Challenged to "Dream On," 255 Oklahoma Baptist University graduates received their diplomas during OBU's 99th Spring Commencement on Friday, May 17.
Before an overflow audience of more than 1,800 in OBU's Raley Chapel, Dr. Bobby Kelly, who serves as Ruth Dickinson Chair of Bible at OBU, told the graduates that although the words sound cliché, he encouraged them to dream.
"Nothing could be more consistent with the witness of Scripture than the call to dream big dreams with eyes wide open," Kelly said, relating the passage in Acts 2:1-13 which refers to the day of Pentecost and the Apostle Peter's interpretation of that day. Kelly said the Scripture says the Holy Spirit will give ƒpeople a vision for their future.
"The promise of Pentecost is the promise of better dreams, Holy Spirit-inspired dreams," Kelly said.
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As the graduates dare to dream, Kelly urged them to not settle for small-minded dreams, but to dream big.
"Dreams of our own making tend to revolve around personal acquisition of material things and personal achievement, as if these are the things that mark the dividing line between success and failure," he said. "God may have made us in his image, a little lower than angels, but sadly, our highest ambition is often to be a little higher than our neighbors. … Gauging success and failure on the basis of net assets and your resume are sure signs of small-minded dreams."
He also challenged the graduates to realize fulfilling their dreams may not be easy.
"At times, all you'll have is your dream, and the presence of God, and that will be sufficient," Kelly said, reminding the students that a legacy is built one day at a time.
"Now as you go from this place with your big dreams, may you go with God and be not afraid," Kelly said, offering a blessing on the graduates. "May the Lord go before you to lead you; may the Lord go behind you to protect you; may the Lord go beneath you to secure you; and may the Lord go beside you to befriend you."
During the ceremony, OBU President David W. Whitlock presented OBU's top three awards for faculty and staff.
Dr. Glenn E. Sanders, professor of history and chair of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences, received the Distinguished Teaching Award, presented in recognition of "classroom excellence." Sanders joined the OBU faculty in 1988. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Baylor University and his doctorate from Brown University.
Corey Fuller, assistant professor of graphic design, 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." Fuller joined the OBU faculty in 2009. He earned his bachelor's degree at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and his master's degree at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Dave Gilmore, electrical/mechanical trades supervisor, received the university's Meritorious Service Award. Gilmore has worked at OBU since 1987. The award is presented annually to a faculty or staff member who has made a substantial commitment of years and service, and who has been a loyal and faithful faculty or staff member.
Two retiring faculty members were honored during the service. Dr. Lana Bolhouse, dean of the College of Nursing, has served at OBU for 40 years. Dr. Eileen Hargrove, professor of mathematics, has taught at OBU for 23 years.
The program also included greetings from Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, which founded the university in 1910. Kallie Engle, 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 to give you 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 make your world a better place."
The graduating class included 20 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 Robert Paul Antosh, Cordell Baker, Vanessa Nicole Brackett, Emily Frances Buller, Jenna Lea Chamberlain, Kasey James Chapman, Cara Elise Cliburn, Kara LaNell Rhodes Coberley, Kallie Michele Engle, Shannon Marie Griffith, Kristyn Faith McMichael, Mariah G. Miller, Carson Misner, Evan Nicole Shimanek, Elizabeth Deborah Sidler, Sarah Elizabeth Stephens, Tori Michelle Thomas, Laura Joy Voth, Adrienne Nicole Williams and Caitlyn Renee Yount.