Timeline (Simple)

OC Announces Lawson Commons, endowed chairs

June, 2006
OC Announces Lawson Commons, endowed chairs

Oklahoma Christian University announced the construction of new campus facilities and the establishment of two new endowed chairs in honor of two alumni.

Lawson Commons, named for alumni Richard and Pat Lawson, will encompass the entire student residential area in the western half of the OC campus, along with the three-tiered mall area stretching from the new University House on the west to the Mabee Learning Center on the east.

In addition to the existing student housing that is being substantially upgraded and increased, two new structures will be added to Lawson Commons. A new 80’ x 100’ covered pavilion for university events and student activities, along with a 100-foot signature clock tower, will be located on two tiers of the large Lawson Commons mall. The pavilion and clock tower will be connected with a planned water feature, and the entire mall area will be improved with new hardscape, trees and other landscaping.

The Lawsons have donated stock valued at almost $30 million to OC over the last several years. Richard Lawson is co-founder of St. Paul, Minn.-based Lawson Software and has served on the OC board of trustees since 1994. He was honored as an Outstanding Alumnus from OC’s College of Science and Engineering in 1998.

President Mike O’Neal described Pat Lawson as one of OC’s most effective volunteers and encouragers. Pat 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,” O’Neal said.

According to O’Neal, “the recent transformation of the student residential areas and the strengthening of the university’s financial structure is largely due to the generosity of Richard and Pat Lawsons. OC will be ever indebted to them for this transformative gift. The recognition we are announcing today is a mere token of the esteem and appreciation we have for these great benefactors.”

Construction will begin after the first of the year and is expected to take 18-24 months to complete. The project is being designed by TAP Architecture of Oklahoma City.

Also announced were the establishment of the Richard Lawson Endowed Chair in Professional Studies and the Pat Lawson Endowed Chair in Arts and Sciences. The chairs will be used to support academic areas special to the Lawsons.

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OC Dedicates New 'Signature' Student Housing

February, 2005

Oklahoma Christian University officially dedicated its newest and most advanced student housing. Guest speakers included longtime Oklahoma City Chamber president Paul Strasbaugh, who received an honorary doctor of laws degree from OC, and Hardy Watkins, president of the Edmond Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re extremely proud of our new student housing,” OC president Mike E. O’Neal said. “Approximately 80 percent of our undergraduate students live on campus, and the university’s mission calls for a holistic educational experience both in and out of the classroom. Quality housing has been a top priority for several years. Oklahoma Christian has always provided its students a rich learning environment, but these new facilities incorporate state-of-the-art features and compete with the very best student housing nationwide.”

The two new student residences, called University House, are part of the school’s $34 million housing construction and remodeling project and provide 98 new beds for sophomore women and 108 new beds for sophomore men. The total cost of this phase of the project is $9.5 million. The construction and development have been managed by the Trammell Crow Company, and the general contractor for the University House is DalMac Construction.

Located at the west end of the university’s residential mall, the new halls are joined with a three-story commons facility. The commons area provides a generous grand lobby area to host school functions, a student activity area, food service area, private and group study rooms, meditation/prayer rooms, a guest room, and lobbies that look out through large glass walls.

The residence halls are three stories and have both single and double room suite-style rooms, private bathrooms in each suite, and a common living area. The first floor of each residence hall has a fitness center. The second and third floors of each residence hall have a private TV lounge. There are Laundromat facilities on all three floors of each residence hall. A new central mechanical plant will enable heating and cooling control in individual rooms.

Each room in these “smart residences” will have wired and wireless access to the university network, email and the internet. Even the new Laundromats are “smart systems” with a new feature called LaundryView. This feature enables the washers and dryers to email students over the campus WiFi Network when their cycle is finished or when a machine is available.

The project dramatically changes the campus landscape, enhancing the aesthetic quality of OC’s on-campus housing and the university grounds in general. The design for the new residence halls, created by RBA Associates, serves as the architectural capstone on the west end of the campus, featuring a 52-foot tower and a covered entrance with a two-story atrium over the reception area.

The University House Commons building also includes a 40-seat seminar room allowing the University House to become a Living Learning Center. This room includes state-of-the-art audio, video, internet and presentation capabilities. Faculty members will host classes and study sessions in this new facility, and the university plans to host conferences here beginning next summer.

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Mike O'Neal takes office as OC's fifth president

June, 2004
Mike O

Oklahoma Christian welcomed to campus its fifth president, Dr. Mike E. O’Neal, and his wife, Nancy on June 17, 2002. Dr. O’Neal was appointed to the position in January by the board of trustees.

Oklahoma Christian’s faculty and staff, along with alumni and university friends, shared a special time of prayer for the university and Dr. O’Neal’s leadership on his first day in office.

“There is no better way to begin my time at this wonderful institution than in prayer, thanking God for the opportunity to offer Christian education to young people and asking for His wisdom, His grace and His direction,” Dr. O’Neal said. “Nancy and I have looked forward so much to working alongside the faculty, staff and the board of trustees, as well as the university’s alumni and friends in churches and communities throughout this region, all of whom have been so important in the growth here over the past 40-plus years.”

Among early priorities for Dr. O’Neal’s administration were preparing the campus for the opening of the fall semester on August 26 and establishing new relationships with the university’s constituencies, including alumni, churches, students and parents, and longtime friends of Oklahoma Christian among the local business community.

“It is important in this time of transition to reach out to all those both within and outside the campus community who contribute so much to the extraordinary educational experience Oklahoma Christian provides to its students,” Dr. O’Neal said. “During the coming months, we will be inviting many friends and alumni to the campus and will be speaking to congregations and civic groups throughout the region. It is a good time to renew our commitment to and reinvigorate the strengths that have enabled Oklahoma Christian to excel in the past - excellence in academics, devotion to the spiritual mission, focus on the worth and dignity of the individual student, and a firm commitment to the principles of liberty and American free enterprise. We covet the prayers and the friendship of all who share those values.”

