February 10, 2010
"Amid the heaping pile of shattered hopes and broken dreams of schools started and institutions shuttered, God planted a vision in the hearts of Oklahoma Baptists" for higher education that no tribulation could derail during its 100-year history, said Dr. Paul R. Corts, during OBU's Founders' Day Centennial Chapel celebration Wednesday, Feb. 10, in Raley Chapel.
Corts, president of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, shared his message with a full audience during an event highlighted by the presentation of honorary doctor of humanities degrees to Dr. Bob R. Agee and Dr. John W. Parrish, two longtime OBU administrators. The service also included the premiere of the OBU Centennial Anthem, "Grow in Grace."
Grow in Grace, OBU Centennial Anthem
Paul Corts's Address
"Today we gather in this magnificent chapel," Corts said of the landmark building constructed on Bison Hill under the supervision of the university's longest-tenured president, Dr. John Wesley Raley. "We're reminded as we meet here in this wonderful place of God's faithfulness to Oklahoma Baptist University and his showering of blessings upon it."
Corts said higher education institutions in the United States originally were founded by Christians determined to unify sound knowledge and learning with a moral, faith-based quest for truth. Today, he said, most of higher education has lost its way, abandoning even the idea of answering students' questions about the meaning of life or how one should live.
And yet, he noted, OBU has remained steadfast to the heartfelt desire of its founders - such as W.P. Blake, the first chairman of OBU's board of trustees, who offered this prayer in 1910 on the ground which would become the university's campus: "Send down upon the school the rich gift of Thy Good Spirit, that truth may be sincerely sought, faithfully received, and obediently followed."
"Founded on prayers of those on bended knees, chained to the Bible as the authoritative word of God, fueled by an openness to know all of God's truth, Oklahoma Baptists set a very high standard for their university to be an extraordinary place of learning that would honor and glorify the Lord God Almighty," Corts said.
Founders' Day on Bison Hill marks OBU heritage: the certificate of incorporation was issued to The Baptist University of Oklahoma on Feb. 9, 1910 - marking the official beginning of Oklahoma Baptist University - and on Feb. 22, 1911, a large crowd of supporters gathered on Bison Hill to dedicate the laying of the cornerstone of the first building on campus, Shawnee Hall.
The OBU communities gather in Raley Chapel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of OBU Founders Day.
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. Soon after the closing up of the work for the year, the president, Dr. J.M. Carroll, tendered his resignation and recommended the board of trustees temporarily close the school until the buildings on campus could be occupied and debt reduced. The school reopened in 1915, and his operated continuously since then.
"Today we remember those heroes of the faith who were obedient to God's call in those early years and became stewards of that sacred trust," Corts said. "They prayed earnestly, sacrificed in ways we can barely imagine in the affluence of our times, and although lights dimmed on several occasions, with their scrappy determination and God's favor, they simply would not allow the lights to go out."
Corts noted the faculty, administration and students have all built faithfully on the foundation laid 100 years ago - the foundation of Jesus Christ - to make OBU what it is today: one of the finest universities of its size and its type in North America. He shared how God affected his own life during his five-year tenure at OBU.
"We joined a litany of persons of faith who ministered here with a humble innocence of our relative youth, and poured our heart and soul into this place," he said. "God used this place and the people of this place to impact this person, just as God has done with thousands and thousands of individuals, using Oklahoma Baptist University to transform, to shape, to mold our lives into the image and likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Today, we are beneficiaries of those who were faithful stewards following the admonition of Scripture to preserve and grow the faith that was, once for all, entrusted to the saints. Today we celebrate Oklahoma Baptist University as a beacon of light - a very special place."
Centennial Founders' Day