Six-Decade Repeater Method North Retires After 61 Years of Leadership, Scholarship, and Mentorship

Dawn Shelton (90)

He gave us the “Six-Shot Repeater Method” to help us learn, the submarine story to help us think, and the end goal to “Be There.” 

As he prepares to gradually retire from Oklahoma Christian after 61 years, Dr. Stafford North offers one more tagline to guide our days:

With a reminder that Jesus said it first, Dr. North told 265 OC graduates to “Let Your Light Shine” during his April commencement speech.

“You can be a light of good, a light of service, a light of moral integrity, and a light of spiritual hope to those around you,” he said, wearing his academic regalia after having led the faculty procession, for perhaps the last time. 

Stafford was about the same age as this year’s undergrads when he came to a fledgling OC as a speech teacher. He earned $2,400 that year, but since he was still a single guy, he survived in the economy of 1951. 

He married Jo Anne a couple of years later when he took a leave at OC to pursue his doctorate at the University of Florida. 

She joined him in Bartlesville in August of 1953 – a summer of record heat and drought that Jo Anne, a Florida native, endured gracefully. 

They were committed, of course, to each other … and to the cause of Christian higher education. Stafford and Jo Anne, while they raised their four children, also helped raise a university. 

You can be a light of good, a light of service, a light of moral integrity, and a light of spiritual hope to those around you. Dr. Stafford North

As the years progressed, the university grew and matured, and the Norths saw their own family expand to another generation of grandchildren and another to the greatgrands.

We knew him as our academic dean in the early days under President James Baird, and as the executive vice president for President Terry Johnson (64). 

Stafford transitioned to fulltime teaching in 1995 while also taking on special roles such as Lectureship director, and author of the definitive treasury of OC’s history in the 525-page book, Soaring On Wings Like Eagles

Indeed, he has served with every president OC has ever had. Experiences, he laughs, that have all been “very interesting.” He might not be ready for the tell-all memoir just yet!

We know him as our technology innovator. Before computers became ubiquitous, he brought OC national acclaim with study carrels for every student, dial-up lectures, and Enterprise Square. 

Always a classroom innovator, he was one of the first OC professors to take his courses online. The North Institute for Teaching and Learning, funded with a gift from son David (79) and daughter-in-law Beverly (Hobson 79) North, is named for him. And, with his signature grin and laugh, he says he is on Facebook and adeptly uses his smartphone. 

In six decades, he’s seen many generations pass through campus. Are they different today than they used to be? In some ways, he says. They are more technologically oriented and are being raised in a different culture; but learning, he said, is much the same.

“Education is to help you learn and think and organize and plan. You don’t always end up using those skills in the exact thing for which you were trained. But you use communication and put those skills to use in lots of ways,” he said. “I think our academic programs are very strong. The spiritual and residential elements are important.”

His bride, now of 60 years, has made her own indelible mark on OC. Jo Anne’s work with Stepping Stones and OCWA helped grow needed support. 

She was also an instructor – teaching swimming in Bartlesville, an homage to her Florida water roots. She also taught reading improvement and a religious education for children course. 

A hostess, she welcomed hundreds of students in her home. And for 25 years, she hosted a July 4 faculty and staff picnic at their home near campus.

Jo Anne also is involved in prison ministry, moved years ago by a letter from an inmate in the Gospel Advocate. Stafford says she wrote to the inmate asking if she could help and he replied with three pages of ways she could. 

For 30 years, she has been involved with female inmates at the county jail through Bible study and prayer, and has witnessed baptisms every month.

Wouldn’t those experiences make a great book? She may be swayed to write it. If Stafford sits down to write another book, he says former executive director of church relations Bob Rowley (70) is after him to write a commentary on Daniel. So he might do that, but he also has some other book ideas.

That is, if he really slows down. Even though he is “retiring” this year, it is gradual. He hopes to teach two classes per semester, including his signature Personal Evangelism course. And this October’s lectureship will be his last as director.

Then, maybe he’ll write. Or accept more invitations to preach around the state, or around the world. 

“It’s been really satisfying to be able to see all that’s happened to something you’re committed to. As I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, I expected to be a preacher and trained to be one at Abilene. I majored in speech, minored in Bible, religious education, and Greek. 

“I got the invitation to come and teach at a Christian college, I thought if I can help train preachers and prepare students to be what they need to be in the church, in the scheme of things that would be a larger contribution than just being one preacher in one church,” he said.

So for 61 years, he has let his light shine. 

“It’s been amazing to be here through this whole run. When I came it was a 100-student junior college not known by many people. And now it’s 2,500 students with lots of graduate programs. Campus then was pretty limited. Now we have a great campus,” he said. “That’s a fun way to spend your life really. And you have the satisfaction of seeing it happen. The key thing is we’ve stayed true to the purpose we were founded for 65 years ago.”

Lest that purpose slips, he says with a hearty laugh and a twinkle in his eye, he’ll still be watching.

“When I die, I will be buried in Memorial Park Cemetery. When we picked our lots, we picked out the highest place,” he said. “And I will be buried standing up looking over at the campus to be sure that things go right.”

May we be letting our light shine. 

Summer 2015

View more stories from the Summer 2015 issue of Vision magazine.