OC honors beloved servant leader Rowley named Distinguished Alumnus

By Will Blanchard (07)

  • Bob Rowley
Bob Rowley

Each year, as we prepare to celebrate Homecoming, we cast our vision outward, looking for inspirational stories of Eagles making a difference in the world.

We look for servants. We look for leaders. We look for men and women who wear Jesus proudly, who embody our alma mater’s call for mental and spiritual transformation.

Too often, though, we forget to look inward. Due to a mix of humility and proximity, we overlook the remarkable contributions of our alumni who never left, those Eagles who chose to invest their careers right here.

“I’m so proud of the influence and impact Oklahoma Christian has had on people’s lives. I just marvel at our alumni all over. They’re making an impact for good.” Bob Rowley

It’s with undeniable joy, then, that our 2015 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year is a hometown hero we adore: Mr. Bob Rowley.

Bob arrived at Oklahoma Christian from Muskogee, Oklahoma, in the fall of 1966, with every intention of going into ministry. However, after meeting and falling in love with Lynne Hearn (71), things changed.

“In many respects, our relationship is what enticed me to want to come to Oklahoma Christian as an employee,” Bob said.

We are forever indebted to Lynne for tempting Bob to stay. After finishing his undergraduate education in April 1970, Bob began work in OC’s Admissions Office just four months later and never looked back. Retiring last December after 44 years of service, his work and his stories – while he’s too humble to admit it – have become the stuff of legend.

We often say it’s harder to find an OC graduate (or Midwesterner in general) that Bob doesn’t know than one he does. For close to 30 years, Bob was on the frontlines of admissions, recruiting thousands of young people for the maroon and gray.

From OC’s trustees to administrators, faculty, staff, and community leaders, you will find men and women who first chose Oklahoma Christian because Bob convinced them. He declined to name names or talk of the adolescent antics of our fellow graduates, but Lynne notes with a wink: “We have stories on a lot of people.”

As a leader in Advancement, Alumni Relations, and Church Relations, Bob has also done powerful work connecting with major donors, honoring our alumni, and serving churches throughout the world – and he’s put many miles on his car doing it.

“I think I can be pretty conservative and say I’ve logged over a million miles, probably closer to two. I’ve been to all 77 counties in the state of Oklahoma and there are not many highways I’ve not been down,” Bob said.

Those miles have paid off both financially and spiritually, too.

As a major gifts officer, Bob raised millions of dollars for OC – one gift alone totaling $2.5 million. Meanwhile, as a servant to local churches, Bob has filled a pulpit almost every Sunday since 1970. Since 1988, he’s been particularly involved with congregations in Fairview and Okeene, ministries that have called on him to make a 200-mile, 3.5-hour round trip on most Sundays.

Bob is adored by many ... and it’s easy to understand why. A gentle, humble, servant-hearted man, Bob is unflappably genuine in his love for OC, our alumni, and the church.

“This university is built on relationships, and I always felt like all the folks I visited with were my friends. I truly loved them for who they were. I got to know them in a very personal way,” Bob said. “We shared our lives, and I’m so proud of the influence and impact Oklahoma Christian has had on their lives. I just marvel at our alumni all over. They’re making an impact for good. God bless our alumni ... and keep on keeping on.”