Challenged to nurture a "lifelong passion for learning," 293 OBU graduates received their degrees during OBU's 100th Spring Commencement Friday, May 16.
The graduating students took their symbolic final walk across the campus as OBU students when they filed into Raley Chapel's Potter Auditorium for the 3 p.m. ceremony. The students, in academic regalia, proceeded from the Geiger Center to the chapel, passing through rows of OBU faculty members before they reached the chapel's east steps.
Before an overflow audience of more than 1,800 in Raley Chapel's Potter Auditorium, Dr. Brad Jett, James E. Hurley professor of biology at OBU, shared his message with the graduates, themed "how Christian discipleship is like being an OBU student."
Jett earned his Bachelor of Science degree from OBU and his Master of Science and doctorate degrees from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. He has won numerous awards for his research, including the Dean's Award for Applied Research, the Sigma Xi Young Investigator of the Year Award, and the OUHSC President's Award for Basic Research. In the spring of 2002, Jett received OBU's Promising Teacher Award, and in 2008, he received OBU's Distinguished Teaching Award.
Prior to joining the OBU family, he was a recipient of a National Institutes of Health grant, and a former staff and faculty member in the departments of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology and Ophthalmology at Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.
"Good disciples have friends who are good disciples," he said. "We build on each other's strengths. Jesus didn't send the disciples out alone, he sent them out in groups." He likened this to friends who hold us accountable and roommates who wake us up when we have an exam.
"Good disciples must also be willing to step outside their comfort zones," he said. "How will you engage a diverse world if you are only willing to live in your own world? OBU students, like disciples, are risk takers, and if you didn't want to be challenged, you should have stayed home."
He also shared that good disciples never stop asking questions, and they have their preconceptions challenged.
"Being a good disciple, like being a good OBU student, is hard," he said. "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Being hard is what makes it great."
"Good OBU students like good disciples never ask the question 'what's going be on the test'?" he said. "At OBU, we didn't want you to be satisfied with the superficial answers that will simply get you by. There is too much important investment of your money and your life than to get by with the bare minimum education. Discipleship, likewise, requires more than the superficial living out of your faith."
"Finally, OBU students, like Jesus' disciples, had to say goodbye," he said. "You OBU graduates are just beginning a great journey. We at OBU have tried to nurture a passion for learning in you. It's now your job to go live it. Never quell your thirst for knowledge. Refuse to grow intellectually stagnant. Expand your minds even more than they have been in the past few years."
During the ceremony, OBU President David W. Whitlock presented OBU's top three awards for faculty and staff. They include the Distinguished Teaching Award, Promising Teacher Award and Meritorious Service Award. Nominations for these awards are made by alumni, students, faculty and administrators. In addition to this public recognition, the recipients receive a financial gift provided by OBU graduates, John and Janet Hudson of Edmond, Oklahoma.
Dr. Dan Reeder, Albert J. Geiger Professor of Finance, was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award, presented to a faculty member who has taught at OBU for five consecutive years or more and who exemplifies the characteristics of superior instruction delineated in the "Commitment to Excellence," a statement of teaching expectations and objectives adopted by the faculty, administration and Board of Trustees. He joined the OBU faculty in the Paul Dickinson School of Business in 1991. In 1995, he received the Promising Teacher Award. He has filled the role of dean and interim dean for Business.
Dr. Scott Pace was recognized with the Promising Teacher Award, presented to a junior faculty member who has taught at OBU less than six years and has demonstrated outstanding potential in teaching. He joined the OBU faculty in 2010 as assistant professor of applied ministry and holds the Reverend A.E. and Dora Johnson Hughes Chair of Christian Ministry. He established The Preachers Guild on campus to allow students the opportunity to preach to, be heard by, and receive evaluation and encouragement from peer preachers.
Tonia Kellogg was honored with the Meritorious Service Award, presented annually to a faculty or staff member who has made a substantial commitment of years, service and who has been a loyal and faithful faculty or staff member. She is the director of the executive offices, having served in three administrations in that capacity. She joined the OBU staff in 1991 as the director of the Geiger Center.
Two retiring faculty members were honored during the service. Dr. John Nichols, associate professor of mathematics, joined the OBU faculty in 1997. Cynthia Hicks, supervisor of media services in the Mabee Learning Center, joined the staff at OBU in 1985.
OBU President David W. Whitlock presided over the ceremonies and delivered the charge to graduates. Elizabeth Norrie, president of the Class of 2014, presented the graduating class along with Dr. Pam Robinson, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
In addition to the address from Jett, the program included greetings by Dr. Anthony Jordan, executive director / treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and induction of the graduates into the OBU Alumni Association by Lori Hagans, executive director of the alumni association. Dr. Doug Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and 1983 OBU graduate, led the invocation. The benediction was led by Dr. Randy Adams, Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention in Vancouver, Washington.
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 have sought to instill within you an honest awareness of yourself and the world around you," Whitlock said. "We have sought to strengthen your commitment to Christ. We have sought to equip you with the ability to think and with a knowledge base that provides the content for sound decision-making. We have sought to impart to you the heart to care, and the spirit to attempt great things that will make your world a better place. You are recipients of a rich heritage. I charge you to move forward with hope and courage. I challenge you to use what you have learned as foundation blocks upon which you will build the rest of your life."
"I pray that you dare to be all that God has purposed for you and that you find yourselves in the company of men and women who dare to be different, who dare to be good," he said. "Attempt great things for God and for the common good, and know that your University family in Shawnee, Oklahoma, is cheering you on and praying for you."
The graduating class included 27 seniors who earned the designation "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 Everett Randall Adams, III, David Ray Billings, Andrew J. Black, Meagan Brooke Collins, Molly Marie Denny, Rebecca Lynn Dorsch, Curtis Alan Headrick, Christa Marie Humphreys, Paul Edward Inman, Charity Anne Jernigan, Douglas Graham Jones, Hana Kawasaki, Lindsey Lee Ledbetter, Timothy David Livingston, Jessa Grace Manner, Noelle Elizabeth McDowell, Brandon Clay Melton, Bethany Michele Miles, Kayla Nicole Mugler, Stephanie Nicole Penick, Bethany Lynn Ray, Kyla Marie Russell, Elizabeth Ashley Sanders, Emily Reneé Schumacher, Caleb Tanner Stogner, Samuel Charles Whelan and Carlie Wood.