Oklahoma Christian University is made up of incredible individuals. Time and time again, our students, faculty, staff and alumni achieve high praise and change lives. They're unique. They're innovative. They're missional.
Each year at Homecoming, we honor several alumni who have made a positive impact on their community. Given out in categories - Distinguished Alumnus, Young Alumnus, Missionary Service Award and Honorary Alumnus - we are given the opportunity to recognize at least a percentage of the large pool of incredible alumni and supporters every year.
This year, the awards are as follows:
Allison (Dabbs '84) Garrett
Recently named the ninth chancellor of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, Garrett has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to education. Her previous experience includes President of Emporia State, Executive Vice President at Abilene Christian University, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at Oklahoma Christian University and Associate Professor of Law at Faulkner University. Needless to say, she's the most qualified person for the job. And, to top it off, she's the first woman to serve as chancellor.
With an OC family legacy to uphold, Garrett came to OC with a scholarship in chemistry. However, Garrett quickly switched to English, looking for something that challenged her and set her up for law school. OC prepared Garrett for further education and her illustrious career. She graduated with a law degree from Tulsa College of Law and a Master's in Securities Regulation from Georgetown University. She then served as the Vice President and General Counsel, as well as the Vice President of Benefits Compliance and Planning for Walmart.
Garrett's OC legacy continues through her and her family. Her daughter, Tori, is an OC graduate turned press secretary in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Garrett is still a household name on campus. And, while thrilled, we weren't surprised to hear she was coming back to serve in the highest role in higher education. It's a privilege to know Garrett and recognize her brilliance as a distinguished alumna this year.
Outstanding Young Alumni
José Cruz ('12)
José Cruz graduated from Oklahoma Christian University in 2012 with a degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies. A first-generation college graduate, Cruz quickly learned his life experience was valuable in his service to the community. After graduating from OC, he worked in a law office to help people navigate the legal system.
In May 2020, Cruz graduated from Oklahoma City University School of Law and a seat opened up in the House of Representatives. He knew his perspective as a young, bilingual Mexican American would be valuable in Oklahoma’s House. After encouragement from friends, Cruz ran and won. Following a diverse career filled with opportunities to network with people, Cruz landed in a spot where he felt called.
Amid the challenges in his new role, he recognizes his ability to deploy his unique perspective to help Oklahomans. Helping others is what motivates Cruz to serve as a person of influence. While we aren't totally responsible for Cruz's success and service after graduation, we're proud we left a positive impact in his life. He's taken on these new challenges with intelligence, kindness and strength. And we're proud to honor him this year.
Sydney (Hill '16) Reneau
Former Oklahoma Christian basketball athlete and Theta Theta Theta and Interior Architecture alumna, Reneau now makes a name for herself in construction. Most recently, she assisted in the production of the new Homeland store at NE 36th and Lincoln in Oklahoma City, helping bring much-needed resources into a food desert.
Reneau is a third generation Oklahoma Christian graduate. Hesitant to follow in the footsteps of her family, Reneau earned a basketball scholarship and took the leap into OC. Always having a drive to create and build, she quickly found her home in the Interior Architecture program. It didn't take long after graduation before Reneau found her niche for serving the community in her career.
Now, she paves the way for future generations through her job at CMS Willowbrook. She knows the work she's doing goes beyond building. It's providing housing and resources for those who need it. Her humility, wisdom and heart for others shines through every project. For this reason, it was an easy decision to honor Reneau as one of our Young Alumni this year.
Missionary Service Award
Mel Sr. ('66) & Marly Latorre
You won't meet a couple more full of joy than the Latorres. In fact, their relationship is founded on the mission work Mel pursued post graduation.
Both originally from Brazil, the Latorres have a heart for Oklahoma Christian and we have a heart for them. Their family has been connected to the university for decades now. Their sons attended OC (Mel Jr. still teaches here!). Mel Sr. made the shift from Engineering to Education at OC, which led him to become the brilliant missionary he is today.
Both Mel and Marly Latorre ooze love for everyone they meet. Despite their busy lives as missionaries, they're never too busy to get to know you and serve you. And while Marly did not graduate from OC, she and her husband are quick to tell you how important the university was in their journey to faith and inspiring faith in others. And for their dedication to missions and their community, we are proud to honor them with the Missionary Service Award.
Benton & Paula Baugh
If you're connected to OC at all, you've seen the name "Baugh" in many areas of campus. You may have heard of the Baugh Wind Energy Competition, or the earlier Baugh Preaching Chair. By now, you've definitely heard of Baugh Auditorium, arguably the most popular spot on campus, hosting chapel, Spring Sing, History Speaks and more!
What's more, the Baughs had hardly stepped foot on campus before 2012. Benton and Paula are active members at Memorial Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, where Benton serves as a deacon. Their connection to OC is owed in large part to their great relationship with OC trustee David Duncan (’89) and his wife, Barbara (’89). David is the pulpit minister at Memorial Church.
But, alumni or not, they may as well be. They've had a huge hand in OC's growth over the past decade. They're now recognizable faces and a popular name. So, in choosing honorary alumni this year, it just made sense. Benton & Paula Baugh are the changemakers to celebrate.