Meeting the challenge Trust in God helps beloved prof battle cancer

To know where we’re going, look to where we’ve been.

History has always been important to Dr. John Maple (72), as most OC alumni know after laboring through his Western Civilization class or soaking up his lectures in courses on Rome, Medieval Times or his beloved European histories.

The course of Dr. Maple’s personal history took an unexpected turn in December when he was diagnosed with acute Multiple Myeloma, a form of leukemia.

But he knows where he’s going … because he can see where he has been.

Amid oncology appointments, radiation and chemotherapy treatments during the Spring 2010 semester, John and his wife Connie (95) experienced overwhelming comfort and support, and thousands of prayers from his OC colleagues, students, family and friends from around the world.

He shares his journey on a website called CaringBridge (, with personally-written and candid entries.

Those who’ve written papers in his classes know he is not a fan of the cliché, but we give the son of an automobile dealer from Antlers, Oklahoma, permission this time.

“When the doctor says there is no cure, it’s where the rubber meets the road,” he said.

Those difficult days of treatment (in which he never missed a class) brought opportunities for him to reflect, pray and contemplate a tenet of faith, “Do I trust God?”

The answer does not require a multi-page double-spaced research paper. One word will do. YES.

Several weeks of intense treatments put John’s cancer in remission by the end of the semester. He is regaining strength to embark on the next leg of his treatment this summer with a stem cell transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

His own personal history of walking with the Lord, having a deep heritage of faith in his family and spending his career at an institution devoted to glorifying God show John where he is going.

OC is special to John. As alumni, he and Connie saw their four children follow in their footsteps. Becky (94) Russell, John (95), Joel (99) and Rachel (01) Huddleston all graduated from Oklahoma Christian, too.

After more than 30 years of lecturing, grading, planning and reading, Dr. Maple remains passionate. And he fully intends to return to the classroom this fall after the stem cell transplant.

“It helps that I’m a nut about European history. I’m weird that way. I freely admit it,” he joked.

“One of the things that keeps me wanting to continue teaching and keeps Western Civ fresh for me is the challenge of integrating faith and learning. I try to get the students to think about how their faith impacts what we are studying,” he said. “In addition, there’s always the challenge of being the proper Christian role model. In sum, my work at OC isn’t just my profession; it is my ministry.”

Reflecting on his past and his future, John is satisfied to find that he is content.

“I’ve been pleased to say that I was already living my life the way I want to live the rest of my life. Teaching and hopefully making a difference in young people’s lives, a deep relationship with the Lord, my wife, children and grandchildren: Those are the important elements of my life, and so I don’t really want to change anything,” he said.

Follow Dr. Maple’s treatment on his CaringBridge page. You can also leave notes for him there.

“It is nice to open that guestbook and see what people have written. It’s a real encouragement,” he said.

By Dawn Shelton