The Oklahoma Christian University community mourns the loss of longtime professor Dr. Elmo Hall, who passed away on May 13 with his loving family at his side.
Hall was born August 2, 1930, in Fulton County, Arkansas. He received a bachelor’s degree from Harding University in 1953, a master’s degree from Texas Christian University in 1965, and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University in 1977.
His heart for teaching took him into ministry in his early 20s. He preached at congregations in Arkansas, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma, including a 10-year stint in Newcastle.
He worked at Fort Worth Christian College from 1959 until 1967, when his journey led Hall to Oklahoma Christian. Over the course of the next four decades, he taught English and literature classes for hundreds of OC students.
He also was integrally involved in campus life beyond the classroom. He was a longtime public address announcer for OC basketball games, frequently assisted with alumni callouts, and served as an entertaining host and performer for OC’s First Week Follies program.
Hall served as a deacon at College Church of Christ (now Memorial Road), and made a worldwide ministry impact through extensive mission work. He led OC students on annual campaigns for more than a decade, helping spread the Gospel to places like Belize and Trinidad.
“Elmo was a man of steadfast determination,” Distinguished Professor of Bible Dr. Stafford North said. “Whether playing basketball or teaching or studying the Bible, he always wanted to do his best. He loved to explore Bible topics and often would drop by my office to ask a question that would get us into discussion and study. Elmo was fully dedicated to his work, which he considered his work for the Lord – whether that work was preaching, teaching a Bible class, teaching English, or leading a group on a mission trip.”
In 1980, while Hall was in Trinidad with 17 students, they were confronted by a group of local radicals called Rastas who sat in the outdoor tent meetings to frighten people away and confronted Hall with questions. During the night, the Rastas cut tent ropes and poured gasoline on the tent and burned a large hole in it before the fire could be doused. Despite the opposition, Hall reported that 14 locals were baptized.
“The conduct of the campaigners and the local Christians made a strong impact on the townspeople. The Christians’ patience and lack of vindictiveness were a great testimony to the non-Christians. Many townspeople came and apologized for the incidents,” Hall said.
Hall was an accomplished scholar and leader. For many years, he was the OC sponsor of the OSLEP programs conducted by the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education to introduce students to the world of scholarship.
In 1979, Oklahoma Christian honored Hall with the Merrick Award, presented annually to a faculty member who demonstrates outstanding efforts in teaching the principles of free enterprise.
In 1982, Hall represented Oklahoma Christian at Rice University as the recipient of a prestigious Carnegie-Mellon Fellowship. In 1993, he received OC’s Faculty Leadership Award for distinguished leadership as a professor.
When Hall retired along with several other faculty members in 1996, Dr. Bailey McBride praised their vital roles in OC’s growth and success.
“In many cases, they have begun our traditions and unique quality,” McBride said in an interview with alumnus Bobby Ross, then with The Oklahoman. “Most of these were the pioneers who came with dreams they have carried out and made the reality of our present greatness. These are our giants.”
Hall’s giant impact continued in a part-time role with the university. In 1997, he had the winning entry in OC’s Faculty Colloquium. His paper, titled “Pierre Boulle’s Satire of the Japanese in the Planet of the Apes,” examined the satiristic comparison between the stereotype of the post-World War II Japanese and the Apes in Boulle’s novel.
In 2003, Oklahoma Christian honored Hall as a professor emeritus. In 2004, OC began presenting the Elmo Hall Award to students for essays in their C.S. Lewis studies. Dr. Hall taught courses on Lewis for many years and was a key figure in introducing several generations of students to Lewis and his texts.
“His office door always has been open for a ready conversation. Students have sought his counsel in prayer or for missions projects. He is beloved by alumni, faculty, and friends of OC,” Scott LaMascus said in announcing the award in Dr. Hall’s honor. “His steadfastness as a Christian, thinker, and lover of language is a monument to us all.”
In 2007, more than a decade after Hall’s official retirement, a student’s testimony spoke to his dedication to his students.
“Elmo Hall is an outstanding teacher. Although he is one of the elderly teachers, he has a youthful spirit and heart for God’s truth,” the student said. “He specifically makes time for each individual student by opening slots in his planning period to gives suggestions on our writing. This way, he could help me with my writing style and help me improve as a student and person.”
The university named Hall an honorary alumnus in 2011. His family ties at the university run deep. His brother, Leonard, was OC’s first baseball coach in 1960 and also taught at Oklahoma Christian. Leonard’s son, Dewayne, was OC’s athletic director from 2005 to 2008.
Elmo and his wife, Anita, married in 1951 and spent almost 62 years together before her passing in February 2013. Their children are both OC alumni; Janet Hall graduated in 1974 and Teresa Wilguess graduated in 1986.
Teresa’s husband, John, was OC’s vice president for civic affairs during a four-year stint at the university from 2002 to 2006. Their daughter, Victoria, also attended Oklahoma Christian.
“Anita and Elmo were at the center of OC for many years. When I enrolled my freshman year in World Literature, I quickly knew Dr. Hall was a lively teacher who was vocal about faith in Christ, about French epics (which I didn’t get), and about OC basketball,” said LaMascus, now OC’s vice president for academic affairs. “As an English major, and later as a colleague, I learned that he was passionate about students’ learning and would work hard to help any student or family. I have missed him on campus these past few years. He genuinely loved Christ and he made OC a better place.”