January 5, 2010
Oklahoma Baptist University alums Gaylon and Maurine Dighton experience life in full - and give back generously.
When Gaylon arrived on Bison Hill in the mid-1950s, it did not take long for the Colorado boy to find chemistry with a lovely brown-eyed girl named Maurine Smith. Born in Seminole, Okla., but raised in Colorado, Gaylon returned to the Sooner State during his college years to avoid the cold Rocky Mountain winters.
While visiting Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Gaylon sat by Maurine, gave her his class ring on the way back to campus - and eventually married her.
More than half a century later, the chemistry they developed has produced a lifetime of unique experiences and a commitment to help others enjoy the opportunities God provides.
Gaylon and Maurine each found a niche at OBU. Gaylon appreciated the conservative atmosphere. He was a part of College Players theatre group, Sigma Tau Delta English honor society and the group which petitioned for the founding of Omicron Delta Kappa honor society.
Maurine's pastor in Vinita, Okla., stressed attending OBU, where she could get a $100 scholarship. It also gave her the opportunity to have a new experience away from home, "a whole new world, experiencing different people," she said. She also enhanced the university library by typing all the cards in the card catalog as a student worker.
Three years and a summer later, Gaylon completed work toward a degree in chemistry in 1958, technically graduating in 1959. After embracing her love for sewing, Maurine changed her major from business to home economics. She graduated in 1958. The couple moved south to even warmer temperatures for a better chance of avoiding snow.
Gaylon earned a master's degree in biochemistry from Baylor University in 1960, and then went to work with Dow Chemical. The couple moved south of Houston to Lake Jackson, Texas, where Gaylon worked in the high-pressure polyethylene business developing mechanical and chemical processes.
With the birth of two sons, Maurine worked as a "domestic engineer" in the Dighton household. When Gaylon's work as an engineer took the family to the Netherlands and Spain to design and build plants, she served as the boys' schoolteacher. She also worked as a seamstress in handicraft tatting, smocking and constructing suits.
"The Bible says a good wife is from the Lord," Gaylon said, complimenting his wife's efforts and noting the family's environment was not always common. "While we lived in Spain, we were the only American family in our area south of Barcelona."
European life proved exciting for the Dightons, who embraced the opportunity for a lot of sight-seeing as well as memorable events such as crossing the Avenue des Champs-Élysée in Paris, France, and driving in rush hour in Rome, Italy. Eventually the family settled in Baton Rouge, La.
Gaylon's work created opportunities for the engineer to design a wide variety of processes, both mechanical and chemical, which he later patented - obtaining 12 U.S. patents in all. One of his patents affects the average American household every day: the process of making the film in plastic trash bags.
"The patents are representing different stages of my somewhat checkered past," Gaylon said, referring to his various roles at Dow in engineering and project management.
In 1982, Gaylon received OBU's Alumni Achievement Award, considered the highest honor bestowed by the OBU Alumni Association. The award is given in recognition of outstanding life service which has brought honor to the individual's alma mater. Gaylon credits the Bison Hill influences of several faculty members for helping prepare him for a successful career: Dr. Forbes Yarborough, who taught religious education from 1925-58; Dr. Robert Laessig, who taught German from 1948-62; Dr. William Neptune, who taught chemistry from 1954-82; and Opal Craig, who taught speech from 1947-74.
After 31 years, Gaylon retired from Dow in 1991 and began the next chapter of his life - as an author. After years of writing a column every other month for a local newspaper, he compiled the daily inspirations into a book titled "Consider the Lilies," published by WinePress Publishing in 1996. No longer in print, the book is available at www.amazon.com.
In his second book, "LIGHT," Gaylon takes a look at the role of Jesus Christ as "the Light," but from a scientific point of view which discusses infrared, lasers, Xrays, holograms and other technology at a basic level. Published in 2003, the book is available at www.winepressbooks.com.
Gaylon's third book, "Lights Along the Shore," is a second anthology of inspirations. The 80 devotions provide insights from daily life. Published in 2006, the book also is available at www.winepressbooks.com.
Gaylon enjoys telling stories to his children and six grandchildren, especially about biblical characters. "Abigail's Tale," his fourth book, soon to be published through WinePress Publishing, tells the story of a donkey that carried a woman named Miryam to Bethlehem. Gaylon created the story for his granddaughter when she was 10 years old (she's in college now). He continues to write his newspaper column, and he also has been published in Mature Living magazine.
The couple expresses their adventurous side through Elderhostel Inc. (now Exploritas), a program which creates opportunities to participate in educational travel such as going to space camp, driving race cars, flying airplanes, acting out Shakespeare and much more. And while the Dightons continue to participate in lifelong learning personally, they want to create initial higher education opportunities for young people who might not otherwise be able to attend OBU.
"I'm a strong believer in Christian education," Gaylon said. "OBU was a high point in my life because of the Christian nature. It's important to maintain a university that puts Jesus Christ first."
Gaylon said he and Maureen started giving to their alma mater because a lot of students cannot afford to attend OBU, just like the Dightons could not afford to attend OBU years earlier. They have established four gift annuities - one for each of their grandchildren - using retirement funds. They also set up another gift annuity and five scholarships: one with preference for students preparing for Christian service; one with first priority for students from Louisiana; one for junior and senior science majors; one for students pursuing an education in early childhood education; and one for elementary teachers.
"It's amazing what you can continue to do if you set aside a little each year," Gaylon said. "In everything, we give the glory to the right person: Jesus Christ. Whatever we've been able to accomplish has been through God's provision."