Oklahoma Baptist University conferred degrees upon 330 graduates during its 103rd Spring Commencement Friday, May 19. The event took place in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium on the OBU campus in Shawnee.
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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 walk mirrored one many of the graduates took during their first week as students. Dressed in academic regalia, the graduates proceeded from the Geiger Center to the chapel, passing through rows of OBU faculty members before reaching the chapel's east steps.
Nationally renowned Texas attorney John Raley delivered the commencement address. He is a senior partner at Raley and Bowick. He is also the grandson of John Wesley Raley, former OBU president and chancellor, after whom Raley Chapel is named.
During the ceremony, the University awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities to Dr. Jay P. Chance, ’56, and an honorary Doctor of Business to Mary Ellen Wall.
The University also presented its top three honors for faculty and staff members. Dr. Vickie Ellis, professor of communication arts and chair of the Division of Communication Arts, received OBU’s Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Jonathan Wilson, assistant professor of psychology / marriage and family therapy, received OBU’s Promising Teacher Award. Cynthia Gates, director of events, conferences and camps, received OBU’s Meritorious Service Award.
Raley delivered a stirring message, challenging students to embrace the education they received on Bison Hill.
“A Christian education is different,” he said. “I hope that all of us have deep respect and appreciation for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. They provide guidance for our lives and help us to make decisions. All of us can read Matthew 25 and know without doubt what we should be doing with the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers among us, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.”
He also challenged the graduates to live their lives committed to truth.
“Truth matters. It matters to God and it should matter to us, but you have to seek it. You will need to use the brains that God gave you to think analytically, to reason logically, to look for corroborating evidence. Listen to each other, even if you disagree – especially if you disagree.”
He concluded by giving the graduates three final admonitions, along with practical advice on implementing these principles in their own lives.
“First, always follow God’s leadership. When you surrender to His will, you may find yourself doing something completely different than you planned, but it will be the right thing to do. God’s ways are not our ways. Each of us has talents given to us by God. Use them.”
“Second, no matter what you try to do, sooner or later, you will fail. Do not despair. It may happen often. Hang in there. Remember, it’s easy to look heroic if you win all the time, but that doesn’t require real courage. There are heroes all around us that we never notice. Those are the people that are knocked down, defeated, and stand right back up, dust their pants off and fight harder.”
“Third, and finally, you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Every class of OBU students for a hundred years has brought goodness into the world. You will, too. You will live lives of inspiration. The class of 2017 will inspire and innovate, travel and travail, create and collaborate.”