Dr. O’Neal came to Oklahoma Christian from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where he served in a variety of roles over 26 years, most recently as vice chancellor. He was selected as OC’s president after a nationwide search that resulted in 60 nominations or applicants for the position.

A native of Antlers, Oklahoma, O’Neal attended Oklahoma Christian for two years (1964-66) before transferring to Harding University to finish his undergraduate degree in accounting and business in 1968. He earned his juris doctorate from Stanford University with a concentration in business and tax law in 1974.

O’Neal brings to his new role extensive experience in Christian higher education serving in broad leadership roles. He served as general counsel and vice president for finance and administration at Pepperdine before being named vice chancellor in 1991.

He also served on the faculty of Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, from 1974 to 1976 as an assistant professor of business administration. He also was a planned giving officer.

A CPA, he also has worked with the accounting firms of Coopers and Lybrand, Touche, Ross and Co., and Ernst and Ernst.

A lifelong member of the Church of Christ, O’Neal has served as an elder, Bible class teacher, songleader, preacher, and ministry leader. He chaired a building committee for the Malibu Church of Christ.

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Cascade College Branch Campus Opens

June, 2004
Cascade College Branch Campus Opens

For many years, Columbia Christian College in Portland, Oregon, had operated as a four-year college serving the northwestern region of the United States. Because of financial problems, however, the school had not kept up with payment of bills and salaries and its regional accreditation association pulled their accreditation. This not only meant that its academic work was less transferrable, it also took Columbia off the list of schools where students could use their federal financial aid. All together, this meant that the school would close.

The Board of Columbia Christian earnestly sought help from other Christian universities. Oklahoma Christian president Terry Johnson was sympathetic to their plea and sent a team from the Oklahoma Christian campus to visit Columbia while it was in its final semester. The team reported that there was a beautiful campus with several nice buildings and that there was a strong interest in keeping Christian education available in the northwest. The patrons there, however, were not interested in a two-year program that would force students to transfer to a faraway Christian university. This would mean that many of these young Christians would not return to strengthen churches in the northwest. The team reported to President Johnson that a four-year school with a limited number of majors could be operated, but that the past debt of the college would have to be cared for by the existing Columbia Christian Board.

After a long period of negotiation and study, the Oklahoma Christian Board of Trustees agreed to operate a branch campus in Portland on the campus of the former Columbia Christian. The North Central Association agreed that the accreditation of Oklahoma Christian in Oklahoma City could extend to that campus if close ties and supervision were maintained. After a year in which no school operated, the new branch campus opened in 1994 under the name Cascade College. Its enrollment grew to more than 300.

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OC Dedicates Lawson Commons

March, 2004
OC Dedicates Lawson Commons

Oklahoma City - Oklahoma Christian University officially dedicated three Centennial projects in a special ceremony March 28. Governor Brad Henry took part in the dedication ceremony. Many state and local dignitaries were also in attendance.

Lawson Commons, home to the striking 100-foot Freede Centennial Tower and the spacious 8,000-square-foot Jack and Wanda McGraw Pavilion, connects OC’s student residential area on the west to the heart of the university campus. 

The new three-tiered mall area connects facilities dedicated to learning, living, athletics, and social life - student residences on the west to the Mabee Learning Center on the east, and the Gaylord University Center on the south to the Payne Athletic Center on the north.

Lawson Commons is named in honor of alumni Richard (OC ‘66) and Pat (OC ‘67) Lawson, who pledged $30 million to the university in 2004. This is the single largest gift ever made by OC alumni.

Richard Lawson is co-founder of Lawson Software, based in St. Paul, Minn., and has served on the OC board of trustees since 1994. He was honored as an Outstanding Alumnus from OC’s College of Science and Engineering in 1998.

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.

The Freede Centennial Tower at Lawson Commons is named after Mrs. Jose Freede. This clock tower stands as a focal point on campus.

A self described “perfectionist,” 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. She has served on countless boards and continues to volunteer her time and support to non-profit organizations, including Oklahoma Christian University.

Oklahoma Christian awarded 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.

Jack and Wanda McGraw were a model Christian couple. They were married for more than 51 years until Jack’s passing in 2004. Successful oil and gas entrepreneurs in Midland, Texas, the McGraws were fully devoted to God, to their family and to others. A longtime university trustee, Jack was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2004.

The McGraw Pavilion offers as an outdoor space for events for students, alumni and friends of the university.

“The Lawsons, McGraws, and Mrs. Freede are great examples of the kind of people who are helping Oklahoma Christian grow and develop,” Dr. Mike O’Neal said. “Their love and dedication allows us to continue to offer our students a strong education and an ever-developing campus.”

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Lawsons give $30 million gift

March, 2004
Lawsons give $30 million gift

Oklahoma Christian University announced a gift valued at almost $30 million from alumni H. Richard and Pat Lawson of Dallas. The gift is one of the largest single gifts ever made to the university.

“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,” Richard Lawson said.

The unrestricted Lawson gift is among a number of major gifts Oklahoma Christian has received in recent years. Along with the late Edward L. Gaylord, chairman and publisher of The Oklahoma Publishing Company, the Lawsons have ensured the university’s financial strength and vitality for the 21st century. In 2000, Mr. Gaylord presented Oklahoma Christian with a gift of $40 million, being distributed in $2 million increments over 20 years. The majority of these two landmark gifts are being invested as part of the university’s permanent endowment.

“Oklahoma Christian University is richly blessed to have alumni such as Richard and Pat Lawson who are willing through their generosity to make it possible for thousands of young people to enjoy the same excellent experience they received as students at the university,” OC president Dr. Mike E. O’Neal said. “We thank God for giving the Lawsons such generous and caring hearts, and for instilling in them a passion for Christian higher education.”

