In the past six decades, Oklahoma Christian has transformed from a two-year college with 207 students in Bartlesville, Okla., to a comprehensive, four-year, accredited university with more than 2,000 students and four graduate programs in Oklahoma City.
Overall, Oklahoma Christian is now home to three colleges (Arts and Sciences, Biblical Studies, and Professional Studies), 14 academic departments, 60 majors plus 30 additional study areas, four graduate programs (Ministry, Divinity, Business Administration, and Engineering), and 20 study-abroad and off-campus learning options.
While the name, location and curriculum have changed significantly in a half-century, the motivation and ideals have remained intact.
Great leadership is another aspect that remains the same. James O. Baird was president of the university during the move from Bartlesville, and was instrumental in the university’s success in Oklahoma City.
As OC’s longest-tenured president, J. Terry Johnson helped spearhead comprehensive growth that established the university as a major institution with far-reaching impact in the Oklahoma City community and beyond.
President Emeritus Mike O’Neal continued that legacy over his decade of service as Oklahoma Christian transformed lives for Christian faith, scholarship and service.
To see the progress OC has made under the leadership of its first six presidents is amazing. One can only imagine the great strides the university will continue to make under our seventh president, John deSteiguer.
L.R. WILSON (1949-1954)
L.R. Wilson, a highly respected minister, served as the institution’s first president when it was known as Central Christian College and located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Under Wilson’s leadership, the student population grew from 97 to 175, and many of OC’s foundations were established: required daily Chapel, a required Bible class each term, outstanding musical programs, student devotionals, student publications, intramural athletics, social service clubs, a high moral expectation of students and faculty, and a high level of academic excellence.
JAMES O. BAIRD (1954-1974)
Dr. James O. Baird became president in 1954, and aided by the generous financial support of the Oklahoma City business community, the institution moved to our current 200-acre campus in 1958 and became Oklahoma Christian College in 1959. Dr. Baird led the effort to move Oklahoma Christian from junior to senior college status and to secure accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Under his leadership, the campus expanded and the institution’s net worth and endowment soared, making the Baird presidency the time of “the great leap forward.”
J. TERRY JOHNSON (1974-1996)
Dr. J. Terry Johnson, a 1964 Oklahoma Christian graduate, was the first alumnus to hold the office of president. During his 21-year tenure, the longest of any OC president, he led the institution to unprecedented growth in campus development, student enrollment, and institutional endowment. Oklahoma Christian achieved university status on March 28, 1990. By adding more faculty and new degree programs, he strengthened the academic programs. He strengthened ties between the university and both the local civic community and the church constituency. Outstanding on-campus events included visits from the President of the United States, governors, business leaders, and those famous in the arts and media.
KEVIN JACOBS (1996-2001)
Under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Jacobs, a 1982 Oklahoma Christian graduate, the university set enrollment records for five straight years, added an MBA program, had significant fundraising success, and extended our long history of leadership in the innovative use of technology by implementing a wireless campus network and providing a laptop for every full-time student. The improvement of campus facilities included the expansion of the Garvey Center with the McIntosh Conservatory and Recital Hall, and the renovation of the Gaylord University Center.
ALFRED BRANCH (2001-2002)
Alfred Branch served as Oklahoma Christian’s president in 2001 and 2002, showing courageous and effective leadership as he guided the university through a pivotal time in its history. He came to OC as its executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1999 and served in those roles following his presidential tenure from 2002 until 2008. He oversaw the development of more than $48 million in student housing, campus renovations, and retail projects.
MIKE O’NEAL (2002-2012)
Mike O’Neal became OC’s sixth president on June 17, 2002. He connected OC with leaders from all over the globe, including a partnership with Rwanda that brought some of that nation’s best and brightest students here to study at OC. He also established new relationships with alumni, churches, and friends in the local business community. His tenure included vital improvements in the university’s financial stability, numerous enrollment records, the construction of many new facilities through the $64.3 million Higher Learning~Higher Calling campaign, the growth of OC’s academic programs, and the strengthening of the faith foundation upon which OC was built.