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Peggy Askins: Celebrating 50 Years on Bison Hill

July 15, 2010

Spending more than 50 years on Bison Hill, Oklahoma Baptist University registrar Peggy Askins has seen the methods of her work change from pen, paper and typewriters -- and a problematic registration process commonly referred to as a "cattle drive" -- to high-tech computerized systems and a continuous registration process. A walking encyclopedia of OBU academic information, Askins completes her tenure as registrar at the end of July.

"OBU's history is richer because Peggy Askins has invested half a century into its students and being," said Dr. Debbie Blue, OBU senior vice president for academic services. "She will be greatly missed from the daily life of the university."

The former Peggy Corley, a 1957 graduate, launched her OBU career in 1960 as administrative assistant to the director of student services. The office which no longer exists in the same form on campus, but at the time covered admissions, financial aid, mail room supervision, the copy center, the switchboard and glee club tours.

Back then, each person with administrative duties was also required to teach one course per semester. The policy provided a great opportunity for Askins, who had graduated as an art major intending to work in interior design. She taught courses such as portrait and figure drawing, color and design, watercolor, arts and crafts for elementary teachers, and art appreciation.

"This continued for 11 years, and I think that was probably my favorite role - teacher," Askins said recently. "I enjoyed the association with art majors in the upper division classes, but it was also quite exciting to see the light come on for a student who was in the art appreciation class just because it was required."

Within three years, the position of registrar became available. Askins assumed the role - one she has fulfilled for 47 years.

"She was chair of our admissions committee for decades, and has given the OBU registrar's office stability and professional credibility for as long as I have been alive," said OBU President David Whitlock. "Peggy was born in Fame, Okla., just east of Stidham. We are thankful that she has invested her talents on Bison Hill and helped to bring fame to our university for a full half of our existence."

Askins said the most fulfilling tasks at OBU have also been the most challenging. Through friendships she formed in professional associations - including the Oklahoma Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the Southern Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers - she worked with registrars from all types of institutions around the country and other countries.

"As new ideas and practices were put forth from such a wealth of resources, I have tried to bring home and implement those I thought would be helpful to OBU," Askins said. "Three such instances that I feel have been very good for OBU were the practice of early registration, the consolidating of nuisance fees into the already existing student fees and doing away with fees for official transcripts."

Prior to the current practice of opening registration in April for fall semesters and in October for spring semesters, OBU enrolled all students within the last three days before classes started. Among registrars, Askins said, the practice is known as the "cattle drive." At OBU, it required all offices and faculty to move to a central location - all the Shawnee Hall hallways and classrooms - and necessitated hiring and training a large number of temporary workers. Askins said the method created a lot of errors because of the frantic pace and the use of temporary staff.

Years ago, OBU imposed individual fees which had to be paid to the cashiers at the time of transactions such as dropping or adding a class and changing a grade.

"If the student didn't have the cash to pay the fee, they couldn't drop or add the course on time or have the grade recorded when an 'I' was finished," Askins said. "It was so very frustrating to students and did not give us timely information in maintaining registration and grade records.These are called 'nuisance' fees or 'nickel-and-dime fees,' and I am so glad to be rid of them."

A third big change about 20 years ago under Askins' leadership was to stop charging for official transcripts.

"Not having to collect and bill these fees has been a time saver for our office so we have one of the best turn-around times for issuing transcripts of any school in the country," she said. "It also adds greatly to alumni satisfaction."

Askins said one big change she has campaigned for has not yet come to pass: joining a network for electronic data interchange which allows the exchange of transcripts via computer and the inclusion of equivalent courses recorded intact from other institutions.

"I am disappointed that I was not able to accomplish this task, but if I have planted and watered, perhaps someone else will harvest," she said.

Such an extended tenure has netted Askins many friends - and respect as an expert in her field.

"Naturally I am close to the ladies in my office staff," Askins said. "But there are so many others, both faculty and staff, with whom I have had a long and close association. I will miss our regular contact as we work together on the business of OBU."

Askins also developed close friends among fellow registrars through professional organizations. She served as president of the Oklahoma ACRAO twice - once in the 1970s and again in the late 1980s.Through the American ACRAO, she served on committees regarding international education, registration techniques, office management and nominations and elections. She was appointed to task forces to revise and update manuals published by the association, including Retention of Records and The Academic Record and Transcript Guide, which is commonly called "the registrar's bible."

Askins was appointed to a task force to devise an associational response to a call for help from foreign embassies in Washington, D.C., helping industry and governmental agencies who were dealing with credential fraud.

"For over six years, we presented workshops and seminars on how to recognize and deal with faked documents, and then I was asked to write a book incorporating our research and response," she said. "The resulting publication was 'Misrepresentation In The Marketplace and Beyond: Ethics Under Siege.' These colleagues became very close friends, and I know those friendships will continue after retirement."

Askins was married for 42 years to her late husband, Donald, also a 1957 OBU graduate. She has two children, Michael and Anna. Michael and his wife, Karen, have three sons: Thomas, Timothy and Anthony John. All of them live in Shawnee.

Despite her impending retirement, Askins has other life engagements which keep her busy. She and her daughter are active in Liberty Baptist Church in Shawnee. She helps Anna teach a Sunday School class for special-needs children. They both are members of a worship group at Liberty who participate in The Burn ministry in Shawnee and Seminole.

There is also an international ministry pulling the heartstrings of the faithful servant.

"I have a deep love for Israel and the Jewish people, and my daughter and I have been to Israel twice in the last six years and hope to go again soon," Askins said. "We have formed some great friendships and associations with Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel, in Oklahoma, Florida and Ohio and have had the pleasure of worshiping with them on such special occasions as Passover and Succot, as well as the weekly Shabat (sabbath) services."

After working diligently over the past five decades on Bison Hill, Askins is retiring from OBU but has some well-earned adventures awaiting her.