Centennial Anthem Draws from Historic Prayer

Oklahoma Baptist University's Centennial Anthem "Grow in Grace" - drawn from a historic prayer first uttered on Bison Hill - will be a highlight of the University's Founders' Day celebration Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Music for the anthem was composed by OBU alumna Donna Butler Douglas, who graduated in 1982. Orchestration was provided by Dr. C.L. Bass, a 1957 OBU graduate who also served as an OBU faculty member for 12 years.

"The Centennial Anthem is a lovely and creative use of a historic prayer given by W.P. Blake, the first chairman of OBU's board of trustees," said John Parrish, chairman of OBU's Centennial Committee and executive vice president emeritus. "The prayer was historic in that Blake and G. Lee Phelps came to the campus shortly after the school site had been determined and prayed for God's blessings on this important endeavor.

"Donna Butler Douglas' composition is faithful to Blake's original prayer and will stir the hearts of those who know OBU history and the road our Baptist forefathers traveled to bring the school to this point."

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Butler Douglas said she was honored when she was invited to write the anthem because many of her musical and life models are OBU graduates or former professors.

"The challenge came of creating a musical setting lovely enough to portray the beautiful Blake poem," Butler Douglas said. "Each section of the piece was crafted to highlight different textual aspects. I composed each section independently and then wove it together with a single motive. Truly, the goal is to set each phrase in its most natural environment so that each word feels like it ‘belongs.'

"I believe that imagination manifests reality," she added. "My inspirations seem to come randomly and most often when I am not seeking them. I hear melody and rhythm in just about everything, whether it be the lilt of a person's ‘hello' or the rustle of leaves. Sometimes I build songs around a single sentence if the message truly speaks to me."

Butler Douglas and her husband, Gary, reside in Olathe, Kan. She has served at churches in Oklahoma, the Dallas/Fort Worth area, the Kansas City area and Little Rock, Ark., for the past 20 years. She is an accomplished pianist, soloist and freelance composer with nearly 100 original works in print under her maiden name, Donna Butler. She currently works as public relations specialist for Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care.

The Ada, Okla., native earned a master's degree in theory and composition from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2009 she received her 26th award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. She has four step-children and four grandchildren.

C. L. Bass served as a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for 24 years. He retired in 2001 as distinguished professor emeritus of music theory and composition. In addition to teaching at OBU for 12 years, he taught in public schools for eight years.

Bass earned a master's degree in music from the University of Oklahoma and a Ph.D. degree from the University of North Texas. He is a member of ASCAP. A resident of Fort Worth, Texas, he currently serves as choir director at Agape Baptist Church. He and his wife, Charlene, have three children and two grandchildren.