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Former OBU President Cothen Passes at 96

May 22, 2017

Dr. Grady C. Cothen, Oklahoma Baptist University president from 1966-70, passed away May 19 at The Orchard retirement home in Ridgeland, Mississippi. He was 96 years old.

“Dr. Cothen was a kind and gracious man with a deep love of Christ and a strong passion for souls,” OBU President David W. Whitlock said. “He encouraged me to lead OBU in a manner that promoted spiritual growth and discipleship among the students. His leadership as OBU’s 10th president brought about important enhancements to academic offerings, spiritual development and student life at the University.”

During term as OBU president, University enrollment reached 1,400 for the first time and the University received the largest gift in school history, a $5 million bequest by Mrs. Louise Prichard of Oklahoma City for an endowed scholarship fund for religious vocations students. Construction projects designed to improve and enhance the student experience were accomplished including an expansion of the Bel-Air Complex for female students in 1967 and the completion and dedication of the University Center in 1970. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education accredited OBU's programs in 1969 and the Unified Studies core components were implemented into the curriculum in 1970.

Cothen was an important leader within the Southern Baptist Convention for much of the 20th Century, growing churches and strengthening Baptist institutions. He was considered an outstanding preacher, from his days in Oklahoma addressing thousands at Falls Creek Baptist Assembly during the 1950s to his final sermon in December of 2012 at the retirement home where he lived. He often commented that he was most satisfied with his time as president of OBU.

Following service as a Navy chaplain in the Pacific during the last year of World War II, he served as pastor of the White Oak Baptist Church in Chattanooga from 1946-48, Olivet Baptist Church in Oklahoma City from 1948-59, and First Baptist Church in Birmingham from 1959-61. From 1961-66, he was executive secretary-treasurer of the Southern Baptist General Convention of California. After serving as president of OBU, he was selected as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1970. In 1974, he went to the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now Lifeway) as president-elect. In 1975, he was inaugurated as the sixth executive of the Board, considered the largest religious publishing house in the world, where he served until his retirement in 1984.