Oklahoma Christian University).
On September 1, 1949, Wilson accepted the role and immediately began to rally support for the new college. His challenge was to raise the necessary funds, get a classroom building and a women’s dormitory built, employ the initial faculty and staff, and get enough students for a good beginning. He had to do this within one year, by September 1950.
Wilson’s energetic year was rewarded as the new college opened its doors to 97 students. He had led in the effort that brought the college into being and continued to serve as its chief administrator through its first four years of operation. No doubt, L.R. Wilson’s determination and hard work were a major force in getting Central Christian College off the drawing board and into full operation.Back to Top
C.A. Buchanan is an outstanding businessman who early in his career proved himself such an able manager that he played a key role in the development of a major retailing outlet company in the Southwest. His enthusiasm and his vision had led to his directing the development of new shopping centers for TG&Y.
At the peak of his business career in 1962, Buchanan was named an Oklahoma Christian trustee. For the next 15 years, he was actively involved in helping the university strengthen its financial position by making investments in lands and properties that were developed as commercial centers. In addition to that special guidance, he served as a strong voice encouraging the dynamic expansion of the university. A man of peace and a source of constant encouragement, Buchanan stressed the importance of close harmony between the trustees and the administration so the university could grow and develop while still remaining close to its church foundations.
He continued to be a strong advocate for sound economic decision-making on the part of the university. His many years on the executive committee of the board gave him a role of influence that led to major expansion and the building of many key facilities on the campus. He was mentor and friend to two presidents as well as many teachers and staff members at Oklahoma Christian.Back to Top
It is difficult to tell whether Ralph Burcham has made a bigger difference in the development of the College of Business (now the School of Business Administration) and its programs or in OC’s involvement in evangelistic missions.
Beginning with Oklahoma Christian’s move to Oklahoma City in 1958, Burcham was instrumental in developing the business curriculum and the secretarial science program, and also in preparing for the change from junior college to senior college status. He served on the teams that prepared the report resulting in Oklahoma Christian’s receiving its initial accreditation from the North Central Association and the report resulting in initial accreditation from National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. He received the Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching (‘77), and has long been admired for his contributions to the university’s academic programs.
Ralph and with his wife, Gladys, are beloved for their heart for missions. When the Vietnam War was in full force in 1966, Ralph joined an evangelistic crusade called to work in the deteriorating conditions because of receptivity to Christianity brought on by the war.
His family was forced to flee after only 18 months due to the Viet Cong’s Tet offensive and the impending fall of the city. They left not only their belongings, but their hearts in Vietnam. In the summer of 1973, they were able to return with two Oklahoma Christian students to continue the work. This trip resulted in a large number of refugees coming to Oklahoma City to start life over.
Ralph and Gladys Burcham encouraged the mission spirit by sponsoring Outreach, the missions club on campus. They took numerous campaign groups to Germany, Switzerland, Austria and beyond. One of the hallmarks of their efforts is the large percentage of foreign missionaries sponsored by churches of Christ who are alumni of Oklahoma Christian. A survey Burcham conducted indicated that approximately 25% of those foreign missionaries attended Oklahoma Christian.
Christians around the world have ties to Oklahoma Christian because of the dedication of Ralph and Gladys Burcham. In 1989, the Burchams were OC’s honorees at the Spring Banquet. Upon this occasion, then-president J. Terry Johnson said, “No couple has contributed more to Oklahoma Christian’s outstanding reputation for being involved in world missions than Ralph and Gladys Burcham. We thank them for the difference they have made in the university and throughout the world.”Back to Top
Oklahoma Christian is not an “ag” school, but it once owned one of the state’s most far-flung ranching operations: 13,000 acres of land and 2,500 head of Black Angus cattle. The ranch operation was a gift to the school in 1977 from longtime supporter, the late William Guy Davisson of Ardmore.
The $6.8 million gift put Oklahoma Christian into the cattle business, but the university had to find someone to manage the operation.
The Board of Trustees turned to one of its own, Canton native Ralph Chain. Chain owns Chain Land and Cattle Company, which consists of eight ranches in Oklahoma and Kansas.
Management of Oklahoma Christian’s ranching business fell to Ralph because he was the only member of the board “who understood ranching,” he said.
