When Stephen Allen talks about the importance of praying for guidance in the presidential search process, he speaks with a high degree of personal understanding. Bison Hill wasn't exactly top-of-mind for Stephen as he was growing up in suburban Boston, Mass.
The son of church planters who were commissioned by the former Home Mission Board to serve in New England, Stephen's experiences as a Southern Baptist teenager were somewhat different than what Oklahoma Baptist youth would enjoy at Falls Creek. But being a part of Baptist life brought him into contact with a hospitable OBU couple while at an evangelism conference in Glorieta. After his junior year of high school, Stephen and his father were waiting for a table at a popular hamburger place just outside the Baptist conference center when Dr. Lyle and Willa Ruth Garlow, both 1950 OBU graduates, asked the strangers to join them at their table. That prompted a conversation about Stephen's future, and the Garlows convinced him the aspiring pre-med major to add OBU to his list of college options.
After what he described as a "great" visit to another Baptist college, he arrived in Shawnee to learn more about OBU. His tour guide was Dr. James Hurley, OBU's legendary biology professor.
"We got done, and he said to me, 'Well, Stephen, these other schools you're looking at are great schools and you'd do well there, but we'd really like to have you here at OBU.' It was that kind of personal touch, coming from a legend like Dr. Hurley, that helped me know then and there that this was where I was supposed to come."
He changed his major to political science, and gained experience in student government, serving as SGA president during his senior year. He completed a juris doctorate from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1998. He returned to Oklahoma, working with a law firm in Tulsa for eight years before joining ONE OK Inc. in 2006. He was promoted to vice president and associate general counsel with the firm in January 2008, and is responsible for ONEOK Partners' commercial legal matters.
Stephen and his wife, Rachel, are members of Calvary Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, where he serves as a deacon and is chairman of the church's personnel committee. He's still investing his life in Oklahoma, thanks partly to the hospitality of a couple of alumni at a roadside hamburger joint.