Edward L. Gaylord, editor and publisher of The Oklahoman, committed $40 million to Oklahoma Christian University, the largest single gift by a living individual ever given to a college in Oklahoma.
“The gift is of incalculable importance to Oklahoma Christian and its mission, and will catapult it into a university with national stature in its endowment, academic programs and influence,” Oklahoma Christian president Dr. Kevin E. Jacobs said.
The gift will be used to advance the university’s academic programs, build the endowment and fund capital projects, Jacobs said. Immediate plans for the gift include renovation and expansion of student housing.
“Oklahoma Christian University has upheld its mission to promote Christian values in a world where values and ethics are sometimes compromised. I continue to be encouraged by the promise of students who graduate from Oklahoma Christian,” Gaylord said.
Oklahoma Christian University is a private liberal arts university with a mission to “create purposeful lives of leadership and service, by educating students from a foundation of Christian faith to think, communicate and act in a complex, demanding and changing global community.”
The gift results from a longstanding relationship between the Gaylord family and Oklahoma Christian that began when Gaylord’s father, Edward K. Gaylord, helped raise funds to move the college to Oklahoma City from Bartlesville, Oklahoma, in the 1950s. The Gaylord family has participated in every capital campaign since Oklahoma Christian moved to Oklahoma City in 1958.
“Every college president could wish to have a friend as supportive of his institution as Ed Gaylord has been of Oklahoma Christian University,” said Dr. J. Terry Johnson, chancellor and former president of the university. “His commitment to the university’s core values has never wavered over the past 40 years.”
“While it is rated extremely high nationally among the smaller universities and colleges, this gift will help Oklahoma Christian University strengthen its position and influence,” Gaylord said.
The gift attracted notice from state leaders as well as national higher education organizations.
“I applaud the Gaylord family for investing once again in Oklahoma’s future. The gift to Oklahoma Christian University will help ensure more of our young people receive an outstanding education in the state and will consequently stay in the state after graduation,” Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating said.
Robert Andringa, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Christian Colleges and Universities said the gift is one of the largest ever to any of its 95 member institutions.
“This is the largest single gift we know of in the history of Christian higher education. This gift is tremendous affirmation to the quality of Oklahoma Christian and, hopefully, it will encourage others to think at this level. After all, what better investment is there than to develop future leaders with their heads, hearts and hands prepared for kingdom service?” Andringa said.
The $40 million gift will serve as a “seed gift” to a capital campaign to be launched by the university this fall.
Oklahoma Christian University’s last major fund drive was the successful $50 million With Wings As Eagles campaign, launched in 1985 and completed three years early in 1992. Edward L. Gaylord served as the chairman of that campaign, which resulted in the construction of several buildings on campus - including the Prince Engineering Center, biblical studies building and Thelma Gaylord Forum - and the launching of several programs - including European studies, engineering, and a master’s degree in ministry.
For 20 years, Edward L. Gaylord served as chairman of the university’s Board of Governors, a national body of influential business leaders who aid the administration in fundraising and public relations. Oklahoma Christian named its university center for him in 1976. Mr. Gaylord and his late wife, Thelma, gave one of the key gifts for Enterprise Square USA, in the early 1980s. The Oklahoma Publishing Company also funded the university’s journalism lab.