Founders Day Address Focuses on Ford's Benevolence

February 3, 2006

One of Shawnee's business pioneers and a key Oklahoma Baptist University benefactor was the focal point of OBU President Mark Brister's annual Founders' Day address Feb. 1. Dr. Brister emphasized how J. Lloyd Ford, founder of Shawnee Milling, played a major role in the early years of the university.

Ford's history was presented to OBU students and guests during the service in Raley Chapel. Brister mentioned how Ford came to Oklahoma Territory in 1895 from Grand Rapids, Mich., joining his parents, Joseph and Emma Ford, and their homestead near McLoud.

After marrying Frances Moore Sims in 1903, the couple settled in Shawnee, and they were active members at the First Baptist Church. Three years later, Ford used his life savings of $10,500 to purchase Shawnee Roller Mills, and Shawnee Milling was incorporated on April 20, 1906.

Brister shared how Ford contributed to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's desire to begin The Baptist University of Oklahoma. Needing $100,000 to start building the university, Shawnee followed Ford's plan to sell land, raising funds to assist OBU and St. Gregory's University.

Ford served 36 years on OBU's board of trustees. He and his wife donated $50,000 to the University in 1950 for construction of a music studio building. That facility, Ford Music Hall, continues to serve as a significant fine arts facility on the OBU campus.

"Mr. Ford held strong to the need for Christian education in Oklahoma," Brister said. "We will forever be in debt to his efforts, as well as the efforts of many Shawnee residents who have made OBU thrive today."

Dr. William L. Ford, grandson of J. Lloyd Ford and current president of Shawnee Milling, was interviewed by Brister during the service. Ford shared his thoughts on his grandfather's influence, emphasizing his strong faith, devotion to his family and his willingness to share with others.

"My grandfather knew that in order to advance in this life, you needed to make friends," said Ford who told about his grandfather befriending many of the Kickapoo Indians who lived in the Shawnee area.

Founders Day Chapel also featured Dr. Ron Lewis as holder of the Burton H. Patterson Professorship in Music. The endowed position was created by Patterson, a 1956 OBU graduate who has had a longstanding relationship with his alma mater. An entrepreneur, his career has included work as an attorney, college educator and waste management executive.

Patterson and his wife, Ginger, live in Southlake, Texas, and are members of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Patterson previously honored his mother and father with the establishment of an endowed professorship at OBU.

In addition, he has served in numerous volunteer capacities, including roles with the OBU Alumni Association. He is a charter member and former chair of the University's National Board of Development and has been a leader in various OBU capital campaign efforts.

In 1987, he was awarded the Profile in Excellence Award by the OBU Alumni Association and in 1995 he received the association's highest honor, the Alumni Achievement Award.

Lewis, OBU professor of music, joined the OBU faculty in 1970. As coordinator of keyboard studies at OBU, most of his teaching centers on piano and piano related courses.

He also coordinates studio accompanying, and occasionally teaches a music theory course. He enjoys performing on and off campus as a soloist and a collaborative performer.

Lewis also serves as organist at the First Baptist Church of Shawnee. In addition, he is active in the Oklahoman Music Teachers Association, Music Teachers National Association, American Guild of Organists and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia.

His wife, Jo, teaches piano through OBU's Preparatory Department. Their sons, Jason and Adam, are OBU graduates.