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.