Whitlock Brings Message of Purpose at Homecoming Chapel

OBU's president, Dr. David Whitlock, addressed OBU alumni, students, faculty and friends during a special homecoming chapel service Saturday, Nov. 13, in Raley Chapel, bringing a message of purpose and vision to those in attendance.

During the service, the university recognized recipients of the Profile in Excellence Award, given to former students who have “demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University.” The university also inducted its inaugural Faculty Hall of Fame class during the service to honor former OBU faculty members who were master teachers, making a significant impact on OBU students.

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Whitlock said the service provided an opportunity to pause and reflect on its purpose as a Christian university.

“Simply put, since our founding we have been and continue to be a ‘Great Commission’ and ‘Great Commandment’ university,” he said.

Whitlock quoted the Scripture in Matthew 28:16-20, traditionally referred to as Jesus Christ’s Great Commission to his disciples. In the passage, Jesus instructs his followers to make Christian disciples of other people.

He said OBU’s commitment to the Gospel is seen in the way its faculty members teach, the unashamedly Christian testimony they exhibit, and in the way the univeristy’s scholars and students seek to integrate their Christian faith in all areas of knowledge

“Our commitment to disciple-making is seen in our curricular and extra-curricular programs including our Avery Willis Center for Global Outreach that sends out scores of students, faculty and staff on mission trips literally all over the world,” Whitlock said. “It’s seen in our chapel program in which this year’s theme has been C. S. Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity.’

“This commitment is seen in the fact that the IMB reports that more missionaries serving around the globe have their degrees from OBU than from any other university in the world. That’s a reason to celebrate. We are, indeed, a Great Commission university.”

Whitlock also quoted the Scripture in Matthew 25:36-40 in which a person asks Jesus to name the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus’ response is traditionally referred to as the Great Commandment for Christian believers: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus said all the other commandments hang on those two mandates, and Whitlock said OBU also hangs on those directives.

OBU is serious about the pursuit of truth and academic excellence, Whitlock said, and it is committed to the great Christian intellectual tradition. He said the university must embrace the intellectual and spiritual disciplines, refusing the false dichotomy that one must choose either the intellectual or the spiritual.

“The very alumni and faculty we recognized for their achievements and contributions testify to this great Christian intellectual tradition, and it continues to be demonstrated by faculty who teach here today,” he said.

Students and faculty at OBU operate in the world as students of both God’s Word and God’s world, Whitlock said. Rather than fearing what cannot fully be explained, they work to reconcile difficult intellectual problems through the work of others, trusting God to use them to make a significant contribution to various academic disciplines.

“Far from being fearful in our pursuit of academic excellence, as Christians we are created and expected to explore boldly the world around us,” he said. “As believers we need not be afraid of testing the truth of Scripture, for God’s Word can withstand whatever hard questions are posed against it in a genuine search for truth. This is one of the unique challenges, opportunities and privileges afforded us in distinctively Christian higher education.”

Whitlock said while Homecoming affords an opportunity to reminisce, remember and fellowship, it also offers an opportunity to catch a glimpse of future graduates.

“We work with a generation of students poised to have a most profound impact upon the world and upon history,” he said. “Our time demands that we be about our business with a sense of urgency. As followers of Jesus Christ, and as members of this great OBU family, we all have vital roles to play in leadership and service.”

Recognizing leaders among alumni, the 2010 Profile in Excellence award recipients were Dan Ford and Nancy Ussery Ford, 1977 and 1980 alums, from Grand Prairie, Texas; Don Hargis, ’79, Clovis, Calif.; Dr. Gladys Sherman Lewis, ex ’55, Edmond, Okla.; Terri Yarbrough McAdoo, ’83, Belvidere, N.J.; Laura McConnell-Corbyn, ’83, Oklahoma City; Dr. Charlton McIlwain, ’94, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Dr. Warren McWilliams, ’68, Shawnee; Sonny Miller, ’94, Vadnais Heights, Minn.; Dr. Arnold Rawls Jr., ’82, Edmond; Major Andy Taylor, ’91, Arlington, Va.; and Gary Underwood, ’76, Bigelow, Ark.

The first Faculty Hall of Fame inductees included Dr. Warren M. Angell, Max Brattin, Dr. Rhetta May Dorland, Dr. James E. Hurley, Eddie Hurt Jr., Dr. Juanita Millsap, Dr. William R. Mitchell, Dr. James Newton Owens, William Thomas Short, Dr. Rowena Strickland, Dr. James Samuel Timberlake and Dr. Warren Forbes Yarborough.

“With induction of the Inaugural Class for our Faculty Hall of Fame we recognized a remarkable group of scholars spanning the decades of our history,” Whitlock said. “Like our current faculty, these individuals invested their lives in their students. They embraced our mission. They sacrificed. They rejected doing just enough to get by, and instead, embraced doing all they could.

“Where do we find such men and women? I’m convinced they are led to Bison Hill because they answer to a higher calling. They embody that vital element in our mission statement, which is that they walk worthy of the high calling of God in Christ.”