Dr. Mike O'Neal Presidential Highlights

Wes McKinzie (98)

Oklahoma Christian’s strength and quality transcend bricks and mortar, but the physical growth of the campus over the last decade is testament to OC’s stability and vitality in tough economic times.

 In 2009, Oklahoma Christian completed the Higher Learning~Higher Calling campaign, raising $64.3 million from more than 7,000 supporters over a five-and-a-half-year period.

 OC reached the campaign goal early and exceeded the target by more than $4 million, no small feat in any economic environment.

 Proceeds from the campaign made the following possible as OC grows in its mission to transform lives for Christian faith, scholarship and service:

Significant additions to the university’s endowment;

50 new or substantially increased endowed scholarships;

4 endowed faculty chairs (JJ Millican Chair in Accounting, Pat Lawson Chair in Arts and Sciences, Richard Lawson Chair in Professional Studies, Lynn and Joy McMillon Chair in Biblical Studies);

3 endowed centers (McBride Center for Faith and Literature, Fletcher Center for Music, Gaither Center for Biology);

Numerous academic and administrative endowment funds;

Lawson Commons, an official Oklahoma Centennial Project, including the Jack and Wanda McGraw Pavilion and the Jose Freede Centennial Tower;

Dramatic upgrades of all science facilities, including the new 13,000-square-foot Noble Science Wing;

Dobson Field, OC’s new intercollegiate baseball facility;

Multi-purpose Jackson Intramural Fields.

 “Generations of OC students will benefit from the statement of faith in the university’s future by our alumni and friends who made this effort an overwhelming success,” President Dr. Mike O’Neal (68) said.

  • The O’Neal family: Becky (Graham 01), Michael (01), Will (on Michael’s shoulders), Mike, Nancy, Luke, & Mandy (O’Neal 07) Brensing.
The O’Neal family: Becky (Graham 01), Michael (01), Will (on Michael’s shoulders), Mike, Nancy, Luke, & Mandy (O’Neal 07) Brensing.

 The decade also featured a comprehensive $34 million student residence project, with the construction of two new residence halls and two new apartment complexes, plus the renovation of most other student housing.

 The initiative coincided with a surge in student enrollment; the university set numerous enrollment records over the past 10 years, including seven straight of more than 2,000 students.

  • Mike O’Neal greets King Abdullah II of Jordan (right) and General Tommy Franks.
Mike O’Neal greets King Abdullah II of Jordan (right) and General Tommy Franks.

 The construction of a new central plant and the Bobby Murcer Indoor Baseball Training Facility, plus the renovation of Hardeman Auditorium, the Dave Smith Athletic Center (known as “The Barn”) and the Mabee Science Labs also enhanced OC’s campus.

 The university also made advancements in how it used the campus technologically. Long known as a leader in pedagogical technology with one of the first wireless campuses in the nation, Oklahoma Christian remained at the forefront by partnering with Apple in 2008. 

Students received MacBook laptop computers and their choice of an iPhone or iPod touch. OC added the iPad as an upgrade option after its launch by Apple.

 OC’s academic programs continued to offer opportunities for full intellectual engagement by our students and masterful teaching that brings the Christian worldview into focus in every discipline. The many accomplishments and honors in the past several years included:

Receipt of many regional and national awards for students in Art and Design, Communications, Psychology, Business and Engineering;

The History Honors Society’s receipt of the National Best Chapter Award for the 16th straight year among smaller universities, and recognition of its journal as one of the best in the nation;

Recognition of Soundings, our student literary journal, as one of the best in the nation twice in the last five years;

Creation of a nursing program in which our students excel in the classroom and in service, traveling to Honduras each year on a medical mission trip;

Accreditation of the interior design program;

Creation of a Master’s of Science in Engineering to complement our growing master’s degree programs in business and Bible;

The growth of the Honors Program, including the creation of the Summer Honors Academy for talented high school students, and the creation of a new Honors House in which many of our Honors students live;

Recognition of the gaming and animation program as one of the nation’s best; and strong placement of Biology, Business, English, History and Political Science students into graduate programs at Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Columbia University and other top schools.

Oklahoma Christian’s global engagement continued its tradition of strong interest and commitment to international understanding and development. 

