OBU recognized outstanding alumni with special awards during its Harvest Dinner Friday, Nov. 11. The annual event is part of the University’s homecoming weekend celebration. The University presented several awards, including the Alumni Achievement Award, Graduate of the Last Decade and Profile in Excellence.
The Alumni Achievement Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Association and is given in recognition of outstanding life service, which has brought honor to the individual's alma mater. This year, Alumni Achievement Awards were presented to Dr. Mary Ann Craige, ’62; Judge David Russell, ’63; and Dr. Karen Schaffner, ’74.
Dr. Mary Ann Craige, ’62, is a professor of music at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She earned a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from OBU. Following her graduation, she earned both a Master of Music and Ph.D. in College Teaching and Piano Performance from North Texas State University in Denton, Texas. In 1966, she accepted an offer to teach at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, where she recently celebrated 50 years of service to her students. A member of Sigma Alpha Iota music fraternity, she served as both chair of the Music Teachers National Association composition contest and district chair of the Oklahoma Federation of Music Clubs composition contest for 35 years. In 2014, she was presented with the Southeastern Oklahoma State University Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2016, the university named her Professor Emeritus of Music.
Judge David Russell, ’63, is a Senior United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from OBU in just three years before attending the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He began his law career serving as an attorney in the navy during the Vietnam War. He earned his juris doctorate at the age of 22, making him one of the youngest lawyers in America. Following President Ronald Reagan's election, Russell was appointed U.S. Attorney where he served for six months before being appointed to the federal bench as a judge, a position he has held for 34 years. He has been awarded the Rogers State University Constitution Day Award, the Journal Record Award for Outstanding Judge, the Oklahoma Board of Trial Advocates Judge of the Year Award and the Oklahoma Bar Association Award for Judicial Excellence. He has tried many high profile cases, most notably for the Oklahoma City bombing.
Dr. Karen Schaffner, ’74, is the president of Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in German from OBU and spent two years serving as a journeyman in Ghana. When the time came for her to return to the U.S., her mentor, Dr. Lones, offered her a position teaching beginning German and running a language lab. Schaffner's position at OBU required her to continue her education while teaching, so she began taking classes at Middlebury College, earning a Master of Arts in 1980. She then moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where she earned a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and tutored Cambodian refugees in English. After graduating, she accepted a position with the International Mission Board teaching German to Japanese students at Seinan Gakuin University. In 2014, she was elected president of the university by its faculty and became the first woman to hold the position.
The Graduate of the Last Decade (GOLD) is presented to a young alum of OBU, who, in his or her life and career, has demonstrated outstanding achievement and brought pride and honor to the University. This year’s GOLD recipient was John Bowen, ’07.
Bowen is the assistant vice president of patient services for the Baptist Health Hospital in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He earned a degree in political science and philosophy from OBU. After graduation, he earned a master’s degree in health service administration from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Bowen found a position in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the family relocated. In 2012, they returned to Arkansas where he went to work for Baptist Health Medical Center Little Rock as assistant vice president and night administrator. A year later, he was promoted to assistant vice president/ administrator at Baptist Health Medical Center in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
The Profile in Excellence Award is given 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. This year’s Profile in Excellence Award was presented to Phil Albert, ’81; Kevin Avery, ’97; Dayna (Deborde) Avery, ’98; Dr. Robert (Bob) Gragg Jr., ’73; Greg McAlister, ’00; Christy (Hill) Nockels, ex ’93; and Ben Stewart, ’99.
Full profiles of all award winners may be read in this year’s editions of the OBU Magazine, available at www.okbu.edu/magazine.