Encouraged to achieve effectiveness rather than just success, 246 Oklahoma Baptist University graduates received their diplomas during OBU's 98th Spring Commencement on Friday, May 11.
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Before an overflow audience of more than 1,800 in OBU's Raley Chapel, Dr. Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board, reported how more Southern Baptist missionaries serving on the mission field graduated from OBU than any other university. He told the graduates there is a difference between what a person does and who he or she is. In Commencement ceremonies across the country, he noted, the common theme is success.
"Graduates, today I would like to challenge you to be more than merely successful," Elliff said. "I think success always plays a second role to genuine effectiveness, and my challenge would be that you would choose effectiveness."
Success can be easy to measure, Elliff said, as it pops up relatively quickly and then fades. While effectiveness can take longer to achieve, it also lasts longer. He directed the graduates to consider the life of the Apostle Paul, whose life ministry touched two-thirds of the Mediterranean world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elliff pointed out that Paul was effective -- rather than merely successful -- because he was confident in God as the controller of his life; he knew God had a plan for his life; and he was content in the circumference God had drawn around his life.
"Success is fleeting," Elliff said. "But genuine effectiveness leaves a permanent imprint on the hearts of people. My prayer for you is that you would not settle for mere success but only for the genuine effectiveness made possible in the Lord Jesus Christ."
During the ceremony, OBU President David W. Whitlock awarded Elliff with an honorary doctor of divinity degree. Elliff was named president of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2011. He is the founder of Living in the Word Publications. He previously served as senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations of the IMB, and he was senior pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., for 21 years.
Whitlock presented OBU's top three awards for faculty and staff during the ceremonies.
Dr. Jeanne Akin, Mary A. White professor of education, received the Distinguished Teaching Award, presented in recognition of "classroom excellence." Akin joined the OBU faculty in 1997. She earned a bachelor's degree from Southern Nazarene University, a master's degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a doctorate from Oklahoma State University.
Dr. Alan Bandy, Rowena R. Strickland assistant professor of New Testament, 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 2009, he earned a bachelor's degree from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, a master's degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Norris Russell, professor and chair of the Division of Kinesiology and Leisure Studies, received the university's Meritorious Service Award. At OBU since 1981, he earned a bachelor's degree from Rice University and a master's degree and doctorate from East Texas State University.
Six retiring faculty members and administrative staff members were honored during the service. They included Richard Cheek, dean of library services; Dr. Carolyn Cole, Crouch-Mathis professor of literature; Dr. Roger Hadley, Frank W. and Pauline G. Patterson professor of journalism; Dr. William Hagen, professor of English; Bill Holley, associate vice president for university advancement; and Gerald Milligan, assistant professor of nursing.
The program also included greetings from Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which founded the university in 1910. Amity Walker, president of the senior class, made the presentation of the graduating class. Lori Hagans, executive director of the OBU Alumni Association, inducted the graduates into the association.
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.
"We've sought to instill within you an honest awareness of yourself and the world around you," Whitlock said. "We've sought to strengthen your commitment to Christ. We've sought to equip you with the ability to think and the knowledge base that provides the content for sound decision-making. We've sought to impart to you the heart to care and the spirit to attempt great things that will help make your world a better place."
The graduating class included 17 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 Taylor Lorraine Breen, Phoenix, Ariz.; Jordan Lou Bruce, League City, Texas; Rachel Joy Byars, Beggs, Okla.; Katharine Elizabeth Denny, Fort Worth, Texas; Leslie Anne Fort, College Station, Texas; Jordan Blake Gilbert, Chickasha, Okla.; Heather Mary Margaret Goddard, Norman, Okla.; Shane Michael Haff, Pryor, Okla.; Brittany Michelle Hix, Jenks, Okla.; Mary Elizabeth Jones, Fletcher, Okla.; Andrea Lea Kellogg, Shawnee, Okla.; Lauren Ashley Loughridge, Oklahoma City; Katy Beth Palmer, Bowie, Texas; Alyssa Lindsay Scattergood, Wittman, Ariz.; Bradley Albert Schuessler, Valley Center, Kan.; Amity Merit Walker, Shawnee; and Hannah D'Anne Wright, Wichita, Kan.