Richard Lawson co-founded Lawson Software, Inc., in 1975, nine years after he graduated from Oklahoma Christian with a degree in computer science. He now serves as the company’s chairman of the board. Pat Lawson has served both Lawson Software and numerous charitable causes since her graduation from Oklahoma Christian in 1967 with a degree in elementary education.

In the past 29 years, Lawson Software has grown into a company with annual revenue of $344 million by providing business software to large and mid-sized organizations in healthcare, retail, professional services, public sector, financial services and other strategic markets. Most of the company’s customers are Fortune 2000 companies. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., Lawson Software has offices and affiliates serving North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, and employs approximately 1,600 professionals worldwide.

Computer World magazine recognized Lawson Software in 1996 as the first enterprise software company to provide business applications for the World Wide Web. In 2002, Deloitte & Touche named Lawson Software to the Minnesota Technology Fast 50, an award that recognized companies that achieved the most rapid revenue growth between 1997 and 2001.

Richard Lawson joined the OC Board of Trustees in 1994. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus from OC’s College of Science and Engineering in 1998. Purdue University, from which he earned a master’s degree in computer science in 1968, named him a School of Science Distinguished Alum in 2002.

“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, chair of the Board of Trustees. “We are thankful for their wonderful spirit and blessed by their support of Christian education on this campus.”

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OC Launches Higher Learning Campaign

January, 2004
OC Launches Higher Learning Campaign

Oklahoma Christian University officials announced a $60 million comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“Higher Learning~Higher Calling - The Campaign for Oklahoma Christian University” will raise funds for specific scholarship, capital, restricted and endowment needs. The seven-year campaign is OC’s first comprehensive fundraising initiative since the “With Wings as Eagles” campaign launched in 1984.

“Friends who support the university through this campaign will help further OC’s mission to transform lives for Christian faith, leadership and service. Funding scholarships will give more students access to Christian higher education. Funding capital projects and academic programs will augment our faculty’s expertise and enhance our students’ collegiate experience. Growing the university’s endowment will solidify its future,” OC president Mike O’Neal said. “The vision embraced by the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff and administration is for Oklahoma Christian to become the premier Christian university in this region of the country, and this Higher Learning~Higher Calling campaign is designed to propel the university toward that vision.”

Oklahoma Christian already has raised $30.7 million in gifts and pledges during the quiet phase of the campaign, which began in January 2004.

Several campaign gifts of $1 million or more have been announced previously. Last February, Oklahoma Christian received the final $15 million installment of a multi-year pledge from alumni H. Richard and Pat Lawson. In September, alumni Charles and Lesa Branch pledged $1.5 million toward endowment and to support the newly-named Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies. Last month, Board of Trustees chair Don Millican and his wife Donna pledged $1 million to establish the J.J. Millican Endowed Chair in Accounting.

“Oklahoma Christian University is unique in higher education today. It truly educates both the mind and spirit of the students,” said Richard Lawson, who will serve with his wife Pat as national co-chairs of the campaign. “OC’s impact in Oklahoma City and beyond is significant and far-reaching, and we are proud to be a part of this important campaign.”

Other major gifts to the campaign include $2 million annually from the charitable lead trust established by the late Edward L. Gaylord, chairman and publisher of The Oklahoma Publishing Company. Also within the past year, Chesapeake Energy Corporation and OG&E each established scholarship funds at Oklahoma Christian, while a Kirkpatrick Foundation grant will support a national lecture series. Oklahoma Christian also recently announced endowments to establish the Harold and Mary Helon Fletcher Center for Music and the Bailey and Joyce McBride Center for Faith and Literature.

“The rising costs of higher education are well documented. This is particularly the case for private institutions, which do not benefit from state funding,” OC vice president for advancement John deSteiguer said. “Raising permanent endowment is of primary importance in this campaign. It is critical to OC’s continued strength and success because it provides future consistent funding of student scholarships and high quality academic offerings.”

Oklahoma Christian has identified several significant capital initiatives as part of the Higher Learning~Higher Calling campaign. Among the most important academic bricks and mortar projects is a state-of-the-art science and research center that will dramatically upgrade the facilities available to the university’s successful science programs. The science facility will ensure even better experimentation and research opportunities for majors and non-majors alike.

Later this year, two new residence halls, a new apartment complex and a new central plant will open as part of a comprehensive student housing initiative that already has resulted in the construction of another new apartment complex and the complete refurbishment of two existing residence halls. The launch of the new housing initiative last year came on the heels of the largest student enrollment in school history.

“With more students than ever before seeking the high quality Christian education offered by Oklahoma Christian, we must increase our capacity and improve the facilities that enrich our students’ experience as they prepare for productive careers and lives of service,” O’Neal said. “The words Higher Learning~Higher Calling have been chosen with care, as they represent the two foundations on which this university stands - continually increasing academic excellence and spiritual excellence - thus addressing the whole needs of mankind.”

Donors who support the scholarship funding component of the Higher Learning~Higher Calling campaign will help make college education more affordable for more students. Within the past year, Oklahoma Christian has taken aggressive measures to increase scholarships, including the Presidential Academic Success Scholarship that provides increasing financial assistance up to full tuition, room and board based on national merit standing and ACT/SAT scores.

Donors also will have the opportunity to give toward restricted needs to enhance existing academic programs or scholarship funds at the university.

In conjunction with the campaign, donors will have naming opportunities through major gifts to the university. Naming opportunities include: student residence facilities and individual rooms; the planned science and research center; the planned university commons; the university recital hall; the university art gallery; academic wings, offices and classrooms; and academic endowments and scholarships.

