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Alum McGuire Models Perseverance, Achievement

February 25, 2011

Nathaniel "Geese" McGuire found himself on the campus of OBU after following his basketball teammate to the school. He decided to stay for the court.

"I fell in love with OBU's floor," McGuire said.

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He had previously played on OBU's basketball court while at a junior college. Playing with bad knees, he remembered the Clark Craig Fieldhouse floor was soft, which allowed for easier jumping. While he thought he was just coming to play on the floor he loved, he found himself falling in love with the people on Bison Hill.

Coming from a rough neighborhood in Baton Rouge, La., McGuire lacked direction, confidence and hope. However, when he stepped into the OBU locker room he gained inspiration from the sign the head basketball coach, Gene Wallace, had posted that read, "Victory goes to those who persevere." Wallace explained to McGuire that if he worked diligently he could accomplish anything.

"He gave me the chance to truly understand the meaning of 'All things are possible through Christ,'" McGuire said.

Not only did McGuire find encouragement in this Scripture verse on the court; it inspired him off the court as well.

Knowing he wanted to eventually teach, McGuire studied education with an emphasis in social studies. Yet, having a disadvantaged academic background, McGuire was extremely challenged by the topics and the amount of course work. After failing a political economics course multiple times, he turned to his professors for additional aid. He finally passed the course, only after working closely with them.

"They would never give you a grade you did not earn, but were always willing to go out of their way to help you," McGuire said.

With the encouragement from Wallace, other OBU faculty, and his wife, Janice, McGuire worked steadily through his classes and even got involved in extra-curricular activities. He became one of the earliest presidents of the campus organization Society of Black Americans, which, he said, ironically drew mostly Chinese students as members.

McGuire used his athletic skills to get involved in the community by going downtown with his teammates to play basketball with Shawnee residents. He played ball with students from St. Gregory's University in his free time.

As his senior year approached, McGuire still struggled academically and on the court. However, Wallace continued to offer McGuire scholarship money, and even paid for summer school and the fall semester so McGuire could complete his graduation requirements. The coach's efforts had a strong impact on the young athlete.

"He cared when I had nothing left to offer and he had nothing to gain on the basketball court," McGuire said. "Coach got me to see that you can't always treat everyone the same, but you can be fair and caring toward everyone."

McGuire took those lessons and applied them to his life and his professional careers.

Upon earning his degree in 1974, McGuire began teaching in the Mid-Del School District. In his beginning years of teaching, he met a member of the 72nd Aerial Port Squadron who advised him on how he could combine the two things he loved: teaching and being part of a team.

McGuire enlisted in the Air Force Reserve in May 1977. He completed training and returned to Tinker Air Force Base, where he worked as a cargo processor and aircraft loader. He eventually became squadron historian, career advisor and then the squadron's first sergeant. He did this all while earning a master's degree in education and serving as a teacher, husband and father of three.

He retired from his 31-year career in public education in 2005. He served in varying positions as a coach and as principal for a high school and two middle schools. During his tenure as an administrator he helped found and direct drug and alcohol identification programs, as well as programs in Black History, cultural awareness, and Civil Air Patrol.

He had served as his squadron's first sergeant for 15 years when he retired from teaching. He then became an Air Reserve Technician in the 72nd Squadron. In 2008, he became the squadron's superintendent and was then promoted to Chief Master Sergeant with the 72nd Aerial Port Squadron of the 507th Air Refueling Wing.

In July 2010, he retired after 33 years of military service. He has the second-longest tenure of any first sergeant in the United States Air Force.

McGuire and his wife have three children and six grandchildren. Their oldest daughter and son live and work in the Oklahoma City area. Years after his own experience, he entrusted his youngest daughter to OBU where she spent her freshmen year as the first African American female on the cheerleading squad. She is now preparing to graduate with a degree in education. Nathaniel and Janice are members of Oklahoma City First Church where he serves on the Church Security Team. He also frequently volunteers at the Veteran's Center.

McGuire attributes many of his successes as a husband, father, teacher, coach, administrator and military leader to the life principles he learned at OBU.

"I will forever be grateful to the coaching staff, student body, support staff and faculty for the many blessings and acts of kindness extended to me during my stay on Bison Hill," McGuire said.

He said the people at OBU taught him to not only never give up, but to trust others, which restored his faith in humanity and taught him how to treat others.

"I came to understand that when we invest time in others, we change the world for the better," McGuire said. "Every day each person should get a fresh start."

McGuire fully grasps and lives by that ideology, claiming he was given new chances every day while at OBU. Wallace and Janice constantly encouraged him to persevere.

"They refused to allow me to fail or drop out of school because things were not going my way on the basketball court or in the classroom," McGuire said.

He still appreciates what he learned from Wallace in the Bison locker room. He has persevered ever since.

"To this day, Coach Wallace is my mentor and friend, along with my dear friend, John W. Parrish, my biggest supporter. I have always received kind words of support and pride from these two 'lifelong Bison,'" McGuire said.

Years ago, the support of the court helped McGuire stay, but it was the long-lasting support of Bison Hill people that helped him achieve.