The Oklahoma Christian University Board of Trustees extended a five year contract renewal to President John deSteiguer nearly a year ahead of schedule. The new contract is a strong vote of confidence and support for the direction deSteiguer has led the university and adds an extra layer of stability for all constituents.
The president exemplifies servant leadership in the way that he interacts with everyone on campus. He gives his full attention to each person in the moment in a way that makes them feel seen and heard. Uncomfortable in the spotlight, deSteiguer lights up when he has the opportunity to speak about his innovative leadership team, award-winning students and deeply missional faculty.
The stamp of the deSteiguer presidency can be seen all over campus in the new, award-winning cafeteria, leading athletic facilities, high-tech academic labs and park-like landscape. He has helped to link the OC campus with the broader community through vibrant speaker series, the popular running trails and gym memberships.
As industry and higher education changes, deSteiguer is quick to respond with leading edge academic programs, reimagined spiritual life for students and accessible student success opportunities.
“OC is blessed with faculty who have delivered top student performance and outcomes year-over-year for decades. We are blessed with donors who continually help us improve our campus to offer the best in Christian education. And, we are blessed with passionate and capable staff who execute big dreams,” said deSteiguer.
The president recognizes OC as an institution rich in resources and poised to make a real difference by positively influencing the trajectory of people’s lives. He knows that to be true, proven by decades of alumni who lead corporations, churches, communities and global missions. He witnesses God using them in ways that they had never dreamed. The pandemic has emphasized the deep need for the relationships that develop here. OC successfully offered a safe, campus community; a sharp contrast with institutions that were unable to do so.
“The skill, determination and flexibility of our Covid Readiness Team has made it possible for OC to safely teach classes in person, conduct labs where learning is put into practice, adapt Ethos for continued spiritual growth, live and eat together. It’s been remarkable,” said deSteiguer. “The way our entire campus adopted and followed healthy practices made it all possible.”
The task force worked to provide nearly constant, unlimited covid testing on campus and announced vaccine delivery the day Oklahoma made the vaccine available to higher education. At a time when other universities closed physical campuses or canceled spiritually focused gatherings, OC continues to build relationships, grow in faith and even deliver events like Spring Sing by implementing health precautions.
The president set his sights on making the life-changing product of OC available to students who never dreamed that an Oklahoma Christian education could be possible.
As a part of a widespread reorganization, deSteiguer established New College, led by Dean Sada Knowles, Ph.D. Knowles executes innovative programs designed to provide opportunities for individuals to gain the education they need and meet employment shortages. deSteiguer wants OC to solve Oklahoma’s teacher and nurse deficits and change families for generations to come through education.
The transformative power of Christian education does not overshadow the importance of moments for deSteiguer. He loves interacting with students who affectionately know him as Johnny D. He acts intentionally when serving them ice cream in The Branch or coffee in The Brew. He enjoys giving students attention with a big smile and greeting when walking down the sidewalk, attending Eagle athletic events to cheer on his favorite teams or inviting students into his office that is always stocked with peanut M&Ms and tissues. As Johnny D., he wants to be prepared to celebrate or offer comfort. deSteiguer is aware of the reality of depression and anxiety, and he feels the pain of others. He seeks to balance mental health with physical health in the pandemic.
“I’m happy we isolate students so they are physically safe,” said deSteiguer, “but we need to be mindful of the emotional impact. I want each student to feel so welcomed and wanted, because I don’t know who will hang on to a ‘hello’ or a brief conversation. They may think back on those words in a moment when they need it to get past the next five minutes, which could be the worst five minutes of their life.”
deSteiguer urges each of us not to ignore people. Human interaction is not awkward. It can be difficult or challenging, but people need to be seen and recognized. You are the one to do that. OC is a place of community and a place of relationships that fosters growth in these areas far more than big, anonymous universities. So, what will five more years of leadership under President deSteiguer look like for OC?
“We will not be fearful of making a difference on a huge scale and on an individual level,” said deSteiguer. “We will be courageous and bold. We will take creative and innovative action to make OC accessible to a diverse demographic.”