Building on Oklahoma Baptist University's century-long foundation and looking toward cutting-edge possibilities for the future, Dr. David Wesley Whitlock was inaugurated as the university's 15th president Friday morning, May 1, in Raley Chapel's Potter Auditorium.
Whitlock noted OBU's inception 99 years ago by Baptist pioneers who identified Bison Hill as an ordained place to prepare students to integrate their Christian faith with their varied disciplines. From that foundation, he implored the OBU community to envision the future of the liberal arts university.
"I pray that I will be a faithful steward during my tenure on Bison Hill, and am convinced that God has great things in store for OBU," he said. "The future of OBU is bright. God has great and wonderful plans for us - plans to give us a hope and a future. He has entrusted each of us - charged each of us - with a sacred responsibility. Ours is a noble calling and this is our time to exercise our stewardship and our role in the story that is the OBU story."
Whitlock said his dreams for OBU include a campus incorporating the most advanced technologies and instructional tools available. He envisioned a campus master plan with new avenues for housing students and programs including environmental stewardship and sustainability. He cast the vision for a robust program for achieving the mission of engaging a diverse world.
"Imagine with me the establishment of OBU centers for excellence," Whitlock said. "These centers will capitalize on deep wells in which the university has garnered national, regional and statewide reputations."
He said he envisions centers for faith integration, excellence in teacher education, sports and recreation leadership, and pastoral and ministerial training. He also presented the ideas of a university press, a student research and creative arts program and national championship sports teams with 100 percent graduation rates. He noted the dream of a capital campaign that increases OBU's endowment to four times its annual budget within the next 20 years, as well as a strategic planning process that involves increased salary and compensation.
"We can only dream of the programs and disciplines that may exist in the next hundred years," Whitlock said. "But this we know. OBU will be there, leading the way with the best faculty, the greatest students and with a commitment to continue its rich traditions of academic excellence and faith integration. OBU will be there, educating students and continuing the OBU story."
OBU President Emeritus Bob R. Agee, who served as the university's president from 1982-98, presented the inaugural address. Agee, a resident of Jackson, Tenn., is the retired executive director of the International Association of Baptist Colleges and Universities. As Whitlock's mentor, he offered council for the new president, as well as a challenge for the OBU community.
"Take your work seriously, but don't take yourself so seriously you become something you are not," Agee told Whitlock, noting his reputation for being genuine and approachable. He instructed the new president to not let his elevated university position take away those qualities.
"Oklahoma Baptist University's legacy of greatness and effectiveness does not begin with you," Agee also reminded Whitlock. "God has led you here to contribute to that great legacy, to take this university into the next decades of the 21st century with a whole new renewed energy and vision and enthusiasm ... which will make an even greater impact on the world than this university has ever made."
Agee implored Whitlock to remember that OBU's mission differs from that of many American educational institutions. He noted that he often insisted during presidency that OBU is set apart to be "academically strong, unapologetically Christian and unashamedly Baptist." He challenged OBU's faculty, students, staff and supporters to steadfastly maintain that commitment.
"Being content to be a mirror of whatever age or era we find ourselves just doesn't call for much from within," Agee said. "The determination to be known as a person or institution on mission will call for something deep within each of us. It will call for commitment, for discipline, for determination to reach beyond where you are now.
"OBU must not be content with being what they have been in the past," said the longtime educator. "God's plan for you must stretch your imagination, stretch your vision, and your sense of what you can do to make a greater impact in your world."
Richard Streeter, chair of the OBU board of trustees, conferred upon Whitlock the investiture and charge, presenting the new president with a gold medallion bearing the university seal.
"I charge you on behalf of the many constituents of this institution to be steadfast and exercise due responsibility to be loyal to the philosophy and heritage of the university, motivated by a vision of excellence in all of your endeavors," Streeter said, charging Whitlock to lead OBU "to prepare students to be agents of transformation in their disciplines and in service."
Dr. R. Stanton Norman, OBU provost and executive vice president for campus life, presided over the ceremony. The inaugural procession included OBU faculty; delegates from associations, organizations and learned societies; delegates from other colleges and universities; and personalities bringing special greetings to the University and the president. Rev. Harold Whitlock, grandfather of the president and a retired pastor and church planter, gave the invocation.
Those offering greetings included Dr. David Dockery, president of Union University; Linda Peterson, mayor of the City of Shawnee; Jari Askins, lieutenant governor for the State of Oklahoma; Gene Christian, executive director of Oklahoma's Office of Juvenile Affairs; Dr. C. Henry Gold, professor emeritus of the president's alma mater, Southeastern Oklahoma State University; Dr. Paul Corts, president of the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities; Lesa Smaligo, executive director of Oklahoma Independent Colleges and Universities; Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director/treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma; Robert Kellogg, president of the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma; Tony Kennedy, president of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children; and Dr. Bill Pierce, president of the Baptist Village Retirement Communities of Oklahoma.
Peterson brought a proclamation from the City of Shawnee naming May 1, 2009, Dr. David Whitlock Day for the city. Smaligo announced plans on behalf of her family to establish an endowed scholarship in memory of her father, Rev. Walter Scott Jolly Jr., for students in OBU's School of Christian Service.
Bringing greetings from the OBU community were Dr. Craig Walker, chair of the faculty council; Dr. Deborah C. Blue, senior vice president for academic affairs; Jay Sampson, president of the OBU Alumni Association; and D.H. Dilbeck, president of the Student Government Association.
Also featured in the program were Dr. C. Pat Taylor, president of Southwest Baptist University and former provost at OBU; Dr. Lisa Fillmore, OBU trustee and secretary of the presidential search committee; Stephen B. Allen, OBU trustee and chair of the presidential search committee; and Dr. Alan Day, pastor of First Baptist Church of Edmond and advisor to the board of trustees.
Whitlock assumed the role of OBU president on Nov. 1, 2008, after a unanimous vote by the university's trustees. He succeeded John W. Parrish, who served as interim president for a year following the tenure of Mark Brister, OBU's 14th president. He and his wife, Dana, have a four sons and one daughter-in-law: Joshua and his wife, Lane; Ryan; Searles; and Landon.
An OBU Symphonic Band concert Friday evening concludes the week-long inauguration celebrations. On Tuesday evening, the Whitlocks hosted a dessert reception for students in their home. A Thursday-evening worship service featured a message brought by Jordan. A buffet reception to honor the Whitlocks followed Friday's inauguration ceremony.