Encouraged to continue learning and entertained by a professor's original musical composition, 254 Oklahoma Baptist University graduates received their diplomas during the university's Spring Commencement Saturday morning, May 23, in OBU's Raley Chapel.
An overflow audience of more than 1,800 people attended the formal graduation ceremonies. Dr. Bradley D. Jett, OBU's Hurley professor of biology, delivered the Commencement address, closing with a song for the graduates. Speaking on "how Christian discipleship is like being an OBU student," Jett pointed out a collection of similarities ranging from comical to life-altering.
He quipped that many students, like Jesus' disciples, "wear flip-flops and rarely do laundry" and also noted that neither Jesus nor his disciples used Facebook. But he also stressed the challenges both disciples and college students face. "Like being a good disciple, being a good OBU student is hard," Jett said. "Is it easy to be an effective disciple? No. ... [Jesus said] discipleship is hard. It's supposed to be hard. Being hard is what makes it great.
"Taking the easy way in your walk with God is a good way to destroy your discipleship," he said. "Likewise, taking the easy way is a good way to destroy a good mind and a good education."
Jett explained that the only question he did not want from students was, "What's going to be on the test?"
"At OBU, we did not want you to be satisfied with the superficial answers that would simply get you by," he asserted.
Dr. Brad Jett surprised the graduates with an original song he wrote for Commencement.
He said OBU students had to be willing to "step outside of their comfort zones," like Jesus' original disciples, who were "home-grown to the extreme." In both cases, the individuals were challenged to move beyond their own self-imposed limitations.
"How will you engage [a] diverse world if you are only willing to live in your own?" he asked. "OBU students, like disciples, have to be risk-takers, and if you didn't want to be challenged, you probably should have stayed home in bed."
Jett also told the graduates they needed to continue asking questions.
"I've adopted a classroom credo which was passed on to me by one of my former OBU professors and it says, ‘I judge students' intelligence not by the answers that they can give, but by the questions that they can ask.'" Jett said.
"I've also noticed that Jesus' disciples and OBU students, alike, had their preconceptions challenged," he said. "Recall Jesus' numerous lessons with his followers where he said, ‘You have heard it said ... but I say.' He was introducing to them a whole new way of thinking."
"Remember, OBU graduates, it doesn't matter what you were; it matters what you've become," he said.
"You are only just beginning a great journey. We have tried to nurture a passion for learning within each of you," Jett said. "Don't quell your thirst for knowledge."
Following his remarks, Jett moved to the side of the podium, took a guitar from a faculty colleague, and sang a humorous song he wrote for the graduates, noting the words "represent some of the things that you and I may have either said or have heard said during the last four years."
OBU's top three awards for faculty and staff were presented during the ceremonies by OBU President David W. Whitlock.
Dr. Carol Humphrey, professor of history, received the Distinguished Teaching Award, presented in recognition of "classroom excellence." Humphrey joined the OBU faculty in 1985. She completed a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, a master's degree from Wake Forest University, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Dr. Benjamin Myers, associate professor of English, received the Promising Teacher Award, presented to a faculty member who has taught at the university for less than five years and "shows great promise as a teacher." Myers joined the faculty in 2005. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of the Ozarks, and completed his master of arts and Ph.D. degrees from Washington University.
Dr. James Vernon, associate professor of music, received the university's Meritorious Service Award. Vernon joined the faculty in 1990. He has served as chair of the division of music, and is a past director of the Bison Glee Club. He earned a bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University, and master of music and doctor of musical arts degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Retiring faculty members Dr. Cynthia Meyer Hanchey, Wheeler associate professor of computer science; M. Dale Hanchey, McCasland associate professor of computer science; and Wayne A. Rhea, assistant professor of mathematics, were honored during the service. The Hancheys joined OBU's faculty in 1985. Rhea joined the faculty in 1966.
In his charge to the graduates, Dr. Whitlock encouraged them to celebrate the day and consider what they have learned.
"We sought to instill in you an honest awareness of the world around you," he said. "We've sought to impart to you a heart that cares, a spirit to serve, and a drive to transform your world into a better place."
The program also included recognition from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which founded the university in 1910. Dr. Randall Adams, church outreach team leader for the BGCO, congratulated the graduates on behalf of the 1,758 churches in the statewide convention.
The graduating class included 18 seniors who earned the academic predicate "summa cum laude" for maintaining at least a 3.95 grade point average on all work completed for their bachelor's degrees. Those honored received academic hoods during the ceremony. Honorees include Bonnie Christine Cassidy, Oklahoma City, Okla.; Bryan Charles Christie, Carmel, Ind.; Amanda R. Eakle, Quinton, Okla.; Brian Christopher Friesen, Wichita, Kan.; Jessica Marie Hill, Colorado Springs, Colo.; Julie Ann Hixon, Bartlesville, Okla.; David Matthew Johnson, Shawnee; Kelly Allyn Koonce, Bartlesville, Okla.; William Graham Korver, Broken Arrow, Okla.; Hannah Rachelle Lapo, Tulsa, Okla.; Aaron Paul Llewelyn, Oklahoma City; Orrey Wayne McFarland, Ardmore, Okla.; Natalie Jean Neal, Nederland, Colo.; Cassie Ann Rial, Pryor, Okla.; Shauna Afton Shelton, Norman, Okla.; Jenni Marie Tilson, West Plains, Mo.; Sarah Suzanne Underwood, Edmond, Okla.; and Holly Melissa Whittern, Oklahoma City.