Alumni give $1.5M gift; Bible building renamed

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - Sept. 3, 2004 - Oklahoma Christian University (OC) officials announced today an alumni gift of $1.5 million and the renaming of the university's central physical and spiritual landmark building as the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies.

The gift was pledged by Charlie and Lesa Branch of Advance, N.C., in honor of their parents, Charles and Joyce Williams of Oklahoma City and Dr. Charles and Sylvia Branch of San Antonio, Texas. The gift will go toward redevelopment and support of the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies, and toward endowment to support Oklahoma Christian and its College of Biblical Studies.

"This is a wonderful day in the life of Oklahoma Christian University, especially with the opportunity to honor these two great families who have meant so much to this university through the years - not only in sending their children, but in investing in us with their financial resources, encouraging others to be a part of the university, and serving on our boards," said OC president Mike O'Neal. "This gift certainly is a significant, important contribution that means a great deal financially to this university. It will have deep and positive impact on this institution far into the future. My prayer is that we will be faithful to the trust they have placed in us."

"Oklahoma Christian University is a special place. The university stands for the real value of Christian principles and the value of Christian family. So many entities in today's society are tearing down the family, and we hope that, in some way, holding up our parents will remind all of us how valuable and important the family is," said Charlie Branch. "This institution is very special to our parents. It's almost natural that we could honor them and bless other people at the same time."

Charles Williams has been a gospel preacher for half a century, serving as a minister and elder in Oklahoma City at Oakcrest Church of Christ, and now at the North MacArthur Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. He has worked on numerous mission campaigns. In addition to being the ideal model of the wife of an effective gospel preacher and elder, Joyce Williams has been a longtime ladies bible class teacher. As a mother, she has instilled in her children a love for the Lord and a heritage of Christian education.

Charles Branch is a prominent and distinguished neurosurgeon, whose expertise in the field is demonstrated in his practice, his teaching, and his numerous published works on a host of neurological and neurosurgical topics. An Oklahoma Christian Life Trustee after serving on OC's Board of Trustees for 20 years, he was a vocational minister in Montreal for 15 years and has been a medical missionary to African Christian Hospital one month per year for the last 10 years. He and Sylvia have been bible class teachers for more than 40 years. He also has served as an elder for three decades while she has been a trustee of Christian Heritage Schools in San Antonio for 20 years, and a trustee of the Christian Chronicle international newspaper.

Charlie Branch is the chair of Wake Forest University's Department of Neurosurgery, a position he has held since 2001. He has served on the department's faculty since 1987 upon completing his residency there. He received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School after graduating in 1977 from Oklahoma Christian, where he met Lesa, a 1978 OC alumna. They were married in June 1978.

Charlie is a deacon at Southfork Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, N.C., where both he and Lesa have been longtime bible class teachers. Lesa is an accomplished artist and raises miniature horses. She and Charlie have five children: Byron, Daniel, Leslie, Courtney and Emily. Daniel currently is a senior at Oklahoma Christian.

The Biblical Studies Center opened in 1987. The $3 million building, financed by OC's $50 million With Wings as Eagles campaign, was made possible by a group of 42 founding donors. Because all OC students take bible classes as part of the university's core curriculum, the building joins the Gaylord University Center and Hardeman Auditorium - where daily Chapel services are held - as the most-trafficked facilities on campus.

In addition to classrooms, faculty and staff offices and conference space, the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies includes Raymond Kelcy Hall, Hugo McCord Hall, the Robert and Velma Wheeler Auditorium, the Glenn and Pansy Durrill Lecture Hall, the Warlick Language Room, the Sudbury Missions Room, the Fletcher Dailey Library, Scott Chapel and the offices of the Christian Chronicle international newspaper.