Chain managed the school’s ranch property for 14 years. “It’s a story in itself,” he said of the school-owned ranching business. Eventually, the ranching operation was sold, and Chain turned his attention to more traditional university business.
He served as chairman of OC’s board from 1997 to 2002. He clearly sees the impact that our campus makes as a Christian educational institution.
In serving on the Oklahoma State Fair Board or in running a sprawling business operation, Chain is a vocal supporter of the university.
“The Lord has really blessed Oklahoma Christian,” Ralph said. “I see it continuing to grow. I don’t think it’s going to do anything but get better.”Back to Top
Terry Childers looked at Oklahoma Christian and saw the ingredients in place to produce strong leaders with strong values to lead our state and nation into the future. It moved the Oklahoma businessman to make a gift of $2 million to create the Childers Institute for Leadership at Oklahoma Christian University.
“I’ve been impressed with Oklahoma Christian ever since I was first exposed to it when I came to Oklahoma City 13 years ago,” Childers said when he announced the endowment. “I’ve grown to know it on an intimate basis, and I feel we have the best opportunity at Oklahoma Christian of shaping and developing leaders of tomorrow.”
A former city manager of Oklahoma City, Childers serves on the Oklahoma Christian Board of Trustees and is owner of Edmond-based Childers Corporation.
The Childers Institute has four components. The Childers Chair of Political Leadership provides a professorship for a highly-qualified individual to teach in the program. The Childers Student Scholarship Program awards five major scholarships annually. The Childers Lectures in Political Leadership bring to campus nationally-known speakers with conservative values. The Childers Student Internship Program places students in key roles in the nation’s capital.
“As a result of Oklahoma Christian’s teaching and encouraging values, we have the opportunity to produce young men and women for leadership roles, not only in business but in not-for-profit organizations, who would serve with distinction,” Childers said.Back to Top
William and Reba Davison
A native of West Virginia, William Guy Davisson was a practicing attorney, judge and cattle rancher in southern Oklahoma. His wife, Reba, was from Tennessee. Her family had roots in the churches of Christ, but her husband did not. Prior to Mrs. Davisson’s death, James LeFan baptized Judge Davisson, then in his early 90s, in Temple, Texas. He credited his association with Oklahoma Christian as being instrumental in his coming to faith.
Mrs. Davisson became involved with Oklahoma Christian as a member of the Ardmore chapter of the Oklahoma Christian Women’s Association. Judge Davisson was acquainted with Dr. George S. Benson’s work at Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas. Dr. Benson was also assisting President James O. Baird with Oklahoma Christian, and he asked Judge Davisson to support the citizenship education efforts in Oklahoma.
On a warm May day in the late 60s, Judge Davisson spoke at an outdoor commencement in Oklahoma Christian’s original quadrangle. As some remember the story, it was a rather lengthy address. Two years later, he agreed to give $500,000 to the college to construct the William Guy and Reba Davisson American Heritage Building. This two-story facility was dedicated in 1970 and has been used by both the education and behavioral and social science programs since then. Mrs. Davisson planted a Tennessee maple tree in front of the building as a reminder of their roots. It grows there today.
Following Mrs. Davisson’s death, Judge Davisson gave another $500,000 in 1975 to construct the Reba Davisson Residence Hall in her memory. It was the last of the nine traditional residence halls to be built on the campus; OC recently renovated the facility as the Honors House at Davisson Hall.
Judge Davisson served as a trustee at Oklahoma Christian a few years immediately prior to his death.Back to Top
With honors such as coaching the Eagle baseball team to third place in the NAIA World Series (‘72), the Gaylord Chair of Distinguished Teaching (‘75), Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year (‘81, ‘84, ‘85), District 9 Athletic Administrator of the Year (‘90), induction into the NAIA Athletic Hall of Fame (‘95) and the Oklahoma Christian University Faculty Leadership Award (‘99), Dr. Max Dobson is truly one who has made a difference at Oklahoma Christian and in the lives of countless students.
Max Dobson joined Oklahoma Christian in 1966 as instructor of physical education. During the next three decades, he spent time as baseball coach, women’s basketball coach, and athletic director. In 1993, Dobson resigned as A.D. to focus more on his role as the chairman of the Physical Education Department.
