Traveling Alums Pave Path For OBU Students

November 19, 2007


Leta grew up in Kiowa County and graduated from OBU in 1950. Bob grew up near Billings, Okla., and received his OBU degree in 1957. Though their graduating years appear to be distant, they know the timing of their coming together was perfect.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways," said Leta.

The native Okies met while living in Berkeley, California. Leta was doing her graduate work at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. Bob had moved to California for work.

"After I got out of the Army, I went to OBU for a semester," Bob said. "The following summer I was working the harvest in North Dakota, and I didn't have enough money saved to go back to school. I knew there were jobs in California, so I drove out there."

One of the first things Bob did after he moved to the west coast was find a church. He looked in the phone book for a Southern Baptist church, and the church he visited was the same one Leta was attending. She started going to the church just a month before Bob visited.

Marriage plans eventually ensued. Bob and Leta decided to have the wedding in Oklahoma. Their journey back east featured members of Bob's family as chaperones.

"We should have gotten married in Berkeley, but I had already planned to come back to bring my brother and my uncle back to Oklahoma before we tried to get married," said Bob. "We decided we'd all go back to Billings, meet the families and then get married."

"He had it easier than me, though," said Leta. "I'm from a family of three, and I married into a family of 17. I thought, 'Leta, what have you gotten yourself into?'"

"But I told you I wasn't a very good student," Bob jokingly replied to his wife of more than 50 years. "I had to memorize two names. You were a good student, so you were able to memorize 16."

Bob finished his education at OBU after they married. Though he claimed he wasn't a good student, he did make the honor roll.

Leta taught school while Bob finished his degree. Their two oldest children, Rebecca and Fred, were born while the family lived in Shawnee.

The Ringwalds eventually returned to California. They taught school and were active in a small church, working with Sunday School classes and RA's and GA's. They also were prudent with their money and invested in land while serving in the education field.

Leta completed her master's degree at Pepperdine University and earned her doctorate at the University of Southern California.

After researching their options, they decided on teaching in the school system in Barstow, California. They moved to the city in San Bernardino County in 1964.

"After we had lived there a few months, we had come to love it," said Leta. "It's a beautiful desert."

While in Barstow, the Ringwalds adopted Roanna and Rob. The children resembled each other, but were not naturally related.

"When they were really young, people would ask questions about Roanna and Rob. They were born eight months apart, and if people were extra nosey, I would not even say they were adopted," Bob said laughing.

The Ringwalds were devastated when Roanna passed away in 1984. A few years later, they made a contribution to have OBU's campus ministry office in Montgomery Hall dedicated in her honor.

The lifelong educators continued to be good stewards of their money. They also were privileged to take a seven-month sabbatical in Europe and Asia.

"We got a VW bus and traveled all over, staying in campgrounds," said Bob. "Back then, you could park anywhere and people didn't bother you."

The traveling bug hit them hard. They traveled the world for many years. When asked about all the places they have visited, the Ringwalds said it was easier to list the countries where they haven't been.

"We haven't been to Australia, New Zealand and India," Leta said. "After we retired, we traveled and passed out Bibles. We don't know the results, but we've had some people become Christians that, in turn, passed them out as well."

Along with supporting Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center and the Baptist Homes for Children, they have seen tangible results from their investment in OBU. Their scholarship fund currently assists 35 students.

"We were poor farm kids, and we had to work our way through college," Leta said. "The scholarship is for kids like this.

"We know at OBU they will find a sound Christian atmosphere and receive a highly scholastic education as well," she said. "Our son has a daughter who is a sophomore in high school, and he was very inspired by his visit to the campus. When he came to visit, he said 'OBU is a place I can send my daughter, and I know she would be safe and she would be challenged.'"

Bob and Leta enjoy hearing from the students they support. They are encouraged by the students' aspirations.

"We have met some of the students. Their goals are just something we love to see accomplished. Particularly when I saw those male nursing students, my heart just burst," said Leta. "One young man was going to get his doctorate in psychology at the University of Chicago. So many of the 'thank you' letters end with 'I can't wait to see where God leads my life.'"

And both Bob and Leta know it can be an exciting fulfillment.