OBU Confers Degrees on 277

Challenged to learn life skills from America’s pasttime, 277 Oklahoma Baptist University graduates were honored during the university’s 91st commencement exercises Saturday morning in OBU’s Raley Chapel.

“The past four years at OBU have provided the seeds for helping you understand the variety and complexity of the human heart, mind, and spirit. But for now, let me suggest an unlikely source for discovering truths and the not-so-complexities of life  baseball,” said Dr. Roger Hadley, OBU professor of telecommunication.

Citing examples from games, as well as utilizing a video presentation of clips from baseball-related movies, Hadley noted character traits exemplified in the game.

“At it’s best, baseball served as a metaphor for the highest hopes and best dreams of America,” he said. “It is a game you can’t like if winning is everything, and democracy is that way, too.

“What baseball has offered is a faith through the national pastime that anything is possible  a prophetic hope that the future will be better than the past,” said Hadley, who received OBU’s 2004 Distinguished Teaching Award. “The ultimate question is not about winning or losing; it is how we go about playing the game.

“What baseball can teach us, like Christianity, is that if we keep our eyes open, we might witness the fall of the mighty and the rising up of the weak  for the impossible to become possible,” he said.

“2005 graduates, today you return home,” Hadley explained. “You are all heroes at the end of a four-year journey, where you have been tried and tested, ending in transcendent success from a place where lessons are learned and the human spirit uplifted & but tomorrow begins a new season.”

During the ceremonies, OBU President Mark Brister bestowed the university’s top three awards for employees. The Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Dr. James Vernon, associate professor of music. The honor is given to a faculty member who has maintained his or her teaching career in an exemplary fashion, as acknowledged by colleagues and current and former students. Vernon joined the OBU faculty in 1990. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he is chairman of the university’s division of music.

The Promising Teacher Award, recognizing a junior faculty member who demonstrates outstanding potential as a teacher, was given to Dr. Shawna York, assistant professor of chemistry. York joined the OBU faculty in 2001.

The Meritorious Service Award, which is given to faculty or staff members who have made a substantial commitment of talent and service to OBU, was presented to Dr. Deborah Blue, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. A 1972 OBU graduate, Blue joined the university’s faculty in 1980, and was named dean in 1997.

OBU also recognized two longtime faculty members who are retiring at the conclusion of the 2004-05 academic year. Jack Pearson, associate professor of music, retires after 38 years on the faculty. Dr. William Mullins, professor of history, retires after 25 years of service at on the OBU faculty.

Of the 277 graduating students, 27 were recognized as summa cum laude graduates. The designation is reserved for candidates for graduation who maintained at least a 3.95 average (on a 4.0 scale) on all work offered for the bachelor’s degree. The summa cum laude graduates (with major and hometown) include Bethany Aubert, family psychology, McLoud; Mara Joy Blackwell, special education, Chandler; Heather Braum, political science, Valley Falls, Kan.; Allison Bryant, psychology, Stillwater; Sarah Dodrill, history, Littleton, Colo.; Katie Elder, natural science, Topeka, Kan.; Joshua Greever, Bible, Fenton, Mo.; Megan Guinn, psychology, Houston, Texas; Timilyn Haller, elementary education, Holdenville; Rachel Holloway, pre-physical therapy, Richmond, Va.; Emily Jones, nursing, Shawnee; Sonia Justl, theatre, Arlington, Texas; Amos Khan, English, Singapore; Cynthia McConnell, psychology, Oklahoma City; Amber Mitchell, English, Richmond, Texas; Courtney Morris, biochemistry, Yukon; Andrea Mount, elementary education, Mustang; Melissa Mount, biology, Mustang; Matt Neal, history, Shawnee; Daniel Pearson, English, Sherman, Texas; Dustin Sarver, psychology, Springdale, Ark.; Brandon Shafer, biblical languages, Cherokee; Eric Stanfield, biblical languages, Haysville, Kan.; Jason Stephenson, English education, Weatherford; Whitney Stokes, English, Denver, Colo.; Judy Tomlinson, French education, Gladstone, Mo.; and Matthew Willis, communication studies, Shawnee.