Dr. Dick A. Rader, Oklahoma Baptist University's vice president for religious life and dean of the University's School of Christian Service, retired at the end of the spring semester. The longtime Baptist educator cited health reasons for the decision. He was diagnosed with liver cancer in January.
The Midwest City native is a 1963 OBU graduate. He and his wife, the former Sue Harris, a 1961 OBU graduate, served as Southern Baptist missionaries in Zambia and South Africa for 12 years before returning to the states on medical leave. Starting as a field evangelist, he also worked with theological education at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Zambia, and at the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa.
Rader joined the OBU faculty in 1979, as an adjunct professor of religion. Over the next 23 years, he served in several academic and administrative posts. He was appointed as WMU Professor of Missions in 1989. He has spoken across the state, leading missions conferences and Bible studies.
"Dr. Rader's contribution to Christ's kingdom through OBU will only be measured fully in eternity," said OBU President Mark A. Brister.
During his tenure, Rader's efforts helped the University to gain a regional and national reputation for academic excellence, and a reputation for international service.
Rader was named dean of OBU's Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service in 1985. The academic division grew under his leadership to a record enrollment of more than 525 students in the fall of 1994. The total made OBU's religious studies program the largest among all colleges and universities in the nation.
"Dr. Rader did an outstanding job of leading the School of Christian Service, both in strengthening its academic quality and in serving the needs of the churches," said Dr. Bob R. Agee, OBU's president from 1982-1998.
In addition to directing the undergraduate program on the OBU campus, Rader directed an innovative college-level study program at more than 25 locations across Oklahoma. The University's Ministry Training Institute was founded in 1983, with Rader heading a program designed to make collegiate coursework in Christian studies available to Oklahomans through regional centers. Several hundred students enrolled in the MTI program each year, completing college-level courses that led toward diplomas, associate's degrees, or bachelor's degrees. The program's record enrollment was 421 students in 1993, with courses offered in more than 35 locations.
The MTI program was the genesis for many Oklahomans to complete their college degrees.
"The MTI program became a model for the way to do off-campus programs," said Agee. "It grew significantly, and served so many of our pastors and church staff people in Oklahoma and in several other states where there were no Southern Baptist colleges or universities."
The innovative program has expanded, with MTI courses offered in several other states, including Kansas, Indiana, Washington, Montana, Iowa, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Administratively, Rader coordinated religious life programs to nurture spiritual development, worship and mission involvement. During his tenure, the University gained the distinction of having more recent graduates serving in the International Mission Board's two-year Journeyman program than any other college in the nation.
Dr. Brister said Rader's "zeal for missions and evangelism and appeal for academic excellence" serve as a strong, positive example for students and colleagues.
"His genteel manner in loving students and staff, and steel resolve to give God the glory, even in the midst of personal suffering, reveal true Christianity to all who know him and love him," said Brister.
Rader completed a Ph.D. degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1980. He also earned B.D. and M.Div. degrees at the seminary.
Rader has written numerous articles and several books, including Responding to God's Call: A Guide to Vocational Christian Ministry. The Raders co-wrote A Road Beyond the Suffering: An Experiential Journey through the Book of Job. They have made presentations based on the text at churches and conferences across the state.
The Raders have five sons and 13 grandchildren.