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OC Becomes a ThinkPad University

June, 2001

OC announces $33M student housing project

June, 2001
OC announces $33M student housing project

Oklahoma Christian University announced a comprehensive student housing project that will result in the construction of two new residence halls and a new student apartment complex, as well as major renovation of all existing student housing.

The new student residence hall and apartment projects will mark the university’s first new housing additions since 1978. Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Christian Board of Trustees approved the plan for the $33 million project, which will be financed by 30-year bonds and a fundraising campaign.

“This is strategic not just from a recruiting standpoint, though that is an important benefit of these plans. One of the strategic multi-year goals identified by the Strategic Vision Committee is to enhance and better integrate the living and learning experience of all those who are part of the OC family. Students spend a major part of their college years in student housing, not just in the classrooms, the University Center or other places on campus. So it has strategic importance to us because we strive for a high-quality, holistic experience for all of our students,” OC president Dr. Mike O’Neal said. “Because we love our students as if they were our own children, we care about the quality of the housing we provide to them. This university is about training the whole person. It’s about our whole life, not just what we do in the classroom, not just what we do in academics. It’s about the kind of people we are – the kind of lives we live and what we do 24/7.”

Today, the university held a public event to announce and to celebrate the housing plans, including the new residence halls, scheduled to be completed in time for the fall 2005 semester. Groundbreaking and construction have already begun on the new apartment complex, slated to be ready for occupancy by the spring 2005 semester. The new residence halls are scheduled to be completed in time for the fall 2005 semester.

Earlier this spring, renovation work began on two residence halls, Fails Hall (men) and Tinius Hall-East (women). Fails Hall will be ready to be reoccupied by the start of the fall 2004 semester. Tinius East will be completed in time for the spring 2005 semester. Renovation will begin on the seven other existing dormitories and on the existing phases of the Heritage Heights student apartments upon completion of the new construction over the next 18 to 24 months.

“This is certainly the largest and one of the most important projects in the university’s history,” said Alfred C. Branch, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Oklahoma Christian. “We have a great team in place to make the comprehensive plan a reality over the next three years for the benefit of our students for years and years to come.”

The project is under the direction of Trammell Crow Company, with Richard R. Brown Associates handling the architectural designs. Smith & Pickel Construction is executing the renovation of the existing residence halls and the central mechanical plant. ProCon LLC is constructing the new apartment complex. Frankfurt-Short-Bruza provided engineering on the central mechanical plant.

“This is one of the more exciting projects I’ve worked on,” said Larry Wallis, director of construction and development for Trammell Crow Company. “I’m just elated to be involved in the transformation of this campus, to take it from a state that hasn’t changed much and to help make a significant improvement that will increase the number of students who come to OC for a Christian education.”

Ultimately, the project will increase OC’s on-campus housing capacity from its current 1,302 double-occupancy beds to 1,500 beds, up to 15 percent of which will be in single-occupancy rooms as the new projects will incorporate more suite environments. A new central mechanical plant will enable heating and cooling control in each individual dormitory room. Each room in these “smart dorms” will have both wired and 802.11g wireless access to the university network, email and the Internet. The university already features campus-wide wireless access as part of a program in which every fulltime student receives a wireless laptop.

“Our effort is to make student housing consistent in quality with what has happened on the rest of the campus. It’s a beautiful campus, but the housing hasn’t kept pace with other improvements through the years,” said Richard Brown, managing principal of the Richard R. Brown Associates architectural firm. “We’ve tried to provide a living/learning experience. In designing the new residence halls, we are incorporating group study areas within the new dorm environment and three student lounges on each floor where students can watch television and have social interaction. There will be laundries on every floor. We want to provide an experience that is comfortable for students and also to provide amenities that are state-of-the-art and market-oriented.”

The project will dramatically change the landscape of the campus, enhancing the aesthetic quality of OC’s on-campus housing and the university grounds in general. The design for the new residence halls will serve as the architectural capstone on the west end of the campus, featuring a 52-foot tower and a covered entrance with three-story atrium over the reception area that is similar to the appearance of a nice hotel. In addition to the substantial upgrade in student housing, the plans for the residence halls will include “hotel rooms” available to visiting parents.

“Our students are excited because the dorms and apartments are their homes away from home,” OC dean of students Neil Arter said. “They look forward to new and improved areas, and a greater emphasis on what they want and need in their living areas. That’s what we’ve been able to do in this process.”

The university has engaged OC’s current and prospective students throughout the planning by seeking student input through focus groups and surveys. The university made available the architectural renderings and schematics for students to review and set up mock dormitory rooms to give students a “sneak peek” at interior room plans under consideration.

“I believe God has blessed us with a combination of factors that are going to enable this project to be successful,” O’Neal said. “He has sent trustees, administrators, faculty and staff members who recognize the strategic importance of this project at this particular time in the life of Oklahoma Christian. But, along with that, he has sent low interest rates. Current occupancy rates have allowed us to take some housing off-line for renovation on a staggered schedule. He has sent us contractors who are trying to squeeze as much out of our construction dollars as possible. He has sent us advisors and counselors who are helping us in the design of the facilities and helping us to use our money in the best possible way. Recent gifts have given us the financial strength and momentum to undertake this massive project, and I am confident He will send benefactors who will help us with the $2 million incremental funding needed to accomplish this vision.”

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Edward L. Gaylord Donates 40 Million

January, 2000

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.

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myOC Internet Portal Launched

November, 1999

Journalism Laboratory dedicated

February, 1996

Kevin E. Jacobs fourth president inaugurated

January, 1996
Kevin E. Jacobs fourth president inaugurated

Kevin Jacobs was President of Oklahoma Christian University from 1996 to 2001. During his tenure the university enjoyed tremendous growth in enrollment, academic programs and financial status. When Dr. Jacobs left the presidency in May 2001, he left the university in excellent shape, spiritually and academically.  Jacobs was one of the youngest university presidents in the United States.

