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Alumni Profile in Excellence: A Life of Obedience

July 25, 2008

As a youth, Reggie May had a dream to be a U.S. Navy Blue Angel pilot and soar through the sky in fighter jets. But for May, a 1981 OBU graduate, God had a higher calling: to influence individual lives through a ministry based in music.

May was born in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, as a self-described "Navy brat," and he has maintained a lifelong pride for his military heritage. When his father returned from Vietnam, his final Navy assignment was to Georgia. As a young man, May became involved in ROTC and band.

"The Blue Angels were my heroes, and that is what I thought I wanted to do," May said. "I had a path laid out for the way I wanted to go."

The family joined First Baptist Church of Brunswick, where May remained actively involved in the music and youth ministries. The music minister at the time, W.J. Davis (also an OBU alumnus), profoundly impacted May and other youth, and encouraged them to attend OBU. May's freshman year, seven students from First Baptist, Brunswick, traveled from Georgia to study on Bison Hill.

By the time he arrived on campus, May had answered God's call to a life of ministry. In high school, he began to see opportunities arise in music and opportunities wane related to the military. While at a revival service where his musical group was to perform, May realized God had equipped him to continue such a ministry throughout his life. Time spent at a summer music camp solidified the call.

"It seemed everything I did to pursue the military goal did not work, but everything I did to pursue music, doors opened," he said.

May obeyed, relinquishing his personal goal of becoming a Blue Angel. "My experience at OBU helped to shape me musically, emotionally and spiritually," May said. "My training in music at OBU was not just about music, but also about developing a heart for ministry."

The young musician found himself immersed in Bison Glee Club, band, pep band and as drummer for "The Source" - a contemporary musical group designed to promote the school at banquets, churches and other events. Dr. James Woodward, a legendary professor of music at OBU, was his personal faculty advisor, friend and "model conductor and musician," May said. He also advanced his music knowledge from Dr. Michael Cox, director of the glee club.

"Those two were the models from which I learned, and continue to be the standard by which I judge myself today because they are far and above examples of music excellence," May said.

"On a personal level, no one impressed me more than Sandra Meyer because she had a heart for music and a heart for God. It showed in the way she taught and the way she lived."

Times spent with the Bison Glee Club - both musically and personally -- form May's fondest memories of his time at OBU. The group spent hours together in rehearsals, travel and concerts through the years, and many of the group members became close friends. The club traveled as far as Hawaii, where May met the doctor who had delivered him a couple decades before, and to America's Southeast, where he had the pleasure of performing in his home church in Georgia. May remains in contact with several BGC alumni to this day.

Following graduation, May earned a master of church music degree in voice and ministry from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and embarked on a journey which has allowed him to serve in several states. Since 1986, he has served in Florida both in local churches and through state venues, including the Singing Men of Florida. Obedient to God's call, he currently fills the roles of recruiter, motivator, enabler and pastor in his work as Minister of Music at Stetson Baptist Church in DeLand, Fla.

"I'm ordained to the Gospel ministry -- music is just the avenue by which I do it," May said. "I consider it a huge responsibility and a tremendous honor."

May continues to recognize great musicians with whom God allows him to be associated. He counts OBU graduate Bob Burroughs, director of the church music department of the Florida Baptist Convention from 1994-2001 who received OBU's Alumni Achievement Award in 2004, as one of his choral heroes.

"I have been influenced by his commitment to excellence, musicianship and ministry," May said. "We learn from those who lead us."

Part of God's plan for May, it seems, is to use him to mentor and positively influence the next generation of ministers of music. He has a heart to guide younger music leaders throughout the state. At Stetson Baptist, he has developed a music ministry internship for students from nearby Stetson University. One former intern graduated this year from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth and begins his first church ministry in July.

"There comes a point where you realize part of your calling is to continue a legacy with what God has influenced you, to pass it on," May said. "You have to realize you were prepared for what God brings into your life."

Since 2002, May has had the opportunity to minister as senior chaplain of the DeLand Police Department, building relationships with the men and women who serve on the local police force. He fosters the friendships as a trustworthy, confidential outlet for the officers. The chaplaincy has become a passion for May.

"It's ministry in its purest form," May said. "It's what Jesus told us to be - it's salt and light."

Decades later, May hasn't forgotten the dream of his childhood.

"I still have a huge heart for the military," May noted. "My dad is my hero. Any time I get a chance, I go watch jets fly."

Someday, he might get a chance to ride in a jet. And yet, he knows he is answering a higher call.

"There's something to be said for just fulfilling your call -- getting up every day, going to work, doing what God calls me to do," he said.

For May, each day is a step in his life of obedience.

Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.