An innovative teacher, Dr. Dobson always has taken teaching physical education out of the college classroom and into the lives of children. Children of faculty and staff members remember his PE majors teaching them a variety of physical activities when they were kids - doing gymnastics, jumping on a trampoline, running, climbing ropes, racing on scooters and walking on stilts during special evening classes.
Many remember the special play area he built west of the gymnasium for handicapped children to receive individualized instruction and exercise. Max’s work has greatly benefited the community. He has worked closely with countless physically and mentally challenged children, and he has trained hundreds of his OC students to work with them as well. Many of Max’s graduates are now working in school districts serving physically and mentally challenged students and their families.
Although not alumni themselves, Max and his late wife, Ramona, raised their three children in OC’s community, and all received their degrees here.
Max Dobson may be best known on campus and in the larger arena of collegiate sports as a man of impeccable character with an insistence on fairness and honesty. He has a reputation of taking charge and following through to accomplish any task - qualities that have served him well as a coach, teacher and leader. He took what Ray Vaughn had begun in Oklahoma Christian’s athletic program and built it into both a formidable competitor and a tool of service to our students and community.Back to Top
In September 1971, Lois Exendine joined the Oklahoma Christian faculty as Assistant Professor of Education. In the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, Lois taught teachers how to teach. Although she “retired” as Professor of Education in 1992, she still made a difference in the lives of OC alumni for many years, serving as an adjunct professor who evaluated education graduates in their first year of full-time teaching.
Lois earned her A.A. degree from Sayre Junior College, her B.S. in Elementary Education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, her M.S. in Teaching from Northeastern Oklahoma State University in Tahlequah, and her Ed.D. from the University of Oklahoma. She served for many years as Chair of OC’s Education Division, and received the Sears Faculty Leadership Award in 1991.
Hundreds of alumni think fondly of Lois as a “teacher’s teacher,” a mentor, a friend. They think of her as a woman who used her leadership skills wisely, who made the education programs stronger, who made the university - and the world - a better place. When one thinks of the many teachers she has taught, and of the thousands of students they have gone on to teach, one can just begin to understand the multiplied influence of Lois Exendine, one of Oklahoma Christian’s finest.Back to Top
Ralph and Maurine Fails
Ask Maurine Fails why she and her late husband, Ralph, supported Oklahoma Christian University for more than four decades and you get an emphatic response: “Christian Education!”
“There’s no place any better,” says the Sayre, Oklahoma, resident and retired schoolteacher. “I try to persuade people to send their kids up there where they will get a Christian education instead of some of the education they get at the state schools. I taught in the state schools for 41 years, so I shouldn’t be biased, but we had no possibility of teaching Christian education except through one-on-one contact with the individual.”
Ralph and Maurine Fails began a long relationship with Oklahoma Christian when it moved to its current campus in 1958. Ralph, who was a rancher, served for many years on the Board of Trustees.
Maurine has continued to support the university’s efforts in Christian education since Ralph’s death in 1993. Her personal recruiting efforts in her western Oklahoma community have been fruitful. She recently helped a young woman from her local congregation transfer from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford to Oklahoma Christian.
“We finally got her to go to Oklahoma Christian, and she just loves it,” Mrs. Fails said. “It makes such a difference for the people who go there. There’s nothing like it. I just want to see it keep growing and keep teaching Christian principles.”Back to Top
Harold and Mary Helon Fletcher moved from Florida Christian College to Bartlesville in 1950 when a Christian college for Oklahoma was only a dream. They made a commitment that has endured for more than half a century.
For six decades, the Fletchers have demonstrated to students that the life of faith and family, and the life of intellectual openness, inquiry, learning and devotion to the arts are not mutually exclusive. Their love and commitment to family in an environment rich with music, art, theatre, travel and a healthy questioning of the status quo have set a much-emulated standard, especially for the many faculty members they have loved and mentored.
A true intellectual, Harold Fletcher has a love for learning and a respect for every aspect of life that far surpasses traditional scholarship. He sees the artistic validity in an Ozark fiddle tune as fully as a Bach cantata. He values the history of Oklahoma as much as the history of the Renaissance. He loves opera; he loves the steel bands of Trinidad. He loves everything beautiful, good and true.