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OC rated 'Best Value' by U.S. News

May, 1995

President George Bush Visits University

March, 1992

In March 1992, as presidential elections were drawing near and candidates were appearing at rallies across the nation, Oklahoma Christian was honored as the chosen host of the President Bush campaign.

The rally, planned by the Bush/Quayle ‘92 Primary Committee, was held in the Thelma Gaylord Forum. Festivities included concession stands, campaign signs and performances by the OC Jazz Band, Concert Band, and Chorale. Students were encouraged to wear OC attire to promote unity for Oklahoma Christian. Student Senate President Jeanetta Davis presented Bush with an OC baseball jersey and hat in a private session Friday morning. President Bush arrived at the rally about 9 a.m. on Friday, March 6.

The campus was buzzing with excitement in the days of preparation before the president was scheduled to arrive; “How often does a university have a chance to play the role of host to the President of the United States?”

Security had to be top of the line to guarantee the president’s safety. Everyone involved in law enforcement in the area worked with the Secret Service to establish a “safety zone” within the campus. One thousand feet of barricade fencing was put up on the outer perimeter extending from the north sidewalk of the student center to the field house over to the learning center to Gaylord Hall extending to the east side of Gaylord back south to the mass communication building. Four metal detectors were set up to examine the crowds.

In preparation for the White House press corps, three rooms in the Biblical Studies Center were converted into a media filing center. During the president’s speech, the White House press corps was located directly in front of the stage area, while other media personnel occupied an area further back.

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College of Business accredited by the ACBSP

January, 1992

Engineering Program Accredited by ABET

October, 1991

In October 1991, President Dr. Terry Johnson announced the official accreditation for the Oklahoma Christian mechanical and electrical engineering programs by the Accreditation Commission for the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).

Oklahoma Christian became the fourth school in the state to have an accredited engineering program. The program graduated its first class in April 1989.

To attain accreditation, the university provided information about faculty credentials and experience, classroom and laboratory facilities, engineering and general education curricula, the engineering student body, university administration and policies, employment of its graduates and evaluations of their work performance.

“Our engineering graduates are now able to proceed in their professional registration activities,” Dr. Troy Pemberton said.

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College of Education Re-accredited

June, 1991

40th Anniversary Campaign

July, 1990

Opening of Tealridge Manor

June, 1990

Move to University Status

January, 1990

Beginning of Vienna Studies

January, 1987

Start of Master's Degree Programs

January, 1987

Undergraduate engineering program begins

July, 1985

Mabee Learning Center Renovated

April, 1985
Mabee Learning Center Renovated

In April 1985, more than 200 Oklahoma Christian supporters gathered to celebrate the completion of a successful campaign to raise $2.5 million to upgrade and expand the university’s library.

The Oklahoma City Campaign for the library was part of a $5 million library improvement package. The balance of the funds was solicited from individuals and foundations throughout the state and the nation. The library project was a part of Oklahoma Christian’s $50 million “With Wings as Eagles” Campaign, which provided $20 million in capital improvements for the campus.

President J. Terry Johnson thanked those who contributed and said, “The pledges from Oklahoma City business people are a strong vote of confidence in Oklahoma Christian and the job it is doing in educating young people.”

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With Wings as Eagles Corporate Campaign

May, 1984

Enterprise Square USA Opens

November, 1982

Enterprise Square USA opened its doors on November 19, 1982, to great fanfare. The only major exposition in the nation devoted entirely to the interpretation of the American economic system, Enterprise Square educated thousands from around the world about America’s free enterprise system. Now in renovation, Enterprise Square hosts the American Citizenship Center and a state-of-the art presentation center.

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With Wings as Eagles Faculty grants awarded

September, 1982

With Wings as Eagles announced

August, 1982

Christian Chronicle begins publication at OC

June, 1980
Christian Chronicle begins publication at OC

In June 1943, The Christian Chroniclewas first published amidst World War II. Olan L. Hicks began the paper in Abilene, Texas, with a “militantly evangelistic” mission, according to one of his 1944 editorials. The paper was published regularly from 1943 to 1972, but financial and management difficulties beset the paper until it died in January 1980.

The paper changed hands and locations several times over the years in an effort to find financial support, and it was finally moved to Oklahoma City. The strong efforts and faith of John Beckloff and his wife, the last to publish the paper, convinced the administration and board of trustees at Oklahoma Christian to undertake publication of the newspaper based on Hicks’ ideals.

“History has proven the role played by The Christian Chronicle ... of encouraging and inspiring mission efforts at home and abroad,” OC president J. Terry Johnson said.

James O. Baird, a longtime contributor and past member of the Chronicle‘s board of directors, was asked to serve as publisher. He and J. Terry Johnson then appointed Howard Norton as editor. After several months of planning, theChronicle reappeared in September 1981. The next decade was marked by continuous improvement. The Chronicle made journalism history as the circulation grew from less than 3,500 to more than 112,000. The paper also made, and continues to make, history by its success in remaining a moderate voice during a time marked by extremes within the church.

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W.T. Payne Natatorium dedicated

June, 1980
W.T. Payne Natatorium dedicated

In the physical education building now known as the Payne Athletic Center, a long awaited Olympic-size pool was made possible by Oklahoma City businessman W.T. Payne. Mr. Payne, who supplied a major portion of the funding for the $600,000 pool, was always interested in athletics, which led him to initiate the effort to build a natatorium as part of Oklahoma Christian’s athletic facilities.

“We are very grateful to Mr. Payne for his generosity in providing this important addition to our campus,” Oklahoma Christian president Dr. J. Terry Johnson said at the time. “Over the years, Mr. and Mrs. Payne have demonstrated their interest in Oklahoma Christian in many significant ways. The college is most fortunate to have such devoted friends.”

