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Founders’ Day Remembers Past, Honors Two

February 16, 2001

On the day set aside to remember the contributions of leaders in Oklahoma Baptist University's history, the university observed the hooding of two prominent businessmen with honorary doctorates during the annual Founders' Day chapel service, Feb. 14.

OBU honored William L. Ford, chief executive officer of Shawnee Milling Company, and James H. Taylor, Sr., natural gas and ranching entrepreneur, with doctor of laws degrees.

Located in Shawnee thanks to the efforts of visionary business leaders, the university acknowledges the contributions of those who have supported OBU in varied ways through the bestowing of the honorary doctorate.

OBU President Dr. Mark Brister incorporated pages of OBU history into his Founders' Day message through the words of Dr. William R. Mitchell, OBU professor emeritus of English, from his collection of essays and addresses on Christian higher education, "Trying to Teach Like Jesus."

In the address, Mitchell posed the problem through the title of his speech, "Why We Don't Teach Like Jesus: Some Spiritual Hazards of Academe."

"The problem is, he says, our spirit is somewhat willing, but our practice is consistently weak," Brister quoted.

"Our arrogance becomes habitual, insulated from examination by our framed diplomas on our office walls, and by the honors and testimonials and the publications, and even by the drawer full of notes and letters from grateful and admiring students," Mitchell wrote. "It is pretty hard to stay humble when we are as good as we are."

Mitchell also warned against ignoring the need to become a complete person, Brister said.

"While it is absolutely essential and important to make things excellent in the academe and strive for our very best, at the same time there must be heart in this, there must be a soul," Brister said.

Brister described Mitchell's other warnings, against the "The Pity-the-Poor-Teacher Syndrome, otherwise known as the Elijah-in-the-Wilderness-of-Beersheba Syndrome," and against becoming a critic who leaves no room for hope.

And that hope, Brister said, is what Mitchell claimed was the reason he remains a teacher at heart.

"But whether or however rewarded, what I do is significant - socially, professionally, politically, eternally significant," Mitchell wrote.

"I give what I have been given, not because it is profitable and not even because it is my duty; I give it for the sheer delight and beauty and meaning of it."

In their honorary remarks at a luncheon after the service, the two businessmen expressed appreciation for the honor.

"This is a very humbling experience," Ford said. "I appreciate all the kinship and friendship of the OBU community. I am here because of each of you.

"OBU has accomplished so much since its beginning. Today needs to be a reminder to each of us that we must continue to give OBU nothing but our very best efforts for the future."

Ford is serving his second term on the OBU board of trustees. In addition to his current term of service as a trustee, Ford's ongoing support of the University includes being a charter member of the Shawnee Advisory Board, a local OBU support organization which links the university with key civic and business leaders in the community.

"What you do in this Christian environment, you do well," Taylor said in his closing remarks. "Keep on doing what you're doing. I thank you so much and I'm so humbled to receive this honor."

Taylor, of Abilene, Texas, is a member of the OBU class of 1950. He and his wife, the late Doris Lynn Taylor, invested their careers in a variety of business ventures.

Through their successful work in the natural gas business and in raising horses, they were able to become a resource for providing support for their church, for OBU and for other charitable causes.

Ford was one of the early proponents for securing the undeveloped farmland north of the original campus border to ensure the University had room to grow in the 21st century. He previously served on the board of trustees from 1985-89, serving as chairman in 1988-89.

The Ford family has had a long and deep history with OBU, the City of Shawnee and First Baptist Church. Ford's grandfather, J. Lloyd Ford, who was instrumental in attracting OBU to Shawnee, served on the university's initial board of trustees, and was the key supporter for the construction of a music recital hall on the campus, which bears the Ford name. Bill Ford's father, Leslie Ford, served as an OBU trustee from 1957-61.

Ford and his wife, Nancy, have three grown children.

Taylor contributed a significant gift to endow the maintenance, upkeep and operation of OBU's new Taylor Residence Center in memory of his wife.

The Taylors funded several endowed scholarships at OBU, including the Doris L. Taylor Scholarship in Business, the J.H. (Jim) Taylor Scholarship in Athletics, and the Bob and Bonnie Lynn Scholarship.

Active members of the First Baptist Church of Abilene, the Taylors purchased the church's mission home for furloughing missionaries and were generous supporters of several institutions other than OBU, including Abilene's Hendrick Baptist Hospital, Hardin-Simmons University, and the Ben Ritchey Boys Home.