At the risk of personal loss, Harold Fletcher has exemplified a life of integrity. A self-described classically-trained music teacher from West Texas, he emerged in the 1960s as a man before his time. With Mary Helon’s help and support, he was the most ardent advocate of civil rights and human rights on the Oklahoma Christian campus during that turbulent decade.
A gifted composer, pianist, conductor, teacher, historian, musicologist, theologian, philosopher, scholar, gardener and craftsman, he wears well the description ‘Renaissance Man.’ As a conductor and as a teacher of music history, literature and theory, he engendered lasting reverence, loyalty and an amazing level of hard work from his students as much so in the 90s as the 50s.
He composed the school’s alma mater and directed the university’s Chorale, and wrote and directed many of OC’s musicals. A professor emeritus, Dr. Fletcher continues to teach classes today.
Mary Helon Fletcher, an instructor in piano for many years, was known for her candor, realness in an age of artifice and enjoyment of fun, music and the stage that continually drew people to her. She simply adored students. A meal at her table, with the best of native Southern cuisine, endures as a lasting lesson in humanity and true civility.
A student from the 1970s captured the impact of Harold and Mary Helon Fletcher on the life of this university in a brief phrase. “While in their presence,” he said, “a person feels more whole.”
In 2005, Oklahoma Christian dedicated the Harold and Mary Helon Fletcher Center for Music in their honor.Back to Top
The word “philanthropist” is an English derivative of the Greek word “philanthropos,” meaning “loving people.” By that definition, Jose Freede is truly a philanthropist.
A self described “perfectionist,” Jose Freede has accomplished much in the world of volunteerism. One publication even called her the “million dollar volunteer,” referring to the money she has raised for worthy causes around the world. Her honors are too numerous to list. She has served on countless boards and continues to volunteer her time and money to non-profit organizations, including Oklahoma Christian University.
Oklahoma Christian awarded Mrs. Freede an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1995 in recognition of her lifelong commitment to improving the quality of life for the citizens of Oklahoma City, for the goodwill she has generated for Oklahoma Christian within Oklahoma City, and for her dedication to the ideals of patriotism and responsible citizenship through her involvement with Enterprise Square, USA.
In recognition of the outstanding support Oklahoma Christian has received from Mrs. Freede, the university established the Freede Administration Center, in honor of her late husband, Dr. Henry J. Freede. The Freede Centennial Tower, one of the new landmarks on campus, bears her name.
Oklahoma Christian could not survive without philanthropists. To the university, “philanthropist” means so much more than “donor.” It means “people loving people.” Jose Freede represents the best in philanthropy.Back to Top
Edward King Gaylord
Edward King Gaylord was the pivotal person in Central Christian College’s move to Oklahoma City. A friend and admirer of George S. Benson, Mr. Gaylord was president and publisher of the state’s largest newspapers, the Daily Oklahomanand the Oklahoma City Times.
When Dr. Benson informed him that the college might move to a metropolitan base, Mr. Gaylord energized civic support for Oklahoma City’s winning bid. He was even instrumental in locating the 200-acre site that became the new campus in 1958.
Mr. Gaylord led Oklahoma Christian’s first fundraising campaign in the Oklahoma City corporate and civic communities. It was an effort to help pay for the move and to acquire the new campus. The campaign, launched in 1956, was for $200,000. Beginning in 1960 and every five years thereafter, a similar campaign has been conducted among this group to provide funds to build the campus buildings and support the infrastructure. Oklahoma Publishing Company has always provided the linchpin gift in these campaigns and has been equally important in attracting other corporate donors to support Oklahoma Christian.
Mr. Gaylord, though slight in stature, was a giant among his peers. He had business and political clout and was highly regarded by all who visited Oklahoma. Education was a special interest of his. He helped organize the Frontiers of Science program in Oklahoma and provided college scholarships for many of his newspaper carriers. His interest in Oklahoma Christian was born of his belief that the mission of this college was different from most. He liked the emphasis on character building, the conservative values espoused by the administration and the pioneering efforts of the college in the area of instructional technology.
On the new campus, the arts classroom building was soon named for E.K. Gaylord and the original science building for his friend and banker, C.A. Vose. Both agreed to serve with a prestigious group of business leaders, known as the Board of Governors, to assist the college with its local and national public relations.
