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.
Joel Engle is senior pastor of The Exchange Church in Keller, Texas, and a national recording artist. The 1990 OBU alum said he has no doubt God sent him to OBU and that the decision deeply impacted his life, character and worldview.
Engle gleaned patience, excellence and encouragement from Norma Partridge, professor emerita of music, during his time on Bison Hill. Sandra Meyer, retired professor of music, fostered his love for music and gave him the music theory tools he needed to be a real musician.
But it was the Bison Glee Club that really transformed his life.
"Being in the Bison Glee Club with Dr. Michael Cox was truly an honor and a revolutionary experience," Engle said. "I have never met a finer musician to this day (and I have met a few world-class musicians). My experience in Glee Club was life-changing in so many ways that I don't have the words to express it.
"Singing in the Bison Glee Club brought new meaning to the phrase, 'Real men sing loud.' As I've performed thousands of concerts, I still have never experienced a feeling equal to that of singing with a 60-man power-choir! The camaraderie that I experienced through the friendships I made helped me graduate from a boy to a man."
When Engle was 16 years old, he moved from living in the Oklahoma Baptist Home for Children in Moore, Okla., to a foster home in Garber, Okla. When the Engle family took Joel in, their son, Gregg, was attending OBU. As an aspiring musician, Joel moved Gregg, a music student, to "hero" status. The superintendent of the children's home, Dr. James Browning, provided the avenue for Joel to find his own music, academic and leadership scholarships on campus.
After he graduated, Engle traveled, performing music for concerts, church events and youth meetings. He made several independent recordings and toured with the Dawson McAllister Student conference, singing to more than 200,000 people each year. Later, Engle and his wife, Valerie Gaser Engle, a 1992 OBU alum, started a worship resource company called SPIN360.com, serving more than 15,000 churches worldwide.
In 2000, Sony Records approached Engle to use his tracks to create "The Ultimate Worship Collection." The biggest secular music label in the world paid him to promote praise and worship music. He signed a recording contract with Word/Warner Bros. in 2005 and released "Made for Worship," which featured three top-10 songs. Then he and his partners began their own record label, called Spin360 Records, with Word Music.
As his musical dreams were becoming a reality, Engle felt God calling him to plant a church and leave the music industry. A new father, he welcomed the break from travel. He had released Bible study resources through LifeWay called "The Exchange," so they named the church The Exchange. Planted in 2008, the church now has more than 400 members. And the Engles' own family has grown to include four children: Elizabeth, Evelyn, Elaine and Ethan.
"OBU prepared me for success by teaching me to think for myself," Engle said. "I was challenged on so many levels: intellectually, spiritually, relationally and emotionally. That is the true value of a liberal arts education within the context of a Christian community.
"To this day, there isn't a week that goes by that I don't default to something I learned from my OBU experience."
Click here to view a list of others who have received the Profile in Excellence award.