The 25-meter indoor pool is located on the south side of the building adjoining the existing dressing rooms and is accessible from the main lobby. Ranging from a depth of three feet to 10 feet, the pool features six lanes and two one-meter diving boards. There is ample seating for approximately 100 spectators, which allows for the convenience of on-campus swim and water exercise programs

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Harvey Business Center Dedicated

April, 1980
Harvey Business Center Dedicated

In April 1980, an Oklahoma City couple pledged one of the largest gifts in Oklahoma Christian’s history. Ralph and Maxine Harvey pledged $2 million to be paid to the school over five years. One million dollars went to the $3 million business center, and $1 million assisted in the $15 million Enterprise Square project.

In September 1980, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey cut the ceremonial ribbon officially dedicating the new Harvey Business Center. The Harveys have been longtime supporters of OC. Mr. Harvey, president of Marlin Oil Company, was a member of the board of trustees, and Mrs. Harvey was the former president of the Oklahoma Christian College Women’s Association.

In making the gift, Mr. Harvey said, “Young people have always been uppermost in my mind and my life. I feel they get a better background for life at a college where spiritual values are represented as well as academic achievement.” The $2 million gift was given to “further these values.”

The 24,000-square-foot Harvey Business Center includes offices, classrooms, a small conference room, a small lounge, two auditorium classrooms, a computer lab and Information Technology Services.

The friendship and support extended to Oklahoma Christian by Ralph and Maxine Harvey have been reflected in numerous ways throughout the years. They have made significant investments of their time, their leadership and their financial resources.

Their investment in Oklahoma Christian is helping immeasurably in securing a unique environment in which young people can prepare themselves for Christ-centered lives. This generous spirit stands as an outstanding example for patrons of higher education.

Mr. Harvey’s career is representative of the American dream. He has a deep appreciation for the founding principles of America’s system of enterprise. His ability, coupled with perseverance and dedication, has enabled him to build Marlin Oil Corporation. Mr. Harvey’s leadership and concern for others have made him esteemed and respected within his profession and his community as well as among the friends of Oklahoma Christian.

The Harvey Business Center was made possible by a major gift from the Ralph E. Harvey family. The building is the fulfillment of his dream of providing a facility for the students at Oklahoma Christian.

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40th Anniversary Campaign

January, 1980

Great Expectations Corporate Campaign

January, 1980

Ibaraki Christian exchange program begins

June, 1975

Reba Davisson Residence Hall dedicated

January, 1975

Dr. J. Terry Johnson third president

January, 1974
Dr. J. Terry Johnson third president

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.”

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NCATE Membership

August, 1973

OC wins third in the NAIA Baseball tourney

January, 1973

Bennett takes 4th in the Olympic Decathlon

August, 1972

Herold Science Hall Dedicated

February, 1971

Davisson American Heritage Building Dedicated

January, 1970
Davisson American Heritage Building Dedicated

In 1968, William Guy Davisson and his wife Reba of Ardmore, Oklahoma, donated a $500,000 gift to finance the construction of the American Heritage Building

Mr. Davisson, a native of West Virginia and an outstanding attorney, has distinguished himself both as a jurist and as a leader in the cattle-ranching industry. In the midst of many endeavors, Mr. Davisson has spoken and written widely in the defense of the American way of life. His wife, a devoted helpmate, has supported his every endeavor.

These two friends of Oklahoma Christian have provided major funds for this facility. Their gift is an expression of their faith in the American constitutional system. Furthermore, it exemplifies their belief that one of the best means of strengthening this system is by the training of young people on the campus of this institution in the fundamentals of Christian faith and in our extraordinary heritage as Americans.

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Three for One Corporate Community Campaign

January, 1970

Brigadoon first Broadway musical at OC

March, 1969
Brigadoon first Broadway musical at OC

Since the very beginning of Central Christian in Bartlesville, the speech and music departments have presented musical programs. They had performed well-known one-act operas. In addition, Harold Fletcher and Stafford North for many years collaborated to produce Songs America Sings, a musical revue using many popular songs and Broadway tunes.

In some years, Bill Carmack, James Cail, Bailey McBride, and Elizabeth Ross also helped write the show. This musical also often made use of political satire to poke fun at national figures and trends. It was first produced in 1952 and was done each year for several years, then every other year, and then every three years. The last production was in 1969.

This program was done both on the campus and on the road in auditoriums in Wichita, Tulsa, Dallas, and Lawton. Some years, the total attendance reached more than 5,000. The show was started as a way to showcase the talent at Central Christian for the general public to see and to give students an opportunity for the learning that comes from being in a musical.

As the college grew and added Hardeman Auditorium, sufficient resources were available to add a new dimension: a Broadway musical. Brigadoon was the first of these to be produced in 1968. Since that time, many of the popular Broadway musicals have found their way to the Oklahoma Christian stage.

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Full accreditation granted

June, 1968

From the start of the college in Bartlesville in 1950, the school’s work had been accredited. The University of Oklahoma had sent a visitation team at the end of the first year of operation and had declared that it would accept the school’s work in transfer. This meant that other schools would do the same. So from the beginning, Central Christian College’s students were able to have their work accepted at other colleges and universities.

Yet, the goal of accreditation by the North Central Association was a very important one from the start. Even while the school was in Bartlesville, it had begun the process of self-study, a first step toward accreditation. Dr. E.T. Dunlap, who later became Chancellor of Higher Education in Oklahoma, served as a consultant to help the faculty learn about doing a self-study.

After the college moved to Oklahoma City and had much more to offer, the process of seeking “candidacy” began. This meant that the school could achieve the first level of approval and would know, as result of a formal visit from the North Central, those things that would need to be improved before full accreditation could be granted.

