Oklahoma Baptist University

OBU Celebrates 90 Years, Honors Two Business Leaders

Oklahoma Baptist University celebrated its 90th birthday on Wednesday, Feb. 9, with the annual Founders' Day chapel service.

The program included presentation of honorary doctorates to two noted Oklahoma business leaders, and a Founders' Day address from OBU President Mark Brister.

Robert A. Funk, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Express Personnel Services International, and Frank A. McPherson, retired chairman and chief executive officer of Kerr-McGee, received doctor of law degrees from OBU.

During his Founders' Day address, Brister reminded students of the important relationships that have contributed to the OBU that exists today.

He first mentioned OBU's earliest relationship with the town of Shawnee and the great sacrifice that many people made to help support the institution.

"The gift that Shawnee made to OBU in 1910 was a gift that today would be valued at almost two million dollars," Brister said. "Oklahoma Baptists located OBU in Shawnee as a direct result of an offer made by the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the years, business leaders have been an integral part of the life and development of this university and an integral part of our future."

Brister also praised OBU's relationship with people outside the city of Shawnee. "We are thankful for marvelous relationships with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Baptists," he said. "We have a partnership, a friendship, a camaraderie."

Brister gave students characteristics of leaders who had failed and them challenged them in ways to prevent such failure.

"So now that we are in the dawn of a new century, with the yawn of Y2K, there is much change about us," he said. "We must not deviate nor allow an even more rapidly changing world to deteriorate our determination to live dedicated, decent, dynamic lives."

Brister recognized the two honorees, saying, "We have honored these two who have taken Christian language and used it and lived it in their businesses. It is one thing to use Christian language, and another thing to live it in the marketplace of life."

At a luncheon following the service, Brister spoke about the significance of celebrating OBU's founding day along with the achievements of two men who have supported OBU in varied ways.

Brister introduced Funk as one whose Christian faith is "nonnegotiable, primary, and essential."

"His business has blessed many lives," Brister said. "A lot of his business has grown out of his wanting the best for Oklahoma. There is a generation that owes him a debt of gratitude."

Funk said that the honor was significant for him as well.

"Every once in awhile life hands you a special moment, and this is a special moment for me," he said.

"As a graduate of a Christian university, I know the values of a Christian education. I believe that this school teaches biblical principles. I believe it is necessary, especially for those in employment.

"The definition of success is not money, although that is a way to keep score," he said. "The definition of success is helping people. We're only as rich as the last person we helped."

Funk is the founder of Express Personnel Services International. The company serves more than 400 offices, which employ more than 275,000 people annually. In 1998, revenues for Express Services Inc. surpassed one billion dollars. In addition to his role as CEO of Express, Funk, owns 32 Express offices in Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, and Kansas.

He purchased the Oklahoma City Blazers hockey franchise in the fall of 1999.

Funk is a deacon at Piedmont Baptist Church. He and his wife, Nedra, have two children, Julie and Bob.

In Brister's introduction of McPherson, he told of the countless hours that he and his wife had spent volunteering at the First Baptist Church of Moore after the devestating tornado of May 3, 1999.

"Oklahoma is very fortunate to have an institution like OBU," said McPherson. "It is so important today to get a good education in a Christian environment.

"It is a distinct honor for an institution like this to bestow an award like this on an old farm boy."

The Stilwell native is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical and petroleum engineering.

McPherson joined Kerr-McGee in early 1957. He became president of the corporation in 1980, and was elected chairman and chief executive officer in 1983. He held that position until his retirement in 1997.

McPherson is a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Moore, where he and his wife, Nadine, an OBU alumna, teach a Bible study class for young adults. They have four children, Craig, David, Mark and Rebecca.

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