"Teaching God's word through their various disciplines and through their lives is central to all who teach and work here, but there is a sense in which this building is symbolic. Its place at the front of the campus makes a statement about what all of us who work here stand for," said Lynn McMillon, dean of the College of Biblical Studies. "For Charlie and Lesa to make this very generous gift is not only humbling, it is an enormous inspiration and encouragement to all of us. We appreciate their gift, but we also deeply appreciate their example and the legacy and teaching of their families."

This gift comes on the heels of recent significant gifts to Oklahoma Christian from alumni H. Richard and Pat Lawson, and from Chesapeake Energy Corporation. In 2000, the late Edward L. Gaylord, chairman and publisher of The Oklahoma Publishing Company, presented Oklahoma Christian with a gift of $40 million, being distributed in $2 million increments over 20 years. Oklahoma Christian will announce another major gift from a friend in the corporate community in the near future.

Oklahoma Christian, a private, four-year comprehensive university ranked seventh overall in the 16-state Western region by U.S. News & World Report, offers degree programs in more than 60 fields of study in three colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Biblical Studies and the College of Professional Studies. The university also offers two graduate degree programs in Biblical Studies in addition to one- and two-year Master of Business Administration programs.


BIOGRAPHIES

CHARLES AND JOYCE WILLIAMS

Charles and Joyce Williams of Oklahoma City lead a family that has had great impact on Oklahoma Christian University and the church.

Charles Williams has been a gospel preacher for half a century, serving more than 20 years in the pulpit and as an elder at Oakcrest Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, and now as a minister and elder at the North MacArthur Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

Along with his brother-in-law and best friend, Jim Sheerer, Charles Williams helped establish a congregation in Jamestown, New York. They own and run a publishing company, "Yeoman Press."

Charles Williams has worked on numerous mission campaigns, including a medical mission trip with fellow honoree Dr. Charles Branch, Sr., and his son-in-law, Charles (Charlie) Branch, Jr.

In addition to being the ideal model of the wife of an effective gospel preacher and elder, Joyce Williams has been a longtime ladies bible class teacher. She is the epitome of hospitality and a wonderful mother, instilling in her children a love for the Lord and a heritage of Christian education.

Charles and Joyce have been married for 52 years and have three daughters, all OC graduates: Judi Lashley (OC '76), married to Bob Lashley (OC '74 and the university's director of special events); Lesa Branch (OC '78), married to Charlie Branch (OC '77); and Dana McMichael (OC '83) married to B.J. McMichael.

Charles and Joyce have 10 grandchildren, four of whom have attended or are attending Oklahoma Christian, and four who are potential OC students in the future.

CHARLES AND SYLVIA BRANCH

Charles and Sylvia Branch of San Antonio, Texas, also lead a family that has had great impact on Oklahoma Christian University and the church.

Charles Branch is a prominent and distinguished neurosurgeon, whose expertise in the field is demonstrated in his practice, his teaching, and his numerous published works on a host of neurological and neurosurgical topics.

An Oklahoma Christian Life Trustee after serving on OC's Board of Trustees for 20 years, Charles Branch has been an elder for more than three decades and a bible class teacher for more than four decades. He was a vocational minister in Montreal for 15 years and has been a medical missionary to African Christian Hospital one month per year for the last 10 years.

Sylvia Branch also has been a bible class teacher for more than 40 years, a trustee of Christian Heritage Schools in San Antonio for 20 years, and a trustee of the Christian Chronicle international newspaper.

Charles and Sylvia have been married for more than 50 years. They have four sons and one daughter, all of whom graduated from Oklahoma Christian: Charlie Branch (OC '77), married to Lesa (OC '78); Warren Branch (OC '77); Daniel Branch (OC '80), married to Stacey; Alfred Branch (OC '84 and the university's executive vice president), married to Judy (OC '85); and Cynthia Adams (OC '86), married to Don Adams.

Charles and Sylvia have 18 grandchildren, one of whom (Daniel Williams Branch, son of Charlie and Lesa Branch) currently attends Oklahoma Christian. There are 15 more potential OC students in this third generation over the next 13 years.