Application for “candidacy” was made as a two-year school, but before that step could be complete, the decision was made to move to four-year status. The administrators asked themselves what they should do with the application. They decided to withdraw it and make a later application as a four-year institution. After the next application, candidacy was approved.

Then came the big step of seeking full accreditation. The application was a large book of data and an explanation of all phases of the college’s development. After the application was submitted and a visitation team came to campus, school officials appeared before a review panel. President James O. Baird and Academic Dean Stafford North went to Chicago by train to appear.

The final decision about which institutions would be accredited in a particular year was made at the meeting of the North Central Board at the time of the regular North Central Convention. Drs. Baird and North attended the meeting to make a show of interest. Dr. E. T. Dunlap, who had become a good friend of the school before and during his tenure as chancellor, also made a special effort to attend since he was a member of the board and could wield good influence.

As the board met, Baird and North anxiously awaited word. They first received it from President Hollingsworth of Langston University who, when the decision was made, slipped out of the room to bring the good news. After their return, Baird and North led the campus in a special celebration for this outstanding achievement.

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Gunn Henderson Hall Opens

January, 1967
Gunn Henderson Hall Opens

This building is named in honor of Mr. and Mrs. W.B. Gunn and Mr. and Mrs. W.A. Henderson, Jr., of Amarillo, Texas, in appreciation for their generous support in the building of Oklahoma Christian College.

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Mabee Learning Center opens

August, 1966

The first library on the Oklahoma City campus was located where the Registrar’s Office is now. By the early sixties, wiith the growth of the curriculum and number of students and the expansion to a four-year college, it was evident that more library space would be required.

President James O. Baird thought that the college should not build just another library in the sense of a place where books could be housed and used. Some libraries around the country were beginning to use innovative approaches like computers and dial-access to audiotapes as resources. So he commissioned Dr. Stafford North, who was then the Academic Dean, to study what might be possible for Oklahoma Christian.

After much investigation, Dr. North and his team decided that Oklahoma Christian should make a bold move into “educational technology.” This would involve rethinking the methods used in all classes, providing a much wider range of learning opportunities than had been available. Among these new learning methods, they reported, should be an easy access to audiotaped materials so that students could listen to audiotapes of lectures, hear music being performed, poetry being read, interviews with major political and religious figures, and the ability to do exercises guided by the voice of the teacher on audiotape.

As result of this study, Oklahoma Christian was able to get funding for a three-story Learning Center that would house the library on the first floor and allow the second and third floors to house 700 carrels, one for each student at the school. Each carrel was a small study booth that had a tabletop for work, a locker for leaving materials, and a telephone-type dial and headset that allowed students to choose from 136 different tape recordings that would be available at the same time. Many teachers developed creative ways to use this capacity for students to hear audiotapes.

After the Learning Center opened in the fall of 1966, the concept of providing every student with his/her own study booth equipped with dial-access to audio tapes drew a great deal of attention. Time magazine did a story, national television covered the event, Esquire magazine reported on what was happening, and a host of articles appeared in educational journals.

Within a few years, about a fifth of the colleges and universities in the United States and some from foreign countries had come to the campus to view the new concept firsthand. Dr. North and others appeared at many educational conferences to tell what was happening with learning “Oklahoma Christian style.”

While the time came that dial-up audio tapes was no longer on the cutting edge and the equipment for doing this became obsolete, the development of the Mabee Learning Center created an interest in the search for the best ways to promote learning at Oklahoma Christian. As a result of this initial project, OC has always sought to be on the cutting edge.

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Hardeman Auditorium Opens

June, 1966

From the very beginning of Central Christian College, having a gathering place for all the students was very important.

As the school began on the Bartlesville campus, a white frame classroom building was constructed that had about six classrooms and a large assembly area that would seat about 150 people. This was the site for daily Chapel, lectureships, plays and musical programs. The stage consisted of a raised platform of about eight inches, making the headroom above the stage about seven feet, four inches.

Sometimes, Harold Fletcher and Stafford North, who led in directing plays and musicals in those days, would have a program on a beautiful outside terrace with chairs on the lawn. Occasionally, they would rent a local high school auditorium for theatrical events.

When the college moved to Oklahoma City, the auditorium was situated in Cogswell-Alexander Hall. An audience of 230 people could sit in this room. Many plays and musicals were performed there; it also was the location for daily chapel. Soon after the college moved to Oklahoma City, student enrollment was more than could be accommodated in this auditorium, so there were two chapels a day, then three, and then four.

When Hardeman Auditorium opened, it allowed all the students to be together again in one chapel - certainly a great benefit over having to provide four chapel services a day. Hardeman also allowed for more highly-developed dramatic and musical productions with its full stage facilities, including a fly-loft, lighting and sound capacity.

Hardeman Auditorium was named for N.B. Hardeman, a great preacher among churches of Christ in the early part of the 20th century and a longtime president of Freed-Hardeman College.

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Wilson Halls, West and East dedicated

June, 1966
Wilson Halls, West and East dedicated

Wilson Hall ‘A’ and ‘B’ are named in honor of President Emeritus L.R. Wilson in appreciation of his outstanding leadership in the founding of Oklahoma Christian and for his service as its president from 1950 to 1954.

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Creative Thrust Corporate Campaign

February, 1965

College renamed Oklahoma Christian College

June, 1962

Soon after moving to the new campus in Oklahoma City, the faculty, administration and board decided that the two-year curriculum should be expanded to offer the students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree.

While the degrees available would be limited to areas such as Bible, business, science, and social science, the new program was put in place so that the first degrees could be awarded in 1962.