Both E.K. Gaylord and his wife, Inez Gaylord, died in 1974. Mr. Gaylord, 101 years old, had attended civic meetings for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the day he died. His funeral was held in Oklahoma Christian’s Hardeman Auditorium. President James O. Baird flew home from a mission trip to Vietnam in order to officiate the services. Over the next 15 years, charitable lead trusts, administered by E.K. Gaylord’s son, Edward L. Gaylord, provided major endowments to the university.Back to Top
Edward L. Gaylord
If Edward K. Gaylord was the key figure in facilitating Central Christian College’s move from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City, Edward L. Gaylord was the key player in seeing that it thrived in its new home.
Son of a pioneering newspaperman, Edward L. Gaylord built his father’s business empire many times its original size. He bought good properties that were in need of capital and parlayed them into profitable enterprises that could later be sold for handsome sums. Oklahoma Christian always was one of his favorite charitable causes and benefited greatly from his favor and generosity.
In 1965, Mr. Gaylord became chairman of Oklahoma Christian’s Board of Governors, a national body of influential business leaders who aided the administration in fundraising and public relations. He served as chairman for 20 years. The college named its student center for him in 1976. At the dedication, he teased, “I didn’t know that I gave my money for a pool hall.” The building was renovated in 1997 and is known today as the Edward L. Gaylord University Center.
Mr. Gaylord and his wife, Thelma, gave one of the key gifts for Enterprise Square USA. Known for his conservative values and interest in family programs, Mr. Gaylord solicited other gifts that were used to build and endow the $15 million project. In 1985, when Oklahoma Christian College launched its successful $50 million “With Wings As Eagles” campaign that enabled the institution to advance its academic programs in many disciplines, Mr. Gaylord served as its general chairman.
In September 1987, a new garden and amphitheater named for Thelma Gaylord was dedicated on the OC campus. In 2000, Mr. Gaylord presented Oklahoma Christian with a gift of $40 million, being distributed in $2 million increments over 20 years.
Through the years, Edward L. Gaylord courted the largest donor prospects in the Oklahoma City corporate campaigns, and he scored big with them. He was instrumental in getting George W. Bush to speak at the convocation and luncheon when the college became a university in 1990. Two years later, he and Mrs. Gaylord hosted Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, on campus for one of the most memorable days the university has ever known.
Presidents James O. Baird, J. Terry Johnson and Kevin E. Jacobs all spent time with Mr. Gaylord seeking his counsel. He was always willing to offer advice without forcing it on the administration. Oklahoma Christian University could never have achieved so much so fast without the faithful support of Edward L. and Thelma Gaylord.Back to Top
When Oklahoma Christian’s Board of Trustees first pondered the establishment of an engineering program, Lyle Harms approached the subject with caution.
An engineer for many years with Conoco, the Ponca City resident knew what such a program would require in facilities, faculty and curriculum, but ...
“We got to digging into it, and it looked pretty feasible,” said Harms, a longtime member of the board.
He lost his hesitancy and began working in earnest to establish an engineering program at Oklahoma Christian. Lyle helped arrange a series of meetings including industry experts, academicians and administrators that ultimately resulted in the creation of the College of Science and Engineering.
More than a decade later, he calls it a “highly successful” program. The engineering programs are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and have attracted the best and brightest students from across the nation. The master’s of science degree in engineering at Oklahoma Christian has given students the opportunity to continue their education and become even better prepared for successful careers and service.
“I think our engineers have moved very well through the corporations they work for into responsible positions probably quicker than a lot of their peers have,” he said.
A member of the Board of Trustees since 1981, Lyle and his wife, Mary, were honored for their work on behalf of the university at the annual Spring Dinner in April 1999. In 2008, Oklahoma Christian feted Lyle Harms as an Honorary Alumnus of the university.Back to Top
The friendship and support extended to Oklahoma Christian by Ralph and Maxine Harvey has been reflected in numerous ways throughout the years. They have made significant investments of their time, their leadership and their financial resources.
Their gift that led to the construction of the Harvey Business Center continues to provide a unique environment where young people can prepare themselves for careers in business, marketing, management and accounting while also leading Christ-centered lives. This generous spirit stands as an outstanding example for patrons of higher education.