CHARLIE AND LESA BRANCH

Charlie and Lesa Branch of Advance, N.C., have pledged $1.5 million to support Oklahoma Christian University and to help redevelop the Biblical Studies Center, the university's central physical and spiritual landmark.

Charlie and Lesa met 30 years ago this past Sunday at Oklahoma Christian, where he attended from 1973 to 1977, and she attended from 1974 to 1978. They were married in June 1978.

Charlie Branch received his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in 1981. After his residency at Wake Forest University's Department of Neurosurgery, he joined the faculty there in 1987. In 2001, he was appointed chair of the department at Wake Forest.

Charlie is a deacon at Southfork Church of Christ in Winston-Salem, N.C., where both he and Lesa have been longtime bible class teachers.

Lesa is an accomplished artist and raises miniature horses. She and Charlie have five children: Byron, Daniel, Leslie, Courtney and Emily. Daniel currently is a senior at Oklahoma Christian.


THE WILLIAMS-BRANCH CENTER FOR BIBLICAL STUDIES

Oklahoma Christian officials broke ground on the 30,000-square-foot Biblical Studies Center on Sept. 26, 1986.

On Sept. 18, 1987, Oklahoma Christian dedicated the Biblical Studies Center. The $3 million building, financed by OC's $50 million With Wings as Eagles campaign, was made possible by a group of 42 founding donors.

The Biblical Studies Center was designed by Oklahoma City architects Culver and Brandon, and built by E.V. Cox Construction Co. of Oklahoma City.

At its opening, the two-level Biblical Studies Center included classrooms, a small library, an auditorium, faculty and staff offices and study areas on the first level, and a second level devoted to a 300-seat chapel. It also housed the offices of the Christian Chronicle international newspaper, which remain there to this day.

Two wings of the Biblical Studies Center were named after former OC Bible professors Hugo McCord and Raymond Kelcy at its dedication. The late McCord, honored as a professor emeritus following his retirement, was one of the institution's first professors when it began in Bartlesville as Central Christian College. Kelcy, a member of OC's Master Teacher Hall of Fame, chaired the school's Bible department from 1963 to 1986, when he died unexpectedly.

The opening of the Biblical Studies Center helped pave the way for a new Master of Arts in Ministry degree in 1988. OC's first graduate degree program was designed to meet a need for additional training in ministry for students. Focusing on practical ministry training, the program featured two tracks of study - general ministry and family life ministry.

In March 2004, Oklahoma Christian launched a new Master of Divinity degree program, the only program of its kind in central Oklahoma. The program, which includes courses on biblical history and theological studies, is marked by an emphasis on practical ministry, developing the skills ministers can use on a daily basis in their church work.

On Sept. 3, 2004, the Biblical Studies Center was renamed as the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies, in honor of Charles and Joyce Williams and Charles and Sylvia Branch. A $1.5 million gift by alumni couple Charlie and Lesa (Williams) Branch in honor of their parents went toward redevelopment and support of the Biblical Studies Center, and toward endowment to support Oklahoma Christian and its College of Biblical Studies.

In addition to classrooms, offices and conference space, the Williams-Branch Center for Biblical Studies includes Raymond Kelcy Hall, Hugo McCord Hall, the Robert and Velma Wheeler Auditorium, the Glenn and Pansy Durrill Lecture Hall, the Warlick Language Room, the Sudbury Missions Room, the Fletcher Dailey Library and Scott Chapel.

Scott Chapel, a 300-seat facility used for worship services, classes, weddings and meetings, features stained glass windows and a choral loft. It is named for Mabel and Leo Scott of Thackerville, Oklahoma. The chapel's rose windows are in memory of Phyllis Boss Dunn. The bell tower that tops the facility houses the Cordell Christian College bell, which was used on the Cordell campus until its closing in 1931. The bell was donated by the Cordell Christian College Alumni Association.

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