Challenged to be part of a legacy of "agents of transformation," 35 Oklahoma Baptist University students graduated Friday, Dec. 14, during the university's winter Commencement.
Dr. Justin Hardin, OBU's Strickland assistant professor of religion and the 2007 Promising Teacher Award recipient, delivered the Commencement address to the audience of approximately 350 in Raley Chapel's Potter Auditorium.
"If our students graduate from OBU without learning how to think critically and creatively, they will certainly be incapable of living a virtuous live in the world," said Hardin. "If this is the case we might as well close the doors. Jesus stated that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your hearts, souls, and minds. This is transformative thinking."
Hardin, a New Testament scholar, referenced instances of "transformative thinking" from the life of the Apostle Paul. He urged the graduates to follow the apostle's example in their own lives.
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"As a graduate, we've called you, encouraged you, yea even charged you with living a transformed life, not just here but beyond the buildings of Bison Hill.
"Come up here," he said. "Walk across this stage. Join the long and unbroken tradition at OBU of graduates who are agents of transformation in the world."
John W. Parrish, OBU's interim president, echoed Hardin's challenge in his charge to the graduates.
"We have sought to impart to you the heart to care and the spirit to try to do something to make your world a better place in which to live," said Parrish. "Determine to serve your fellow man with an informed caring. Dare to walk in faith believing that God will use you to make a difference in the world."
During the ceremonies, Parrish recognized Dr. Tom Wilks, OBU's Huitt professor of applied ministry, who retired at the close of the fall semester after 27 years at the university. The longtime professor received a standing ovation from the audience.
Dr. Bill Green, associate executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, brought greetings to the graduates from the convention.
"There are 1,750 Baptist churches in Oklahoma who support this university," said Green. "We believe in OBU and we believe in you."
The ceremonies included the oldest graduate of record at OBU. Marvin Tyler, a 71-year-old minister from Midwest City, received a bachelor of arts degree in Christian studies.