Ralph Harvey’s career represented the American dream. He espoused a deep appreciation for the founding principles of America’s system of free enterprise. His ability, coupled with perseverance and dedication, enabled him to build Marlin Oil Corporation. His leadership and his concern for others have made him esteemed and respected within his profession and his community as well as among the friends of Oklahoma Christian University.
The Harvey Business Center was made possible by a major gift from the Ralph L. Harvey family. The building is the fulfillment of his dream of providing a business facility for the students at Oklahoma Christian University.Back to Top
W. T. Payne
Much of Oklahoma’s wealth was built upon agriculture and the oil and gas industry. Oklahomans who dared to risk in the oil patch were an independent breed. They were of the “bootstraps mentality” and credited the American free enterprise system for allowing them the opportunity to get ahead in life. Legends such as Frank Phillips, Lloyd Noble and John Mabee profited greatly from Oklahoma oil and gas deposits and were determined to repay their debt to society by setting up foundations and trusts that would provide resources for the next generation.
Such a man was W.T. “Bill” Payne. Early in his career, he had partnered with Walter Helmerich to establish the successful Tulsa firm that became Helmerich and Payne. Later, he founded Big Chief Drilling Company in Oklahoma City and became a leading figure in local Chamber of Commerce activities, always promoting whatever was good for the community.
Mr. Payne often quoted the old saw, “The rent you pay for the space you occupy on this earth is the service you render to your fellow man.” He lived by that guiding principle and found many causes that could use his services. Among those causes was Oklahoma Christian. Bill Payne cheerfully welcomed the move of Central Christian College to the capital city. A longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts of America and later the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mr. Payne found the Christian values of the college and the citizenship education programs very much to his liking. He served on the college’s Board of Governors and frequently wrote letters to fellow business leaders to encourage their support of the college and its citizenship education programs.
Always interested in athletics, Mr. Payne initiated the effort to build a natatorium as part of Oklahoma Christian’s athletic facilities. He chaired the campaign and gave most of the money that was used to build the indoor pool in 1980. The Payne Athletic Center bears his name as a tribute to the many ways he found to advance the work of Oklahoma Christian. He also set up scholarship endowments on behalf of Oklahoma Christian at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.Back to Top
George S. Benson
Born on a farm in western Oklahoma, George S. Benson developed a national reputation for himself and Harding College, where he served 29 years as its president. Business leaders across the nation sought Dr. Benson as a speaker for their local civic events. His three-point message was faith in God; belief in constitutional government; and support for a free economy.
Although dedicated to building Harding into a great school in Searcy, Arkansas, Dr. Benson never forgot his roots in Oklahoma. In 1956, Dr. James O. Baird, then president of Central Christian College, persuaded Dr. Benson to assist the Oklahoma college with a study regarding its future in Bartlesville. He worked with Central Christian’s trustees and others who examined potential sites in Wichita, Kansas, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City. Two years later, the college relocated to Oklahoma City.
For 10 years (1957-67), Dr. Benson served as chancellor of Oklahoma Christian. For part of that time, he was actually the chief executive, with President Baird serving as chief operating officer. For eight of those years, he was still president at Harding. It took an understanding Board of Trustees at Harding to allow its president to serve a sister institution.
Even more, Dr. Benson encouraged some of his best friends in Oklahoma to support the young college’s move to Oklahoma City. Included in this list were E.K. Gaylord, Edward L. Gaylord, C.A. Vose, Donald S. Kennedy, W.T. Payne and C.L. Frates. Later, Dr. Benson was instrumental in attracting major gifts from W.G. and Reba Davisson of Ardmore, Oklahoma.
Dr. Benson used his private aircraft to carry him to his various business appointments. Each Monday morning, his small plane landed on the east end of the Oklahoma Christian campus and delivered Dr. Benson for a full day’s work. If it had been raining, he would take off his shoes and socks, roll up his pant legs and wade through the mud until he reached the men’s restroom in Cogswell-Alexander Hall. There, he would clean his feet, put on his shoes and socks, and proceed to the administration building, where he would begin his busy day.
In addition to his educational leadership and business acumen, Dr. Benson was a leader in the churches of Christ. Prior to his career in higher education, he was a missionary to China. He was an elder of the church in Searcy and preached often at churches throughout the nation.
