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.”