With firsthand congratulations from Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, 248 OBU graduates received their diplomas during OBU's Centennial Spring Commencement on Friday, May 13.
Before an overflow audience of more than 1,800 in OBU's Raley Chapel, the graduates heard the State's first woman governor tell them just as she has made history through her political career, they have equal opportunity to achieve their personal aspirations.
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Fallin told the graduates she shared some of their experiences during her two years on Bison Hill, from her earliest memories as a freshman, to learning the school chant "Ka-Rip," to successfully completing the required Western Civilization course. She said her time at OBU helped shape her into the woman she is today.
She congratulated the graduates on reaching such a significant milestone in their lives, noting their college degrees will help them achieve financial success. But more important than the financial success, she said, is the wisdom and knowledge they have gained along their journey.
"The Bible tells us, 'Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold,'" Fallin said, quoting from Proverbs 3:13-14. "So in other words, the Bible teaches us that knowledge -- the knowledge you've gained here at Oklahoma Baptist University -- is more valuable than gold, and you can take that knowledge and invest it back into today's world."
Fallin also told the graduates she had something to ask of them: to be good citizens -- and preferably good Oklahoma citizens.
"Invest your life in something that is rewarding and interesting, and invest your life in service to other people," she said. "Give back. Your key to success in this state is in your hands now. You've been given every opportunity possible with great wisdom and great knowledge, and now it's up to you, what you're going to do."
The audience, Fallin said, included Oklahoma's future, with the graduates representing Oklahoma's future business men and women, preachers and music directors, educators, lawyers, doctors and maybe even a couple politicians. Whatever path they follow, Fallin said she knows the graduates' potential is unlimited, and they have many great opportunities before them.
"There is nothing that is off limits to you," Fallin said. "Setbacks are just opportunities for comebacks."
She told the graduates to never stop learning and to know the future is unlimited. She also urged them to dream big, and to always work hard.
Senior Class President Kathryn Barrett followed Fallin's words of wisdom with a question prompted by the book, "The Idea of a Christian College," by Arthur Holmes, which is given to all OBU freshmen. In presenting the class for their diplomas, Barrett asked her fellow seniors to consider not only how their education at OBU has impacted and transformed them, but also how they will use their education to serve God.
OBU's top three awards for faculty and staff were presented during the ceremonies by OBU President David W. Whitlock.
Dr. Bobby Kelly, Ruth Dickinson professor of religion, received the Distinguished Teaching Award, presented in recognition of "classroom excellence." Kelly joined the OBU faculty in 1997. He earned his bachelor's degree from Clear Creek Baptist College, and he earned his master's degree and doctorate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Michael Dean, assistant professor of music, received the Promising Teacher Award, presented to a faculty member who has taught at the university for less than five years and "shows great promise as a teacher." At OBU since 2006, Dean earned two bachelor's degrees from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, and he earned his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.
Bobby Cox, head baseball coach and professor of kinesiology and leisure studies, received the university's Meritorious Service Award. At OBU since 1984, Cox was inducted into the OBU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996 and named Sooner Athletic Conference Coach of the Year. In 1993, he was named OBU's "winningest" coach. Earlier this year, he was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. A 1979 graduate of OBU, Cox earned his master's degree from East Central University.
Eight retiring faculty members and administrative staff members were honored during the service. They included Bobby Canty, dean of students; Dr. Robert Dawson, professor of applied ministry and WMU professor of missions; Dr. Ronda Hall, professor of Spanish; Anne Hammond, associate professor of English; Dr. Paul Hammond, dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts and professor of music; Dr. Eugene Hobbs, professor of mathematics; John Little, director of estate and gift planning; and Sandra Meyer, associate professor of music.
In his charge to the graduates, Dr. Whitlock challenged them to remember they carry the distinction of being graduates of OBU, having studied at an institution that has sought to stand for Christian distinctiveness and academic excellence since its founding in 1910.
"I challenge you to use what you have learned as a foundation upon which you will build for the rest of your life, determined to serve your fellow man, and to do so with an informed caring," Whitlock said. "Dare to walk in faith and believe that God will use you to make a difference. Strive for excellence and quality in every area of your life."
The program also included recognition from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which founded the university in 1910. Dr. Anthony Jordan, BGCO executive director, congratulated the graduates, noting that Oklahoma Baptists had invested more than $10.9 million in support of the university during their four years on the campus.
The graduating class included 23 seniors who earned the academic predicate "summa cum laude" for maintaining at least a 3.95 grade point average on all work completed for their bachelor's degrees. Those honored received academic hoods during the ceremony. Honorees include Amanda Christine Abernathy, Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Stephanie Grace Baker, Salida, Colo.; Kathryn Hannah Louise Barrett, Neodesha, Kan.; Jenna Lee Butner, Wewoka, Okla.; Cara Ann Cecil, Kansas City, Mo.; David Owen Comodeca, Overland Park, Kan.; Caitlin Rebekah Dacus, Overland Park, Kan.; Donald Bruce Greenawalt Jr., Shawnee, Okla.; Katie Leigh Halbesleben, Wausau, Wash.; Joshua Jacob Wyatt Hamon, Oskaloosa, Iowa; Jennifer Lynn Keogh, Arvada, Colo.; Chelsea Renee McVey, Chandler, Okla.; Anna Catharine Morgan, Eatonville, Wash.; Veronica Anne Pistone, Blue Springs, Mo.; Kaitlyn D'Lee Rothaus, Bethany, Okla.; Derek James Royer, Bartlesville, Okla.; Derek Martin Schuessler, Valley Center, Kan.; Jeanette Marie Walters, Copan, Okla.; Jennie Louise Warren, Shawnee; Melody Rose Wheeler, Oklahoma City; and Hannah Christine Wood, Allen, Texas.