Dr. Benson’s most enduring legacy is the citizenship education program that he put in place through the National Education Program and the American Citizenship Center. These organizations ultimately gave rise to Enterprise Square USA, and a host of national honors from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.Back to Top
James O. Baird
Any history of Oklahoma Christian would be incomplete without recognizing the accomplishments of James O. Baird.
For more than 40 years, he wielded crucial influence to dream, to shape and to construct a formidable college in the pastures of Oklahoma. His stride was long and his pace was fast. The result of his visionary leadership is a Christian liberal arts university that has achieved national acclaim.
Selected by Central Christian College’s first president, L.R. Wilson, to be the founding academic dean, James Baird accepted his assignments with uncommon passion. He hired faculty who had good academic skills, but who also were people of heart and soul. He was as interested in their ability to inspire faith in the students as he was in their ability to diagram a sentence or dissect a frog.
In 1954, when Wilson tendered his resignation, the board turned to Dr. Baird for presidential leadership. He and his wife, Avanelle, were already making plans to leave the college and do mission work in Africa, but he prayerfully accepted the post and began a 20-year stint as the college’s second chief executive officer.
Dr. Baird was a native of Tennessee, where he learned the manners and courtesies of Southern gentlemen. Those skills served him well as he represented Oklahoma Christian to potential friends and donors wherever he could gather an audience. One of his first moves was to encourage the board to look at other locations for the college. It took great finesse to move Central Christian from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City, but it was the salvation of this small two-year school that was struggling to stay afloat.
Among his many accomplishments as president, Dr. Baird led the effort to move the institution from junior to senior college status and to secure accreditation from the North Central Association in Chicago. He raised millions of dollars to build the new campus in Oklahoma City and retained Caudill-Rowlett-Scott to design a master land-use plan before construction got underway. He and Dr. Stafford North were at the forefront of instructional technology when they pioneered Oklahoma Christian’s famous Mabee Learning Center in 1965.
Some unexpected health concerns prompted Dr. Baird to step out of the presidency in 1974, at which time he became chancellor. He was a mentor to the new president, Dr. J. Terry Johnson, and continued to raise support from longtime friends of the college.
In 1981, he became publisher of the Christian Chronicle, a newspaper for members of the churches of Christ. The circulation of the paper grew from 3,600 to more than 100,000 and brought great recognition to Oklahoma Christian from its church constituency. Dr. Baird suffered a debilitating stroke in 1990 and died in February 1998.Back to Top
W.O. Beeman wrote the book on Oklahoma Christian. His 1970 book, Dream to Reality-The Story of the First Twenty Years, 1950-1970, traced the history of the school through its first two decades.
Beeman was a key part of that early history. He joined the school in 1955 when it was still Bartlesville-based Central Christian College. He helped make the transition to the current campus and served in many key positions, including 10 years as business manager.
In 1965, Beeman was honored for his service to the college with an honorary doctor of laws degree. When he died in 1973 at age 81, Beeman was still serving Oklahoma Christian as director of student loans.
“He had a fine capacity for loyalty and could give himself fully to his work,” wrote Stafford North, who was dean at the time of Beeman’s death. “He was always busy with some good activity, and he was generous with himself and his possessions.”
Just two weeks before his death, Beeman and his wife, Lucille, were honored with the dedication of a flame in the center of the fountain. He was also honored in 1972 with the establishment of the W.O. Beeman Business Student Award.Back to Top
Bill Simpson knows a secret, but it’s one he wants to share with the world.
The Paducah, Kentucky, resident calls Oklahoma Christian University “one of the best-kept secrets in Christian higher education.”
A self-described “semi-retired” pharmacist, Simpson is a member of the Oklahoma Christian Board of Trustees, and both of his children attended college on the OC campus. His involvement, however, goes even further than his contributions of time and effort to Oklahoma Christian’s board.
Since 1994, Bill and his wife Marilyn have invested more than half a million dollars in Bible scholarships for deserving OC students.
Oklahoma Christian first caught Simpson’s attention in the mid-1960s when he got to know some of the campus leaders. Later, he saw how effective the school had been in producing preachers. It is a tradition he wants to maintain.
“I just think there is a need to train preachers, train young men to preach...that’s a big mission.”
The University is proud to partner with Bill and Marilyn in such a big mission and in sharing the story of this "best-kept secret" with the world.Back to Top