Letter from the President
Dear Alumni and Friends,
So, what am I supposed to say? You’ve read presidents’ letters in alumni magazines. All we talk about is the really great stuff. Or, how everything is getting better and the future looks bright. These aren’t lies or misrepresentations. But we often selectively share the good news we love and want to hear.
But what do you say when the storms of grief engulf you? I believe in transparency and honesty when times are good. And I believe in them when times are bad as well.
Thursday, April 16, 2015, was the worst day of my life. And Darla’s life. And Abby’s life. Our son and brother, Joe, passed from this world.
We are in shock. We are profoundly sad. We struggle with the questions of “Why did this happen?” and “Why did God allow it?” We will surrender our will to God’s will. He will sanctify us and this situation. And through it, we will serve Him.
These are the stages that a well-known man of God shared with Darla and me on Friday, April 17. He knew what he was talking about. He lost his son two years ago. I think God was insistent that we talk to this man. I am glad God insisted.
I have said that OC is home. I believed that before our loss. I am convinced of it even more now; OC is home.
Within minutes of learning of our great tragedy, scores of the OC family were at our home – employees, students, alumni, trustees, community friends.
And they were at our home with us for days. Hugging. Talking. Listening. Praying. Crying. Laughing. Serving.
Thousands around the world have been praying for us and calling, texting, writing, emailing, and visiting us. Even today, people are letting us know that they continue to pray and think of us.
I think God knew 14 years ago that my family and I would need the OC family, and our Memorial Road church family, in a profound way.
I didn’t fully understand in late 2002 why I should transplant my family from Tahlequah to Edmond.Now I understand. Honestly, I can’t fathom how people without spiritual communities make it when the storms hit.
The evening of Joe’s death, I slipped back onto campus to observe from the shadows our students praying in a campus-wide vigil in the Thelma Gaylord Forum. I was strengthened.
The next day, Darla and I attended the last Chapel of the school year. We were hugged and we shared tears. We were strengthened.
A week and a half later, I briefly welcomed incoming students and their families at Take Flight. People I didn’t know hugged me and said they were praying for us. I was strengthened.
We hurt. And we will for a long, long time. We don’t have good days and bad days. We have a good 15 minutes, then a bad 15 minutes. But we have a God who comforts and loves and gives us hope. And, he answers prayers – especially prayers for comfort, peace, and hope.
I believe God gave us some extra time with Joe. Time to learn and love and get closer. Because of Joe, I am not so quick to judge. I listen better. I appreciate others who see things a bit differently than I do. I see good in others, and I am more likely to look for it. I realize that people wage hidden battles – hidden until we really get to know each other.
Because of a car wreck, Joe’s sole transportation since Christmas was his bicycle. For the next four months, Darla, Abby, and I got to drive him to work on bad weather days, to surgery and therapy for an injury he sustained in the car accident, and on other errands.
Without fail, at the end of each trip, Joe did three things. He said, “thank you.” He said, “I love you.” And he gave us a hug.
I miss those things. I miss Joe. But I am convinced that Joe is in a better place now. And we will be with him again someday.
OC is home. It’s not a slogan. It’s not hype. It’s real and it’s reality. And, it’s a blessing.
Thanks. Love. Hugs.
View more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Vision magazine.