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Grads Urged to Eschew Mundane Living

May 20, 2006

"Life the 'un-mundane' life," was the challenge from Dr. James Vernon, OBU associate professor of music, as he delivered the Commencement address. His presentation included the unusual addition of an aria from Puccini's opera, Turandot.

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Vernon, who received the 2005 OBU Distinguished Teaching Award, warned the graduates of falling into ordinary routines of life.

"Christ did not call us to live mundane lives," he said. "He called us to be light. He called us to be leaders.

"My teaching colleagues and I have the best jobs in the world," he told the overflow audience of more than 1,800 in Potter Auditorium. "We get to escape the mundane to work with students and help change their lives. Every day, if you are not wrapped up in the mundane of life, you can be changed by them."

Noting those who pursue unique paths, Vernon commended Stacey Miller, a member of the graduating class. The piano performance major from Plains, Kan., will spend the next two years working with the Peace Corps.

"We can learn from our students," said Vernon. "We learn from each other, too."

He cited a recent decision by Dr. Ron Lewis, OBU professor of music, who is retiring from a 36-year career on the OBU faculty to pursue a career as a physician's assistant.

Claiming "stories keep life from being mundane," Vernon used his remarks to give a brief lesson in music. He wove together stories of opera composer Giacomo Puccini, renowned tenor Franco Corelli, and an aria from Puccini's opera "Turandot" to demonstrate how those determined to escape the mundane of life's circumstances can achieve unique accomplishments. He concluded his remarks with a recording of Corelli singing the aria, "Nessun dorma!"

During the ceremonies, OBU President Mark Brister bestowed the university's top three awards for faculty and staff. The Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Dr. Bill Hagen, professor of English. The annual honor is given to a faculty member who has maintained his or her teaching career in an exemplary fashion, as acknowledged by colleagues and current and former students. Hagan joined the OBU faculty in 1974.

Dr. Joyce Aldridge, assistant professor of theatre, received the Promising Teacher Award, which honors a junior faculty member who demonstrates outstanding potential as a teacher. Aldridge joined the OBU faculty in 2001.

Dr. Lana Bolhouse, dean of OBU's School of Nursing, received the Meritorious Service Award, which is given to faculty or staff members who have made a substantial commitment of talent and service to the institution. A 1973 OBU graduate, Bolhouse began her career at the university that same year, serving as a nursing assistant. She was promoted to the rank of associate professor in 1990, and was named dean in 1999.

OBU also recognized three faculty members who are retiring at the conclusion of the 2005-06 academic year. Dr. Ron Lewis, professor of music, retires after 36 years on the faculty. Dr. William Chapman, professor of accounting, retires after a 35-year teaching career in higher education, including the past four years at OBU. Norma Harder, assistant professor of nursing, retires after seven years on the OBU faculty. She has worked in nursing and education for 45 years.

Of the 258 graduating students, 21 were recognized as summa cum laude graduates. The designation is reserved for candidates for graduation who maintained at least a 3.95 average (on a 4.0 scale) on all work offered for the bachelor's degree. The summa cum laude graduates (with hometown and major) include Mary Michael Amonsen, Bellingham, Wash., biology and Spanish; Elise Marie Anderson, Tishomingo, musical arts: voice; Rayna Marie Barker, Shawnee, applied ministry: education; Ryan Kenneth Blackwell, Lowell, Ark., religion: Bible; Collin Blake Bullard, Ada, religion: biblical languages; Kristin Kathleen Cease, Tulsa, music education, instrumental, PK-12; Elizabeth Ann Haney, Booneville, Ark., psychology; Amy Jo Harris, Gruver, Texas, nursing; Katrina Joy Irwin, Parker, Texas, nursing; Angela Lynn King, Dyersburg, Tenn., interdisciplinary: TESOL, psychology, applied ministry; Anne Malthaner, Norman, elementary and early childhood education; Clayton David Mauritzen, Longview, Texas, religion: biblical languages and philosophy; Shannon Kate Martin, Southlake, Texas, elementary and early childhood education; Jamie Lee McCallum, Cleburne, Texas, interdisciplinary: social work, Spanish, cross-cultural ministry; Angela Marie Neubert, St. Charles, Mo., Spanish education, PK-12; Mandy Lynn Stanek, Fort Dodge, Iowa, applied ministry: youth and family psychology; Megan Elizabeth Stone, Edmond, accounting and finance; Melanie Elaine Warren, Porter, professional accountancy and finance; Julie Laura Watson, Muskogee, exercise and sports science: pre-physical therapy; Amanda Renee Wilson, Bethany, nursing; Amanda Lea Winn, Fayetteville, Ark., early childhood education.

DVD Copies of Commencement Available for Purchase

DVD copies of Commencement are available for $17 each (cost includes shipping). DVDs may be ordered by credit card by calling the OBU Public Relations Office at 405.878.2111, or by mailing a check payable to "OBU" for $17. Please send checks to OBU Public Relations, ATTN: Commencement, OBU Box 61738, 500 West University, Shawnee, OK 74804. Please allow three weeks for processing of your order.