Beloved Professor Becomes Honorary Alumnus Howard Leftwich

Dawn Shelton (89)

He’s been one of us for so long, it’s time to make it official. 

Dr. Howard Leftwich will become an Eagle at Homecoming this year. He’ll join his students – many of whom turned out to be CPAs, presidents, senators, chairmen, professors and ministers – as an OC alum.

Although Dr. Leftwich retired more than a decade ago, his legend continues. 

Phil Roe, a member of OC’s Board of Trustees who graduated from Oklahoma Christian in 1982, says it best:

“Dr. Leftwich influenced my experience in business studies in many ways, but what I remember the most was the realization that a man who had been very successful in the business world chose to come and share his experience, knowledge and passion with a bunch of college students,” said Roe, senior vice president, chief administrative officer and controller of Vanguard Health Systems in Nashville, Tenn.

“He had an amazing ability to take a potentially dry subject – accounting – and explain it in a way that made sense and enabled me to understand how that discipline related to so many aspects of the business world. I believe his success in business allowed him to relate our academic studies in a very practical and useful way.”

In the 1960s, Howard Leftwich was building a very successful career as a CPA in Kansas City when he started getting calls from school president Dr. James O. Baird, who shared his plans and vision for a business program at then-Oklahoma Christian College.

“We kind of felt sorry for him,” laughed Marilyn Leftwich as she recalled all of those calls during an interview for Vision in 2006. “We finally decided to tell him we’ll do it.”

Leftwich resigned his job, took a huge pay cut, moved his family to Edmond, pursued his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma and eventually became chairman of OC’s business department, a position he held until 1992. He retired in 1996.

Howard and Marilyn’s son was a young teenager when they moved. 

“I was absolutely influenced by my dad as I watched him in his role at OC. I saw a lifestyle that I wanted to emulate, and eventually got the opportunity to be on the faculty here as well,” said Don Leftwich (76), now the chair of OC’s Department of Mathematical, Computer, and Information Sciences.

The lives and careers Howard touched are so numerous that one might need a business course to know how to quantify it. 

One of those lives was Don Millican, who had limited exposure to Oklahoma Christian when he was a young rising star in accounting. He met Dr. Leftwich at church. Before long, Howard started calling Millican to tell him about his dreams for OC’s business program. 

Millican began adjunct teaching at Oklahoma Christian and today chairs OC’s Board of Trustees. In 2005, he established a $1 million endowment in accounting in honor of his father, JJ (Joe) Millican. 

Last year, Don Millican was named an Honorary Eagle, an honor he will now share with Dr. Leftwich. 

“Dr. Leftwich brought practical knowledge from the field to the classroom, which was extremely important, and produced results as evidenced by our high CPA pass rates and the great success of our business graduates,” Millican said.

While today’s business students don’t “sit at the feet” of Dr. Leftwich, they benefit from his contributions. For alumni, that’s a gift that keeps on giving.

“I use the business principles and life examples I learned from Howard every day of my life,” said David Seat (73), executive vice president of BancFirst.

Fall 2010

View more stories from the Fall 2010 issue of Vision magazine.