Oklahoma Baptist University honored the success of friends of the university as it officially began the academic school year Wednesday.
The university bestowed honorary doctorates on individuals during the Convocation chapel service in Raley Chapel. Six new faculty and nine new administrative staff members also were introduced to the OBU community.
During the Convocation address, OBU President Mark Brister told students that staying well connected to God and remaining teachable are essential to the college experience.
"Combine literate petitions with a listening disposition," he said. "Listening to God is at the foundation of Christian higher education."
"The sharpening of your mind, softening of your heart and the clearing of your conscience will maximize the cumulative impact of your life," he said. "Being prepared for the world around you means listening and learning."
Brister also urged students to differentiate truth from error and live ethically.
"OBU is not here to hold your hand, but to lead you," he said. "OBU is not here to do the work for you, but to enable and encourage you to do the work."
He encouraged them to be accountable, seeking and honest students.
"Faculty members are giving their lives to help you be honest about your weaknesses, discover your strengths, find out who you are not, and who you are, and help you begin to build bridges into adulthood from young adulthood successfully," he said.
OBU's presentation of honorary doctorates recognized the contributions of four individuals who have supported the university in various ways.
Marie Austin, of Seminole; Dr. Burton Patterson, of Southlake, Texas; and H.E. "Gene" Rainbolt, of Oklahoma City, received doctor of laws degrees. Juanita Millsap, from Oklahoma City, received a doctor of science degree.
Austin is a homemaker and active civic leader. She and her husband, Jimmie, own Austin Production Co.
The Austins are members of the First Baptist Church of Seminole. Their involvement with their church and their admiration for their retiring pastor led them to fund the Robert N. Hammons Biblical Research Center on the OBU campus in 1992. They also have been active in providing scholarship support for OBU students.
Millsap was an instrumental pioneer in the creation of OBU's School of Nursing. She worked with academic officials at the university, as well as state medical leaders to start Oklahoma's first baccalaureate nursing program in 1952.
Millsap traveled from Oklahoma to Michigan in 1931 to study at Battle Creek College. After two years there, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, to complete a diploma in nursing from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University. She then returned to Battle Creek College to gain a bachelor of science degree in nursing. She worked as a staff nurse at hospitals in Detroit and Cleveland before returning to Oklahoma City in 1939 as an instructor in nursing at Wesley Hospital School of Nursing. While at Wesley, she was appointed to a committee to explore creating a nursing program which would lead to a bachelor of science degree. That committee worked with OBU academic leaders, leading to creation of the state's first baccalaureate program in nursing.
An original member of OBU's nursing faculty, she became chair of the program in 1975. She was named professor emerita of nursing in 1985. Millsap was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 2000.
Patterson was reared in El Paso, Texas, where his parents managed the Baptist Spanish Publishing House. After completing a bachelor's degree from OBU in 1956, and a juris doctorate from the Northwestern University School of Law, Patterson taught business at Texas Christian University, and taught at the Southern Methodist University Law School. He also completed a master's degree in religious education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He taught at Cleveland State Law School before returning to El Paso in 1968.
He worked as a securities attorney with El Paso Natural Gas Company from 1968-72. He then entered private practice, specializing in tax and business matters. He was a partner in the law firm of Patterson, Sargent and Glanville until retirement. In addition, Patterson was secretary and general counsel of El Paso Disposal, the largest garbage disposal company in El Paso. He also was a major stockholder in Rubbish Removal Inc. of El Paso, until the company was sold.
He has worked in a variety of civic posts, including service as a board member for El Paso's Lighthouse for the Blind, Hospice of El Paso, International Bible Institute, and the El Paso Symphony Orchestra Association. He served three terms as president of the El Paso Downtown Rescue Mission. He is an accomplished musician and noted organist.
Rainbolt currently serves as chairman of the BancFirst Corporation, which is headquartered in Oklahoma City. BancFirst has locations in more than 40 Oklahoma communities. The corporation has assets in excess of $2.7 billion, making it the largest state-charted bank in Oklahoma. In 1966, Rainbolt acquired a major interest in Federal National Bank of Shawnee. In the following years, he acquired interests in various banks around the state, and the banks were organized into BancFirst Corporation.
Born and reared in Norman, Rainbolt earned a bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1952, and a master of business administration degree from OU in 1957.
A distinguished military veteran, Rainbolt has been active in civic and service organizations throughout his career. While a resident of Shawnee, he worked with economic development efforts which resulted in several large industries moving to the local community. He is a past president of the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce and the Shawnee Rotary Club. Currently, he is a trustee and member of the executive committee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence. He also is a director of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and an advisory director for Habitat for Humanity. Rainbolt was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1999.