Oklahoma Baptist University

A Glimpse of OBU's History

The incorporation certificate for the Baptist University of Oklahoma was issued on February 9, 1910, and a new university was born. The school's Board of Trustees then signed an agreement with the City of Shawnee for sixty acres of land northwest of the town. The Kickapoo site, as the campus location became known, was deeded to the university by the Development Company of Shawnee.

Dr. J.M. Carroll, San Marcos, Texas, was selected by the Board of Trustees of the Baptist University of Oklahoma as the school's first president. The trustees reported, "For many years Dr. Carroll has been a notable figure in Baptist history in Texas and in the Southwest. We believe that with his ripe experience, with his wide acquaintance and with his surpassing ability to interest people in educational affairs he is the best man qualified to lead us in this new undertaking." The first session of classes began in the fall of 1911 with 150 students enrolled. Temporary facilities were used in downtown Shawnee.

The student body included men and women who were in college and others in preparatory school. At the close of the 1911-12 school year, nine students received degrees. Remarkably, included in the first student body were three men who later served as United States Senators: Josh Lee and Robert S. Kerr of Oklahoma and Huey P. Long of Louisiana.

OBU's school colors of green and gold were chosen by students in the first year of classes because the school's future campus of 60 acres of green prairie located northwest of downtown Shawnee was covered with wild golden coreopsis. "This little flower had inspired the students . . ."

The Board of Trustees of the Baptist University of Oklahoma reported to the Baptists of Oklahoma in 1912: "Soon after the closing up of the work for the year, our President, Dr. Carroll, tendered his resignation, which was accepted with regrets. And upon the advice and recommendation of Dr. Carroll the Board deemed it wise to temporarily close the school until such time as we could occupy our own building and address our efforts to liquidating our indebtedness, building and equipping our dormitories, and when in our own building open our school and go forward with that zeal and pride characteristic of our great denomination." The period required to accomplish the trustees' goals was described as "suspended animation" by the BGCO's Education Commission. "We believe that we as Baptists are going to be able to realize the dream we have had for years, and that we will see at Shawnee a great co-educational college which will be the glory of the Denomination . . ."

The report submitted by the Board of Trustees to the BGCO annual meeting in 1914 discussed the need for completion of the construction of the Administration Building (which would gain the name Shawnee Hall in the mid-1920s) and recommended that the convention "begin at once to provide for the equipment of the building and make other necessary provisions for the opening of school in September, 1915," and that the trustees move ahead to enlist a new president.

Frank M. Masters, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Ardmore and a member of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's Education Commission, was selected by the school's Board of Trustees as the president who would re-open the university. The new faculty included F. Erdmann Smith, dean and education faculty member; J.W. Jent, registrar and faculty member in philosophy and social science; W.D. Moorer, librarian and faculty member in Christianity; W. T. Short, mathematics; W. P. Powell, English and modern language; Ola Gulledge, voice and piano; Joshua Lee, public speaking and dramatic arts; J. Louis Guthrie, Greek and Latin and band director.

Jent described the first faculty meeting in 1915: "We were elected by the University Board, June 10. President Masters wrote each of us an official notice with a request that we meet him at his residence in Shawnee, June 20. In that meeting were President Masters, myself, Dean Smith, Dr. W.D. Moorer, Professor Powell, and Professor Short; we sat about a big table in the President's study. He arose and called the group to order. He looked into our faces and said, 'Gentlemen, we are about to make Baptist history. You are assembled by the will and wish of the Baptists of Oklahoma and I am persuaded by the grace and purpose of Almighty God, our Heavenly Father. We are charged with the challenging task of building a university on the ash heap of dead schools. We cannot afford to make a mistake. I suggest that we go down upon our knees and ask Almighty God to give guidance and wisdom without which we cannot perfect the organization of this institution properly.' So we kneeled about that big table. President Masters began the prayer and we all prayed around, every one of us praying. I was never before nor since quite so profoundly moved. The weight of responsibility was crushing. Everyone in that group, I dare say, will never forget it."

OBU has been operating continuously since 1915.

To read more of the colorful history and beginnings of OBU, click here.

For a timeline of OBU's history, click here.

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