OBU is mourning the passing of a beloved member of its family, Dr. Michael Travers. He served the university faithfully as associate provost, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, chair of the Division of Language and Literature, and professor of English.
Travers earned both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in English at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He then earned a Diploma in Education from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He also earned a Ph.D. in English from Michigan State University.
Travers joined the OBU faculty in 2014. Prior to coming to Bison Hill, he served as professor of English and ultimately as associate vice president for institutional effectiveness at the College at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana, from 2008-10. He also served as professor of English at the College at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2002-08. He previously spent time as professor of English at both Mississippi College and Cornerstone College, and associate professor of English at Liberty University. He began his teaching career as a secondary English teacher at Niagara Falls Collegiate Vocational Institute in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, in 1972. He has authored numerous articles and presentations.
Dr. David W. Whitlock, OBU president, reflected on the impact Travers has made on Bison Hill the last three years. “Dr. Michael Travers has been a transformational leader throughout his long and distinguished career in higher education. His joining the OBU community was providential and has been of profound consequence. The academic programs he has overseen have grown and continued a tradition of excellence. We are particularly thankful for his direction of our ten-year reaffirmation of accreditation process with the Higher Learning Commission. We would not be in the strong position we are without his leadership and expertise. But beyond his professional accomplishments, he is a kind, decent, wise, and genteel man, a man devoted to serving Christ and others. I am a better person for having known him.”
Dr. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, spent a great deal of time with Travers at Southeastern, building a strong friendship with and admiration for him as a scholar and as a brother in Christ. “Michael Travers was my colleague for many years at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. More than that, he is my brother and friend. He was the quintessential Christian gentleman and scholar who pursued excellence in everything that he did. I will miss him greatly, but I rejoice in the hope that is ours in Christ that I will see him again.”
Dr. Gene Fant Jr., current provost and chief academic officer at Palm Beach Atlantic University, and incoming president of North Greenville University in South Carolina, has known Travers for more than 20 years.
“Dr. Travers taught me so much about how to integrate faith and learning and how to think about curricula,” Fant said. “He helped me to jump start some of my scholarship and was always a sounding board for my thoughts. Oh, how that man loved his Lord! As I begin the process of moving into the presidency at North Greenville University, I find myself keenly aware that it was Michael who gave me my first job in Christian higher education and started mentoring me right away. I owe many things to his leadership and friendship.”
Dr. Stan Norman, OBU provost and executive vice president for campus life, commented on Travers’ calling to minister through Christian higher education.
“Many thoughts and feelings flood my mind and heart when I reflect upon the life of Dr. Michael Travers,” Norman said. “He was a devout follower of Christ, a devoted husband and father, a committed churchman, an exceptional scholar, a gifted teacher, a lover of classical literature, a serious student of Scripture, a gifted administrator, and an able theologian and apologist. Early in his life, Michael felt called by God to embrace a ministry of distinctive Christian higher education. Toward this end, he committed himself to a robust expression of integrating his faith with his academic discipline as he invested his life in teaching students and mentoring colleagues.
“Michael understood as well as anyone that the two pillars of a Christian university are the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, and his long career reflects an unwavering commitment to these ideals. To me, Dr. Travers is the embodiment of what it means to be a serious Christian scholar and teacher who unashamedly rests all of his academic efforts upon a passionate love of God and unwavering belief in the Bible. His gifts of teaching, administrating and mentoring have had a transformational impact upon Oklahoma Baptist University. We are a better university for his service. Michael was a dear friend who will be greatly missed in this life, but I look forward to a reunion with him one day in the presence of God.”
Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, was impacted by the Christ-like witness Travers lived out every day.
“Were I to attempt to locate a man whose masculine gentleness and godliness most completely imitated the life of our Lord, my search would cease at the side of Michael Travers,” he said. “Kind to students, even as he challenged them, full of encouragement for all, committed to Jesus in every aspect of his being - heaven is richer with his arrival, and earth is poorer for his departure. Nevertheless, the legacy he leaves is a garland in the garden of the saints.”
Dr. Pam Robinson is the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at OBU. Travers served with her as associate dean of the College and the two worked closely together on many initiatives for the College and the university.
“Dr. Travers displayed a wisdom like few I have met,” she said. “He was a man of God. He lived his faith and was a mentor to me academically, personally and spiritually. I called him friend. We cried together more than once. He was compassionate, but more than that, he was kind. His glass was nearly always half full as evident in his perseverance of doing that which was right. His time at OBU was much too short, but he left us with much.”
Travers was known among his colleagues to quote scripture often, with one passage in particular being frequently recited:
“It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV)
The University family offers our prayers and deepest condolences to the Travers family - Barbara, Elizabeth and Stephen - and to all those who know and love Michael. He proudly stood on Bison Hill, and we are all blessed to have stood with him.
Immanuel Baptist Church will host a memorial service Monday, March 6, at 10 a.m. The church is located at 1451 E. 45th St. in Shawnee. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Gideons International. Michael loved the Word of God and the family cannot think of a better way to honor his memory than for donations to be made for the distribution of God's Word. Visit www2.gideons.org/donate to give.