Along with this expansion, school officials thought that the school’s name should be changed. “Central” did not identify the school with any particular constituency or suggest a location. After considerable study, the board decided to call the school Oklahoma Christian College. This would connect the school with Oklahoma, where the primary support and the largest number of students came from, and it would instantly give people information about the school’s location.

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First senior class graduates

April, 1962

Victory Drive Corporate Community Campaign

January, 1962

Cogswell Alexander Hall Opens

June, 1959

In June 1959, Oklahoma Christian’s Board of Trustees dedicated Cogswell-Alexander Hall to Dr. and Mrs. R.E. Cogswell, Dimmitt, Texas, in honor of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Cogswell of Hillsboro, Texas, and Mr. and Mrs. C. Alexander of Floydada, Texas.

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College moves to Oklahoma City campus

September, 1958

Construction on four academic buildings (the four now around the fountain on the mall), a cafeteria, and two dorms was moving ahead well as 1958 began. The four academic buildings were near completion. When the school year ended in June in Bartlesville, the transition to the new campus began.

Those faculty and staff members who were moving found places to live and a temporary office was set up in an Oklahoma City school building that was available over the summer. As soon as the four buildings were available, what could be moved from the Bartlesville campus was carried to Oklahoma City, primarily with many trips in a one-ton pickup.

While President James O. Baird and Academic Dean Stafford North were planning for the start of the new school year and purchasing tables, chairs, desks, science equipment, cafeteria equipment, and dorm furniture, Clarence Buller, director of maintenance, was making trips in the pickup. The pickup moved 2,000 library books, office furniture, and some classroom and dorm furniture. Because the school was moving into new buildings, officials wanted most of the furnishings to be new.

About mid-summer, school officials were able to move into their offices in Benson Hall. Parking lots, however, had not been paved and sidewalks were not yet poured. And, of course, there was no grass or landscaping yet. So, when it rained, those coming to the campus often had to take off their shoes and socks in their cars, wade ankle-deep in mud to the building, then go to the restroom and clean up.

During the summer, it became apparent that the buildings would not be ready by early September. So the opening date of school was postponed until late September. It was also apparent that the dorms would not be ready until January. So school officials began to search for alternate housing for the first term. Arrangements were made for most of the female students to stay in a motel on Kelley Avenue and for the males and some females to be situated in homes.

As opening day finally arrived, the academic buildings were in good condition. The cafeteria was not quite complete and students had to be served for a few days with cold meals on paper plates. Students were scattered around Edmond and north Oklahoma City for housing. But the beginning was made, and the start of classes on September 22, 1958, marked the start of a new era for the college.

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Dr. George S. Benson named chancellor

August, 1957
Dr. George S. Benson named chancellor

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.

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Groundbreaking ceremony for OKC campus

May, 1957

The Board of Trustees for Central Christian College, with the encouragement of President James O. Baird, made the decision to move from Bartlesville to Oklahoma City in 1956. Then came the job of locating a new campus and raising money to purchase the land and build buildings.

One of the reasons the board had chosen Oklahoma City was that the community leadership in Oklahoma City had shown considerable interest in having the school move to their city and had promised support to purchase the land.

Under the leadership of Mr. E.K. Gaylord, publisher of the Daily Oklahoman, a local committee had explored a number of sites and finally had recommend a 200-acre location near the corner of Eastern and Memorial Road. Although this location was 11 miles from downtown Oklahoma City, it was on well-known city streets and, since the area around it for several miles was open space, there would be the opportunity to build a new “community” around the campus. The cost was $500 an acre, which brought the total price to $100,000.

Next, the board engaged nationally-recognized campus architects Caudill, Rowlett and Scott to work on the campus layout. They developed a “zoned” system for the campus with a living zone on the west, an academic zone on the east, and a service zone of cafeteria, library, and gym in between. Then came the task of designing seven builldings for a beginning - four academic buildings, a cafeteria, and two dormitories.

With this done, it was time for groundbreaking. When the date of the first groundbreaking came on May 11, 1957, it was raining so hard that it had to be postponed. When the second date came on May 25, it was raining so hard that the groundbreaking could not be held on the new campus, but in an alternate location.

So the actual groundbreaking for the new 200-acre campus at Eastern and Memorial Road was held right in the center of Oklahoma City in the Municipal Auditorium. Complete with shovels and buckets of dirt, the earth was turned to mark the beginning of the construction on the new campus.

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James O. Baird - Second President

June, 1954
James O. Baird - Second President

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, shape, and 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 were also 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 L.R. 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 college 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.

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Central Christian College opens

September, 1950
Central Christian College opens

In September 1950, Central Christian College opened its doors to about 90 students. The college was housed on a beautiful 152-acre estate, the main building of which was a mansion where L.V. Foster, who had made his fortune in oil, had lived.

On the first floor, this building housed the offices, the cafeteria, the library, a large room for a social center, and receptions. In the basement was the biology lab and on the second floor were rooms for boys and a supervisors’ apartment. The college built a frame classroom building and a brick women’s dormitory. Servants quarters housed the music and home economics departments.

One of the most amazing things about this beginning is that high-quality teachers and students were attracted to the young school because of the opportunity to be pioneers in what they believed would be a significant enterprise.

During these early years, people of the quality of James Baird, Roy Lanier, Sr., Harold Fletcher, Darvin Keck, Bailey McBride (first as a student and then a teacher), Stafford North, and many others came to the young school. From students in those early years have come many long-term missionaries, outstanding teachers and administrators, and leaders in business.

While the beginning was small, it laid a very important foundation of quality for the future of the university. After a few years, however, it became evident that the school needed to be in the setting of a larger city to prosper. The larger setting would provide higher visibility, a broader base of support, more jobs for students, a wider range of local entertainment, better transportation, and easier access to supplies and services.

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L.R. Wilson - First President

September, 1949
L.R. Wilson - First President

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.

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