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Dr. Omer Hancock Lives 'As Iron Sharpens Iron'

March 2, 2011

The Profile in Excellence award is given by the OBU Alumni Association to a former student who has "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." Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Dr. Omer Hancock should be able to recognize the signs of quality Christian higher education: he has served for 30 years as a professor at Hardin-Simmons University, a college founded in 1891 by a dedicated group of ministers, ranchers and merchants in Abilene, Texas. Before joining the HSU faculty, Hancock served as a pastor of churches in Texas and Oklahoma.

At HSU, Hancock is a professor of church ministry in addition to his role as director of In-Service Training. When he joined the relatively small faculty in the department of religion in 1981, he taught a variety of courses including Old Testament survey, New Testament survey, work of the minister, field education, Pentateuch, prophets, preaching, world religions, spiritual gifts and a class on cults and denominations. The purpose of the In-Service Training Office involves visiting with prospective students, identifying vocational ministry students, providing opportunities for preaching and ministry experiences and processing financial aid for ministry students.

"The most challenging aspect of the work revolves around the need to communicate the Christian faith effectively to students in a world that needs their witness, their integrity, their ministry and their leadership," Hancock said. "The challenge includes both students and faculty to experience a growing faith that addresses the changing contexts of culture."

When he reflects on the foundation he gained in Christian higher education at OBU, Hancock recognizes the characteristics of what prepared him to, in turn, prepare future generations for successful ministry.

Born in Okmulgee, Okla., Hancock felt God calling him to preach when he was 13 years old while attending Falls Creek. He knew he needed to attend OBU for his formal education in preparing for vocational ministry. He also felt drawn to Bison Hill by the group which has been a magnet for many young men: the legendary Bison Glee Club. Another attractive factor for Hancock was that his sister, Sonya Hancock Coker, '60, and brother-in-law, Jim Coker, '64, attended OBU.

"OBU provided a wholesome and stimulating environment that gave me great encouragement in the calling to vocational ministry," said Hancock. "The professors stretched my mind in ways that deepened my faith and sharpened my skills in reading, thinking, communicating and ministering."

He said the professors and classes on Bison Hill opened his mind to a wider and deeper knowledge of life.

"Our college generation benefited from many good professors," he said. "Without detracting from any of my professors, I recall some who made a profound influence on my life."

Dr. Rowena Strickland, he said, taught her Bible and religion classes with devotion, competence and interest in the students. An OBU graduate, Strickland taught at OBU from 1953-84, retiring with the rank of distinguished professor emerita of Bible. Hancock said Strickland's personal encouragement through Bible courses eventually helped open the doors for his seminary training and earning a Th.D. degree in Old Testament.

Dr. Gregory Pritchard also influenced Hancock through the variety of courses he taught in philosophy. Also an OBU alum, Pritchard taught at OBU from 1952-68.

"His pedagogy demanded thorough reading, memorization and critical thinking," Hancock said. "I chose a double minor in religion and philosophy, which provided a solid foundation for both graduate degrees and vocational ministry."

The primary focus of Hancock's call to ministry was to serve as a pastor. His major was speech, and Dr. Opal Craig, who taught on Bison Hill from 1947-74, became his primary professor.

"She exhibited great patience and straightforward evaluation in her classes, especially with the 'preacher boys' with their ministerial tone," he said.

Like so many members of the early Bison Glee Club, Hancock said Dr. Warren Angell stood out as a great teacher, although not in an academic class for credit.

"Dean Angell taught with his eyes, his hands, his voice, his love for life and for people," Hancock said of the musician, who taught at OBU for 37 years. "We all looked forward to the late afternoon rehearsals."

Four years on the OBU campus made a lifelong impact on Hancock. He said the Lord provided him more than just a superior college education and lasting friendships; Hancock also met his future wife, Judy Potter from Beaver, Okla. The two began dating in the middle of their junior year. After graduating in 1964, they were married in Stubblefield Chapel on campus on Aug. 1. Dr. James Ralph Scales, the president of OBU from 1961-65, was among those who attended the ceremony.

"Another set of experiences that provided enormous value revolved around the opportunities to preach, participate in weekend revivals and serve in churches as youth and music minister," Hancock said. "In the summer after my junior year, I was appointed by the Oklahoma Baptist Student Union as a summer missionary in Washington and Idaho."

Following graduation, the Hancocks relocated to Fort Worth, where they continued their education. Omer completed a master's degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Judy earned a master's degree at Texas Christian University, both in 1967. Omer completed his doctorate at Southwestern in 1974.

Those years involved not only expanding educations, but also an expanding family and career. Their daughter Kira was born in 1968. She later attended OBU and graduated in 1990. Their son Kyle was born in 1970. Hancock's first pastorate was at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church near Lexington, Texas, from 1969-70.

The family relocated to Guymon, Okla., for his second pastorate at Trinity Baptist Church from 1970-75. Their daughter Kirsten was born in 1975.

The third pastorate brought the family to Highland Park Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla., from 1975-81. Their fourth child, Kirk, was born in 1978.

A new ministry direction took the family south across the Red River to a university post in 1981 -- the role he still fills at HSU. A member of Pioneer Drive Baptist Church in Abilene, Hancock has remained active as a deacon, Sunday School teacher and member of the licensing and ordination committee. He has served on various committees of the Abilene Baptist Association and actively serves through a variety of committees on campus, too.

In 2001, Hancock was named the outstanding alumnus in Christian vocational ministry by OBU's Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service. Just as OBU provided Hancock the environment he needed to encourage him forward in his vocational ministry, stretching his mind and deepening his faith, so he shares those foundational characteristics of a quality education with the future generations of Christian ministers.

Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.