In recent years, OC has helped build water wells in Africa for the thirsty, hosted campus fundraising walks for a medical mission in Honduras, helped families becoming self-sustaining in the Philippines, continued to send hundreds of students on international programs to Europe and the Pacific Rim, and have rushed to the aid of the hurting after disasters in Japan and China.

In 2006, OC embarked on a very special relationship with the small East African nation of Rwanda. The country was seeking partnerships to assist the country’s VISION 2020 recovery from its tragic 1994 genocide. 

  • Dr. O’Neal and Rwandan president H.E. Paul Kagame. Dr. O’Neal and John deSteiguer recently led an OC contingent on a visit to Rwanda.
Dr. O’Neal and Rwandan president H.E. Paul Kagame. Dr. O’Neal and John deSteiguer recently led an OC contingent on a visit to Rwanda.

Through a business connection with board member and alumnus Richard Lawson (66), and his wife, Pat (67), Dr. O’Neal was introduced to Rwandan President Paul Kagame. From that relationship, OC began partnering with Rwanda in a variety of ways:

Since 2006, the Rwandan Presidential Scholars Program has brought 10 to 20 of the brightest young men and women from Rwanda to OC each year;

OC helped begin the Peace Through Business program in Rwanda, which provides entrepreneurship training for female business owners, and the Kigali International Community School, which educates more than 300 Rwandan and expatriate children each year;

The Rwandans4Water and Wishing Well programs are student-led non-profit organizations that raise money for clean water projects in Rwanda and other impoverished locations in Africa.

In April 2010, when the first 10 Presidential Scholars graduated, President Kagame made his second visit to OC to deliver the commencement address. He said he appreciated Oklahoma Christian’s approach of “putting values at the center of education.”

Education has an impact in the Philippines, where Give A Goat is making a difference in the lives of impoverished villagers. OC students and alumni are among those leading the program, which provides milk, food and money - and teaches self-reliance - through goat raising.

OC also has grown and deepened its relationships in Asia. Through our four-decade relationship with Ibaraki Christian University and several congregations throughout Japan, our numbers of alumni have grown along with the numbers of students who are coming to study on our campus. 

In addition, our international recruiting efforts have drawn many students from China and 60 other countries. OC’s Study Abroad programs also have continued to flourish and grow.

In 2010, OC founded the Center for Global Missions to encourage students to become mission-minded, not only while they are students, but in their future careers and endeavors.

The Intergenerational Faith Center, launched in 2011 with a special event featuring best-selling author and Barna Group president David Kinnaman, aims to bridge discussions with students, younger adults, ministers and churches.

In the past decade, Enterprise Square USA has been home to the university’s Academy for Leadership & Liberty. 

The Academy has made a significant impact through programs such as the Distinguished Speaker Series, Four Star Leadership with General Tommy Franks, the International Energy Policy Conference, the Oklahoma Leadership Academy, Opportunity Oklahoma, Complex Dialogues, Peace through Business-Rwanda, and the Southwest Youth Leadership Conference.

Many of OC’s most distinguished guest speakers have visited campus through Academy programs. Truett and Dan Cathy, Mike Huckabee, Michael Reagan, Tony Snow and Kenneth W. Starr are just a few of the speakers who have raised OC’s profile and helped the university impact the community. 

Through the Four Star Leadership program, students had the opportunity to meet King Abdullah II of Jordan on a 2010 trip to his country, then again in 2011 when the king visited Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Christian also expanded its efforts in Alumni Relations, reconnecting with alumni, and Church Relations, reconnecting the university to congregations in the region. 

The many accomplishments of Dr. O’Neal’s tenure include the preservation and strengthening of the faith foundation upon which OC was built. His global vision connected the university with kings, presidents and other leaders. His financial expertise helped guide Oklahoma Christian through turbulent economic times and helped ensure the university’s long-term vitality.

He has strengthened OC for a bright future of transforming lives for Christian faith, scholarship and service. From bricks and mortar to the integration of faith and learning in the classroom, there are signs of Dr. O’Neal’s impact everywhere. 

Spring 2012

View more stories from the Spring 2012 issue of Vision magazine.